OWNER'S MANUAL

Social Media Smackdown: LinkedIn vs. Twitter

Those Twitter 'influencers' you're chasing to help you spread the word? They might not be worth your time and effort.
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If you're trying to leverage Twitter users—especially Twitter "influencers"—to build broader awareness, draw a large audience, and generate significant traffic, you're probably wasting your time.

Do this: Scroll through a few random Twitter feeds.

What do you see? Lots and lots of links. Twitter users love posting links, especially to articles they find useful. (I'm not criticizing—every one of my tweets includes a link.)

But how many of their followers click all those links—even the links tweeted by people with 7-digit followings? Hardly any.

"But wait!" you say. "Data shows that Twitter mentions can create massive spikes in traffic and engagement and conversions..."

And you're right; in some cases Twitter can be incredibly effective. But is chasing Twitter influencers an effective strategy for your business—and a good use of your time? Since your results are all that matters?

Here's an example using one of my Inc.com articles. (I won't specify the exact article or Twitter accounts for reasons that will become obvious.)

I wrote an article that mentioned a company. A media relations executive there wanted to generate more exposure for the article so he asked people he knew with huge Twitter followings to tweet a link. One is an actor with well over a million followers, some are media personalities with five- and six-digit followings, and the athletes average over 200k followers each. In total they have an audience of 2.7 million followers.

With all that engagement horsepower you would expect a significant return on tweet, right?

In total, those tweets generated 9,400 page views, for a response rate of .034%. (They used Bitly link shortening so tracking the results was easy. And how many of their tweets were retweeted? A handful.

Then three weeks later one of my connections shared the same article on LinkedIn with her 1,200 connections. That one share generated approximately 5,000 page views (after accounting for the typical traffic an "older" article generates.)

Instead of tweets that generated fractional results, her LinkedIn share was multiplicative.

Granted that's just one example. Your results may vary. My results vary... but in general not by much.

Roughly speaking LinkedIn shares generate four to five times more traffic to my Inc.com articles than tweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1s combined.

But that's just me—and that's the point. Your audience is different. Your social media connections are different. Your goals are different.

It's your job to determine what works and what doesn't work—using data and results specific to your business, not broadly-based statistics or one-off anecdotes about the celebrity tweet that launched a thousand millionaires.

Know your business, know your results, and spend your social marketing time where it's most effective for you. For business content, for me, that's LinkedIn.

For you it may be FourSquare.

Who knows?

You should.

IMAGE: Flickr/LinkedIn
Last updated: Apr 19, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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