LinkedIn, Twitter Rival Facebook for Marketing Dominance

Facebook still may be the king when it comes to social media marketing for small businesses, but other social networking sites are making significant gains among small businesses owners and entrepreneurs, new research has found.

Overall, 80 percent of small business owners say they are using some form of social media marketing.

Those business owners have shown a preference for certain social platforms for marketing. Eighty-two percent of small business owners say Facebook is the most effective social media platform for their business, up from 75 percent in May 2012.

However, LinkedIn and Twitter saw the biggest perceived gains in effectiveness among small business owners. Twenty-nine percent of small business owners say LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for their organization, up from 10 percent in May 2012. Twitter saw a similar gain, with 25 percent of small businesses saying it was effective, up from 7 percent in May 2012.

"The sharp increase in effectiveness ratings for both LinkedIn and Twitter is significant," said Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media for Constant Contact, which conducted the research. "While Facebook remains the dominant platform, small businesses are successfully expanding their engagement to reach audiences across multiple networks. This indicates another positive step in the social media adoption curve for small- and medium-sized businesses."

Other social media sites also made gains in the eyes of small business owners but still have a way to go to catch up with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Fifteen percent of small business owners say YouTube is the most effective social platform for their company, while 9 percent rate Pinterest as the most effective. Just 6 percent of small business owners say Yelp is effective and only 5 percent call Google+ effective.

Despite their increasing use of social media, 54 percent of small business owners admit they could use some help in improving their social media marketing skills.

And although small business owners have rated social media sites as effective, they do not use the platforms very frequently. In fact, only 13 percent of small business owners say they post to Twitter daily, and just 10 percent post weekly to LinkedIn.

Researchers say business owners can get an even better return on their social media investment by posting frequently to those sites and developing a strong plan for them.

"Twitter just celebrated its seventh birthday, but the reality is that social media marketing is a relatively new practice for most small businesses," Schmulen said. "While the majority of small businesses are experimenting with social [media], those who have found success have learned that social media marketing requires a commitment to engaging their audience on a consistent basis."

The research was based on the responses of 1,100 participants in the Constant Contact Small Biz Council, which comprises small businesses and nonprofits in the United States.

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