The Top 9 Social Networks For Businesses

Are you always wondering which social network is hot and which is not?

Which one should be a priority for your personal branding strategy and which one should be a focus for your business?

And how many social networks can your business really continue to pay attention to?

Well here you will see the search growth rates of the 9 major social networks that I think are most important to businesses and our social media marketing efforts.

All this data is thanks to some amazing research by Ignite Social Media which I found thanks to  Justin Flitter (@JustinFlitter). In their research, Ignite documents the growth rates, demographics and top countries of 59 social media networks.

Let me know if you think I should have included a different network (Reddit?) or if Ignite should have (where was Empire Avenue?)

While many people watched Facebook’s IPO flounder a bit this year, the fact is that everyone else is simply jealous of their position as the king of social networks.

Yes, their growth is flattening out. But is anyone else close to catching Facebook on volume and engagement? Nope!

Facebook is forcing many brands to begin to address their customers as people and that cannot be a bad thing.

There is a lot of opinion on Google Plus in the blogosphere. I maintain my position that this is a social network that should be on the radar for businesses.

My personal experience is that this is a network of rabid, information-sharing social networkers. Quality over quantity? Maybe.

My view: with their dominance as a search engine, don’t bet against Google just yet.

Top Social Network: LinkedInThis chart of slow and steady growth makes me happy!

I joined Linkedin relatively early on (August, 2004) and to me it will always be the easiest social network to explain to your Mom: it’s where I document my professional experiences and network with other business people.

Linkedin is also becoming an amazing content curator with Linkedin Today.

And it is also the best answer to what happens when you lose the email address of an old friend (or your potential new employer or sales contact).

It seems like many peopl told their family members about Pinterest over the holidays. Then those folks all came back to work and signed up.

It was a bit of a flash mob a little like Quora was not long ago. Except, I think it was clear that Pinterest was different…it taps into the need and growth of all things visual.

I’m not sure what the future of Pinterest is but I am still engaging there a few times a week. I’m not sure businesses need to be there, but they need to figure out how to make content interesting in a visual world.

Top Social Network: SlideshareAnother slow-and-steady growth rate. Watch this network…Very closely.

If you are not creating content for Slideshare, you are missing out. I think this is one of the most under-utlilzed social networks in B2B Marketing.

Every business should have a sales deck, the latest event keynote, and your best marketing content on slideshare.

Top Social Network: StumbleUponRecently, my friend Rachel Thompson (@RachelinTheOC) asked me what my “secret” was to getting some StumpleUpon stumbles.

I told her it was pure luck! Dead Serious. I followed the people who followed me until I hit my follower limit. I tag my posts as best I can and I cross my fingers.

This search pattern looks ominous but I think SU is like G+, a passionate group of information sharing freaks. And I am happy to take their votes.

Tumblr is another social network that forces brands to think long and hard about their visual identity.

I have to be honest, I have not gotten into Tumblr.

But I have a lot of respect for the brands and marketers who are making this network work for them. And with this growth, I may need to sign up soon!

It looks like YouTube may have reached a limit but like Facebook, you need to keep this stagnation of growth in perspective.

YouTube is the second largest search engine after only their parent Google.

The amount of content shared, consumed and time spent on the video-sharing site is hard to believe.

The best thing about YouTube is that you cannot hide. Video views is a brutal judge of the content loaded up.

Some brands get lucky. Some brands have figured out the recipe for success and some brands are still wandering in the dark.

Top Social Network: TwitterIf you know me at all, you know I am a tweeting fool!

Twitter continues with a steady growth rate. I think Twitter is also really important for brands.

Learning how to communicate something of value in 140 characters is a huge challenge for many brands still.

Twitter has forced businesses to address the need  to share helpful information and to stop the constant flow of overly-promotional marketing messages.

Twitter forces brands to think like people, connect and engage.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Looking for more traffic to your website with weekly blog articles, a full year content plan, and monthly reporting? Set up a quick call, so we can get started today…

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

39 thoughts on “The Top 9 Social Networks For Businesses

  1. Very interesting article, especially the graphs. I’ve seen lots of these types of posts with different people promoting one platform over another (Pinterest seems to have been the most recent shiny object). However, seeing the graphs makes it really easy to see who has the staying power and who doesn’t. Thanks Michael.

