It was an impulsive question, with no prior planning or research involved. I was just hoping to have a bit of a chat that I could then potentially write a blog post around.
What I wanted to talk about was social media for business. I wanted to understand which social networks other freelancers and small business owners prefer and, crucially, why.
What began as a single question on Twitter soon turned into something more, and before I knew it, I was running four polls simultaneously across four different social networks.
Whilst certainly not a scientific or methodical way of conducting research, the poll results, along with the replies my posts received, do prove extremely interesting.
Not surprisingly, the results differed per platform. What might shock you is just how much they differed and which networks came out on top.
Before we dive in, let me be clear: This post is not intended to be a guide, nor will it give you a recommendation on how to handle your own social media for business strategy.
There won’t be a conclusion or a final ‘winner’ – I’ll simply be sharing the results of the polls and some of the more interesting comments I received from other freelancers and small business owners.
We all clear on that?
Right. Good. Let’s do this then.
Social media for business: What my Twitter poll told us
Freelancers/small biz owners: Help me out with a blog post?
👉🏻 What's your fave platform? (for work stuff).
Comment reasons/opinions below and I might include your tweet (with credit of course) in the post.
Ta very muchly x
— Sophie Livingston ✒️ (@KickstartSophie) December 5, 2017
I used Twitter’s poll feature and 113 votes were cast.
In a shocking twist (lol), 63% of Twitter voters think Twitter is the best platform when it comes to social media for business.
Here’s what they had to say:
Twitter for me… Just love the quick interaction that it can bring, and can easily make it lighthearted/conversational with gifs etc. I’ve gained some of my clients just through use of Twitter!
— Sadie Finch 👩🏼💻 (@sadiefinchVA) December 5, 2017
Twitter for me. The sharing of knowledge + expertise is awesome generally + through twitter chats. The social ROI is good through this platform too. For me T isn’t really the place for a hard sell, but definitely part of foundation. Hope that helps, Kat
— Kat Sonson (@SonsonMedia) December 5, 2017
Twitter all the way. Amazing searching capability, ability to order profiles in lists, conversational, fun. Tell me where else you can increase brand awareness, expand your reach, discover what's happening, provide customer service AND connect so easily.
— Pippa Akram (@Social_Pip) December 5, 2017
Twitter’s great for sharing work/blog thoughts etc – and a bit of chat – but to actually get to ‘know’ people/their business on a more personal level, Instagram Stories is my favourite. Can’t be doing with FB. LinkedIn is a (usually dull) mess.
— Being Freelance (@beingfreelance) December 6, 2017
Instagram is too beautiful and worthy. I like the sarcasm of the Twitterati. Facebook for business is too much effort and LinkedIn is where the old men in suits that tut at me live.
— Katy Carlisle (@thewheelexists) December 6, 2017
The Facebook poll results
No prizes for guessing that Facebook users disagree with Twitter users.
Prompted by Ed Goodman, I branched out from Twitter in search of a less biased response.
I used Facebook’s poll feature to ask my favourite freelance community, Freelance Heroes (a wonderful group that was created by Ed himself) the same question.
Here are the results:
106 votes were cast and 38% of participants said they favour LinkedIn. Facebook was a close second with 30% of the votes, Twitter came in third with 21% and Instagram placed last with only 11%.
Again, what I was more interested in than the results was the reasoning behind why people gave the answers they did.
Richard Sumner said:
“I’m B2B, so I find LinkedIn the best. Facebook makes you pay, otherwise they restrict your reach. I find Twitter not to be serious enough. I can’t really photograph my products, so I am left with LinkedIn. People have their business hats on, so I find it to be the best.”
Photographer Gavin Forster agreed. He said:
“LinkedIn has taken a jump up for me now I’m putting the effort in! [I now have] a way more structured approach to posts and the next stage is to have a fuller strategy for targeting potential clients via direct messaging.”
For filmmaker Mark James Asplin, Instagram is the top choice.
“The fact I can spend time searching hashtags and Instagram not only shows me the top 9 posts for that hashtag but also most recent posts is brilliant for me. Then secondly the fact I can direct message anyone on the platform is a bonus that all the other platforms do not have. Close second is Facebook, their ads manager is incredible with its detailed targeting and framework. We do not know how lucky we are to have such a platform like it for us business owners.”
Photographer Matt Widgery, founder of Framed Planet, favours Facebook.
“I use [Facebook] as a glorified contacts book and email client. It’s excellent for that and has generated thousands of pounds of revenue for me over the years, just because people can get in touch with me here, see something of my work and more or less keep track of me, even years after we’ve met. It’s more advanced features, such as the business page and the advertising is more or less for the branding and is has generated less direct sales for me so far. Although I recognise this is probably a shortfall in strategy from my end and I have now engaged a marketing agency who can help me with this stuff. Instagram is a good showcase for me as and as a travel photographer it’s the perfect platform, but Framed Planet is still new there so I can’t say it’s had much effect so far, other than brand awareness.”
Twitter comes out on top for Graphic Designer Lyndsey Yates, who said:
“Definitely Twitter, as it’s the only one I’ve actually managed to directly get work through; twice! Plus I find it to be the easiest, the most relaxed and the most interesting to scroll through.”
