According to Edison Research and Arbitron (sourced on Convince and Convert):
51% of Americans use Facebook
8% use Twitter
4% use location-based services (eg, Foursquare)
(Americans 12+, 2011 data)
Assuming your B2C business has a diverse customer base that is not significantly more likely to be active in social media, some thoughts about social media initiatives fall out of this data.
You must have the raw customer numbers to justify devoting resources to social media. How many customers do you have? This is your potential social media audience. I’m assuming no-one (outside of the ad industry) is going to follow/‘like’ you unless they are a customer – why would they?* You can tweet every hour for a year, and not expect more than 8% of your current customer base to follow you.
Put potential audience before the potential of the platform. Foursquare offers a great opportunity for driving traffic, frequency, and loyalty. But is the investment in this tactic worth it when the potential is 4% of your customers? Could that Foursquare program you’re planning be adapted to something on Facebook?
You must have a valid reason for using Twitter over Facebook. You might personally prefer using Twitter. You might argue Twitter is better for giving regular updates than Facebook. But in making that choice, you are limiting your potential audience from half your customers to less than one in ten (unless you can effectively use both platforms).
The reason why national brands are more likely to use and be successful with social media isn’t big budgets but big audiences. They can afford to run a social media promotion – like the Foursquare promotion that Domino’s did in their 600+ UK stores which received 9,617 check-ins. At that rate, a local pizza shop running the same promotion would get 16 check-ins. And the investment in building the Foursquare program could very well be similar.
Based on this data, I think that the vast majority of local B2C businesses should concentrate their social media efforts on Facebook.
PS – but, you say, people are more likely to follow businesses on Twitter than Facebook. True, but the research shows 25% of people follow a brand on Facebook vs 5% on Twitter. Still a big spread.
PS2 – but, what if you are using social media to bring in new customers? the same rationale applies – do you want to talk to a potential 51% of the market on Facebook, or 8% on Twitter?
*yes, in theory, you should be providing valuable/interesting information that would appeal to customers or not – but really, non-customer fans have got to be a small minority. Ask someone who doesn’t work in the industry how many consumer brands they haven’t bought that they follow/‘like’.