    1. Thanks Phil, I think marketers and business pros should all test the different platforms and decide what works best for them and their brands. I am very happy you found some value in this. The folks at Ignite did the research on 59 sites but I found it was just too much information so I am glad this summary of the top 9 helped you out.

  2. I haven’t looked into this a lot (that’ll have to change) but I have found some amazing discussions around stuff that I care about (content marketing, buyer personas) on Focus. And when I see people like Ardath Albee discussing stuff, I tend to take it more seriously.

    I admit it’s more Quora than LinkedIn or Facebook, but maybe for individuals willing to meet new people, Focus could be a good place.

  3. I like this article, its so neat..and easy to get, especially with the graphs. I am pleasantly surprised with the spikes in Pinterest and Slideshare graphs. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. My pleasure and thanks for the support.

      I was most surprised by the slow and steady growth of linkedin and twitter since both have been around a while. It appears they have not hit a plateau like facebook.

  4. Wonderful article!

    And it’s nice to see those great graphs to support your reasoning.

    This article has done more to bring all these sites into prospective for me than any I’ve read.

    For as your graphs show each of these sites offers something just a little different for the user. And each attracts a slightly different audience.

    So to leave one out is to not reach that part of the social media spear of influence and that’s now what any of us want.

    Together they make a complete set of sites that fit and compliment each other such that’s it’s hard to pick one to leave out.

    Now it’s just for me to understand how to seamlessly join them together and be able to manage them. And I’ve got some ideas for how to structure an infrastructure that I think I’ll explore and share in a blog.

    So thanks for a very well written and supported article that has some research meat to it’s bones.

  5. Thanks for this comparison. IMHO Facebook and Twitter are most important for big companies, LinkedIn and Slideshare for professionals. And Pinterest… It’s not working for me 😉
    BR, Chris

    1. Thanks Chris. Pinterest works to distract. I have to admit I enjoy looking at it but still wonder what value it has for B2B brands other than forcing the thinking around visual design (which slideshare and tumblr might be better for!)

  6. great stuff as usual. very insightful for the consumer focused social networking websites.

    i would love to see this go beyond the mass media broadcast networks like linkedin, google,twitter and facebook and see one dedicated to vertical social networks.

    i think niche vertical social networks are a much better way to achieve the outcomes you are looking for in the first two sentences of your post.

    check out paul gillin’s latest article on this topic: 5 reasons to consider niche social networks.
    full disclosure he mentions spiceworks and i am an employee at this company.

    go where their is a large concentration of your prospects, buyers when it comes to b2b.

    doctors – check out practicefusion, sermo

    accountants – check out wave accounting



    ps: some of the engagement metrics and treating people like people on these vertical social networks blow facebook out of the water.

  7. This is a great summary of the major platforms, probably one of the best I’ve seen. The graphs make it easy to understand, and you have just reminded me to pay more attention and get busy on SlideShare!

  8. Thanks for sharing, Michael. (My firm actually did a Flash-based GUI design for a The OCM Marketplace many years ago for SAP’s international SAPPHIRE conference in Atlanta. Glad to connect here again! I agree with much of what you’re saying here, but Pinterest is driving business to e-commerce sites, charts or no charts. My only other comment would be that these may be the Top 9 Social Networks for Business based on the charts, but biggest doesn’t mean most relevant. And each business needs to really strategize to figure out where their own niche demographic spends the most time — and then build relationships online in those places. In our experience with SMM management, that yields the best ROI.

    1. Thanks Kelly, you are absolutely correct. I did not mean to suggest that these are the biggest and simply tried to show the growth rates and momentum of each of what I think are the top sites. You are not the first one to make this comment so it was my mistake to not make that more clear.

  9. Michael:

    I’m a big fan and keep an eye for your blog and tweets. I like your down to earth approach and all the poster are correct, the graphs do the trick. I agree with your assessment and feel that my wins are with LI, Twitter and a few others. I’m not yet a slideshare users and appreciate your bringing that to my attention.