Graphic Designer Karen Arnott is a big fan of Facebook’s Group feature. She said:
“My number one for work stuff (I don’t necessarily mean finding new clients) is Facebook, simply because of groups like this one. I don’t really use Facebook for personal news/sharing any more, but receiving business advice in supportive groups like this is invaluable. I’ve also found people to collaborate with on some of my client projects, which is fantastic. Number two for me is Twitter, just as a preference for connecting with people I’ve met at networking events, or might meet in the future. I also follow many useful design and web resources on there. I love Twitter for its informal way of connecting people easily.”
(You can view the Facebook post and all related comments here if you’re a member of the group. If you’re not a member and you’re a UK freelancer, go ahead and request to join. I promise you’ll find it worthwhile).
What do users of LinkedIn think?
We’ve discovered that most Facebook users who participated in my poll favour LinkedIn when it comes to social media for business, but what did the LinkedIn users have to say?
There’s no poll feature on LinkedIn, so I posted the question on my feed, tagging in a few people from my network to help drive engagement.
7 people responded, with 6 giving detailed and insightful answers. Out of the 7, the answers were fairly evenly spread, with votes cast for all four of the platforms.
Social media consultant Lenka Koppová made a good point when she explained that it really depends on what your goals are.
“I love Facebook Groups for networking, as it’s a great place to hang out with like-minded people, get quick help when I’m struggling and build relationships. My favourite platform of all times is Twitter, but I’m struggling to see any results from there, even engagement seems to be gone and I slowly prefer other platforms for engaging with influencers and other business owners. LinkedIn is quickly becoming a really buzzing and interesting platform, with lots of great conversations. And even though I don’t use Instagram for work, Instagram Stories are an incredible tool for small businesses. There’s no simple answer to this question and I think that making business decisions based on ‘favourite’ platforms can be really dangerous!”
When I pushed Lenka to highlight her own personal favourite (for overall value at work), she chose LinkedIn because she gets “the best quality conversations” there.
Graphic designer Emma Sheppard has a similar view:
“I like different platforms for different reasons – I find Facebook groups are great for support and building a community, Twitter works for the more sociable side of our business, but I have to agree with Lenka -LinkedIn is also my favourite at the moment for the more professional side of business and the value we get from being on there.”
Careers coach Charlotte Ashley-Roberts values Facebook Groups and LinkedIn.
“I like the professionality of LinkedIn and am starting to have much more engagement here but I love the relaxed community of [Facebook] and also the functionality like being able to do live video is useful. I also find that lots of people are on FB and use it, compared to lots of people having a LinkedIn profile but not really engaging on the platform.”
Finally, Imogen Allen, who builds websites for coaches and consultants, said:
“For me the biggest influence has been Facebook Groups. Meeting like minded business owners, sharing best practice and knowledge and gaining referrals through like, know and trust.”
Where the results any different over on Instagram?
On Instagram, I found it much harder to get a response.
This could be because my network on Instagram is primarily made up of family, friends and fellow book lovers. Instagram is a much more personal space for me than any of the other social networks I use.
That being said, I have connected with a few freelancers and small business owners on Instagram, but they’re mostly people that I met (and chat to) elsewhere online.
The poll feature on Instagram Stories only allows for two options, so I tried running two polls across two Stories with a note asking viewers to only select one of the four options.
Needless to say, this proved too complicated a situation for most people to deal with. *facepalm*
I moved on from the polls and instead posted a video on my main feed, asking viewers to comment with their answers and opinions.
Whilst the responses didn’t come flowing in in the same way they did on Twitter or Facebook, I did receive a couple of detailed and thoughtful comments.
Simon Godfrey, who’s a big champion of Instagram for business and uses his own Instagram account to share related tips, news, advice and encouragement, had this to say:
“Over the past 6 months, I’ve gone big on Instagram and I’ve seen much more momentum in terms of building a brand and gaining new customers than I have in 2 years on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve found Instagram to be much easier for growing an organic following. I can target people through a search of hashtags and the Stories functionality has really allowed me to build relationships with other business owners and more importantly, potential customers.
I also find Instagram a positive platform to be on and people seem more community-driven than on other platforms, where I find there can be more judgement and negativity.”
As I mentioned at the start, there won’t be any recommendations from me about what your strategy should be in terms of using social media for business.
As many of the respondents pointed out, it really depends on what your business is and what your goals are.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of conclusions that I’d like to draw from all of the answers I received during my research for this post.
Firstly, it seems clear to me that the general consensus regarding Facebook is this: The value, for B2B (and therefore most freelancers), comes from Groups. Not Pages or profiles, but Groups. It’s about being able to connect with like-minded people to give and receive support and build genuine relationships.
Secondly, when it comes to LinkedIn, there seems to be a clear divide between the people who get it, and those who have it only because they think they have to.
On a personal note, I fall smack bang into that second category, but I know I need to change that. This whole process has highlighted to me that there’s real value in LinkedIn, but – like anything worth having – you have to invest time and effort if you want to get anything out of it.
Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who responded to my question.
It’s been extremely interesting and I’m thrilled to be able to share this summary of with all of you.
Happy New Year freelancers. Let’s do this!