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Today there are hundreds of social networking sites (Friendster, imeem, Flickr, Myspace, Plaxo, Xanga, the list goes on) that are connecting people around the world with different backgrounds, interests, hobbies and professions.  The three major sites that remain at the forefront are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  What, you may ask, is the difference between the three?  Which one will be the most beneficial for my business?  If you are unfamiliar with the growing phenomenon of social networking, here is an overview of the basic differences between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Depending on you or your company’s goals and objectives, you will hopefully have a clearer perspective of which service best fits your business.

Who’s using what?

Facebook was created in 2004 by Harvard sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg with the original intention to connect college and high school students.  By September 2006, Facebook had been opened up to everyone: from high schoolers to working professionals.  However, since the original target audience was comprised of 18-24 year olds, teens to mid-twenties do comprise of the largest percentage of the 175 million Facebook users.

Twitter is a relatively young company, beginning as a start-up project in March of 2006.  Although Twitter is growing at a rapid pace, the 25-44 year old users have seem to found the most use out of Twitter.  Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter users consistently update their status in brief, 1-2 line segments so Twitter visitors tend to be younger, web-savvy and heavy Internet users.

LinkedIn was created in 2003 by it’s five original founders who invited 300 of their most important contacts to join.  As of February 2009 LinkedIn has over 36 million users, many of them being college graduates, working professionals and top-level executives.

Casual vs. Business

Facebook is perhaps the most complex of the social networking sites.   Aside from basic information (age, relationship status, interests, work and education information) Facebook has several add-on capabilities that allow you to do anything from “Invite friends to become a Fan of U2” to send e-gifts on your friends’ birthdays.  Thus, while Facebook does have the largest amount of users, it allows for a more detailed and personal insight.  In other words, while you may find that your co-worker graduated from NYU and was president of his business fraternity you may just as well discover his drink of choice during happy hour.

Since Twitter is based on simplicity, it is difficult to gauge whether it is more business or person oriented.  Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, in order for your Twitter profile to be beneficial you have to update it on a regular basis.  Twitter users answer the simple question of “What are you doing?”.  Friends, family members and co-workers can “tweet” on anything from running late to lunch to links to their latest blog post on the benefits of great web design.  By “following” your favorite people, you get immediate updates to what everyone is up to in a quick, simple fashion.

LinkedIn allows you to connect with other working professionals.  Your profile is made up of your basic information, school/job history, and professional expertise and accomplishments.  Through your network you can recommend colleagues, create and collaborate on projects, market your company and/or blog, but most importantly be introduced to new business contacts.  LinkedIn is also a great place to join or start groups in order to gain new insights from discussions with other professionals in your field.

The Verdict?

Facebook is the site if you don’t mind combining both professional and personal aspects of your life.  With the greatest number of users, it requires little time and upkeep to create a profile which can potentially help drive other users to your company website or blog.  It is the more casual of the three and with the rising number of add-ons and features, your profile can become quickly cluttered with unwanted junk.  However, with Baby Boomers being the fastest growing demographic on Facebook and over a million Americans joining by the week, it would be a good idea to jump the Facebook bandwagon and begin “friending!”

Twitter is the site to use if you are a heavy web user and are looking to effectively promote yourself and your business on a consistent basis.  You will build a greater following if you constantly update, because you will always have new things to read.  If you rarely update, chances are not as many people will bother to read your Tweet.  Remember to be careful with your Tweets so they don’t get too “spammy”, you’ll want to mix promotions for your business with other relevant info. Twitter is simple, to-the-point and up-to-date.

LinkedIn is primarily geared towards professional use only.  Your profile summarizes your professional qualifications and expertise. LinkedIn promotes you with your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know… thus opening the door to literally hundreds of potential clients, associates and customers.  The time to set up your LinkedIn account, upload a picture and link your websites is well worth it.

Article by: Jeanelle Rabadam

To learn more about how social media marketing can impact and improve your businesses online conversion rates, please contact Executionists marketing team.

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