    Many of the other posts note the need for seamless integration and I’ve been using Buffer lately. I’ve found it useful and feel that over time, my analytics will improve as well as my ability to “integrate” around my brand.

    Admirer of your work and grateful for sharing your insights, ideas and news.


    1. Thanks Alison, I really appreciate you stopping by and for the support. I have also been using buffer and lovin it. Also, check out IFTT (If This Then That!)

  10. Nice article.

    Executable English may also be of interest.

    Code that non-programmers can read, write and run.

    Google it, run the examples, get explanations, then (socially) write and run your own examples.

  11. Thanks for sharing the graphs, Michael – it helps to see the numbers plotted out this way. I like your message, too, about Facebook. I have to say though, while I avidly promote B2B in all walks of social media, this has been the hardest channel for us to gain traction. It seems pictures which do not relate to what we do have the best response. Any B2B Facebook tips?

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for the support. I am not a Facebook expert but I see our brand page doing a great job of showing the human face of our business. So maybe that is why you are seeing pictures do well. Your fans are just happy to see that you are all real people. I would take the cue and run with it!

  12. I believe I need to create a live action infographic for your post. Social sites seem to be in a state of rapid movement as atoms or particulate spinning. My personal favorites today are Pinterest (just started and see huge value and finding readers) and Twitter if you don’t go there using hashtags FF and old tricks that say, buy my widget. Facebook is just too noisy and Linkedin too slow for response. If you want me to make that game spinning infographic, let me know. 🙂

    1. Caroline, I certainly do want you to make it. you can email me at michael DOT brenner AT sap DOT com with details. Just so you know, I am off for vacation starting tomorrow so apologize if I miss you while I’m off at the beach.

  13. I can’t figure out how pinterest can be good for marketing most sites. Everyone is raving about using pinterest, but I don’t see it. Any examples of creative ways to generate real business with pinterest?

  14. So glad I just came across this article through my recent, and heavily active involvement in (one of my new FAVS for content curation) However, just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this – very simply laid out, straight to the facts, and great insights. Thank you, I always respect and actively follow like-minded people -especially when they are industry thought-leaders, influencers, and share great content!


  15. What a great summary of networks. Thank you!

    Twitter is our most important network – we can’t be everywhere due to size and budget and that is the one channel we just can’t do without.

    It’s beyond me how brands or companies are managing without an active presence on Twitter. It seems like the one natural network to me to be on because, as you rightly stated, it forces brands to think like people!

    You can do so much with it; converse, engage, provide customer support, and even throw events!

    We just sponsored a Tweet Chat for the first time last month time and the outcome blew our socks off. It was an excellent brand experience.

    1. Thanks Kelly, tweetchats is really how I got started on Twitter. I learned from some great early friends on how to use twitter to connect and to share great content. I appreciate the support and comment.

  16. Michael, would you say any of this has changed in the 181 days since your original post? It seems like things are constantly changing with social media.

    1. Hi Susanne, I think these are still the right group to focus on. Some people are still active on Quora but I’m not sure that site’s traffic has taken share from any of these above.

  17. My favorite social networks for business are Linkedin and Google Plus. Although I use Google plus mainly due to SEO benefits, but Linkedin is my preferred out of these two as I can find almost all the businesses of concern on Linkedin.
    Recently a lot of marketers have been talking about Slideshare so I’ve registered on Slideshare. Let’s see how it turns out to be.

    1. I think Slideshare is really a missed opportunity. Mist businesses already create lots of slides. They just don’t think about how to make them more viable for sharing.

  18. I ALWAYS say I’m going to get some stuff on Slideshare, and really do mean to, just never seem to get there. Seeing as how I’ve finally gotten to almost everything else legitimately (patting myself on the back :p) then, after reading this article, I think its time. Great post!

  19. Micheal, great analysis and the graphs were very informative. The real problem here is that they all are popular and have huge audiences so how do you know which of these to use and maximize. There is just not enough time to be engaged in so many of these social networks. For me, I spend very little time on Facebook but more on LinkedIn, Google + and now Pinterest. Nothing on Slideshare but can see its value.

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