The Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business

Think you know which are the best social media platforms? Not so fast, the answers aren’t as obvious as you may think.
Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com
April 10, 2012

Which social media platforms are the fastest-growing small businesses using? And which ones really work? The answers aren’t as obvious as you may think.

With so many social media options out there, choosing the ones that are best for your business can feel overwhelming. Knowing what industry-leading small businesses are doing with social media can be a helpful guideline in deciding what platforms you should get involved with.

There’s no doubt that small businesses are leaders when it comes to social media. New data from The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that the Inc. 500 far outpace the Fortune 500 in their use of social media.

So what are the best social media platforms for small business, according to these industry leaders? Well, that’s where the question gets a big sticky. First, let’s look at the social tools the Inc. 500 companies are using:

  • Facebook: 74 percent
  • LinkedIn: 73 percent
  • Twitter: 64 percent
  • YouTube: 45 percent
  • Blogging: 37 percent
  • Online video: 24 percent
  • Bulletin boards: 15 percent
  • Foursquare: 11 percent

What overall trends did the researchers see? Compared to 2009 and 2010, more companies used Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, and fewer blogged or posted on message boards or MySpace (used by just 1 percent).

But here’s the catch: Some of the social media tools that are becoming less popular are actually the most effective. Bulletin boards and blogging, two techniques that are declining in popularity, were ranked as highly effective by nearly all of the companies using them (96 and 92 percent, respectively).

So what’s happening? In their eagerness to explore Facebook and Twitter, are companies abandoning tactics that work better, but aren’t as “sexy”? It’s not that Twitter and Facebook don’t work (a majority of the companies using them think they’re valuable), but they aren’t as effective as other, older tactics.

The good news is that among companies using any type of social media, nearly all say they are effective tools. Here are the tools Inc. 500 companies say they have had the most success with:

  • Bulletin boards: 96 percent
  • Blogging: 92 percent
  • Online video: 90 percent
  • LinkedIn 90: percent
  • YouTube: 87 percent
  • Twitter: 86 percent
  • Facebook: 82 percent
  • Foursquare: 68 percent

So what are the best social media platforms for your business? The answer is that it really depends.  While a social media shift is clearly underway as companies move from older tactics like blogging to newer communication methods like Twitter, it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The secret to success lies in knowing what you want to get out of social media, monitoring your results and adjusting your efforts accordingly.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her blog at SmallBizDaily.com. Visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com