(This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Will Elon Musk buy Twitter? Will Twitter allow more free speech? Maybe those are interesting questions to discuss at a dinner party. But these issues aren’t of much interest to businesses. In fact, Twitter really isn’t a great place for most small businesses.
Why? A recent report from Pew Research has the reasons.
For starters, only one in five U.S. adults (23 percent) use the social media platform. A much larger share of people use YouTube (81 percent), Facebook (69 percent) and Instagram (40 percent). Not only that but a minority of Twitter users produce the vast majority of tweets. Pew says that among U.S. adults who use Twitter, the top 25 percent of users by tweet volume produce 97 percent of all tweets. The bottom 75 percent of users produce just 3 percent.
My advice: I’ve always found it hard to target my very limited marketing resources. The best marketing professionals I know always tell me to follow the money and go to where my customers are. For most U.S. businesses like mine, it seems that customers are likely not on Twitter. And the ones that are there are probably few and far between.
Another reason to avoid: Twitter leans left. According to research, around a third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents report using Twitter. This is almost twice more than the share of Republicans and Republican-leaners who claim the same.
My advice: I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing. It’s just that if your business is going to be active on Twitter, you need to be careful what you say. I’ve learned this the hard way. A few times I’ve tweeted something political and was on the receiving end of the opposing Twitter mob. I’ve found that people on the platform are less likely to be kind towards conservative-leaning businesses (I’m thinking firearms) and ideas. If you’re political and you want to air your views (and given my experience, I don’t recommend doing this publicly if you’re a business owner), you may wind up alienating potential customers and employees. Be careful, it’s a crazy place.
Finally, Twitter can be very, very unfriendly. Ask anyone who’s been on the platform and shares a point of view. There will likely be some people — some very aggressive people — who disagree and make their attacks. Pew says that around one in five adult Twitter users in the U.S. has experienced harassing or abusive behavior on the platform. A third say they see a lot of inaccurate or misleading information there. The good news is that the majority of adult Twitter users have not experienced harassing or abusing behavior on the site. But, 17 percent say this has happened to them personally.
I use Twitter all the time. That’s because besides running a small business, I also do a lot of writing about small businesses for various media sites like this one. For the media, Twitter is a place to go to (but not rely on) for news and opinions. It’s also a good place for small businesses that specialize in PR and marketing. Or, for just getting information and points of view on an event. My favorite use of Twitter? Following the #phillies hashtags so I can commiserate with fellow fans in real-time as my team loses, which it frequently does.
If you’re going to choose a social media platform, you need to focus on where your customers are. For my business, I like LinkedIn the best because my customers are generally B2B. And it’s a professional place to engage with them.
Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella (Microsoft owns LinkedIn) has frequently said that LinkedIn is a place to go for “economic opportunity” and he couldn’t be more right. However, if you’re a B2C business and want to build a community, it’s possible that Facebook, Instagram or TikTok may be better options. Of course, there’s lots to learn about each of these platforms. But one thing I’ve learned about Twitter: it’s not a great place for most small businesses.