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Part of what the Purple Stripe training team teaches in our Small Business seminars is finding the right tool for the job. In this case, finding the right social media platform for your company’s marketing needs. For now, everyone has their eye on The Big Three (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) but we are quick to show that there are hundreds more tools available (and hundreds that have gone away…) Each tool has it’s own way of working, both technically and culturally, and each requires a unique approach to get the most benefit.

Twitter has evolved as a great place for news, entertainment, updates, and general chit-chat. Facebook is great for forming (or rekindling) relationships, social gaming, and socializing. LinkedIn is all business networking and job fulfillment. What goes on in one platform is generally ill-received on others. For example, Farmville would not be tolerated at all in LinkedIn and similar games have failed in Twitter.  Connecting with coworkers, past or present, may be frowned upon in Facebook where things stay fairly personal, but on LinkedIn not only is it expected, the platform actually helps you locate, connect and recommend each other.

Outside of the people you connect with on a social platform, the content you share should be unique across the networks.  Twitter excels at sending text messages and links because of the text-only media and character limitations.  Facebook is amazing at sharing multimedia content such as pictures or video – in addition to text and links.  LinkedIn is wonderful for sharing text and links in a professional business networking capacity.  The problem with these tools is that sometimes they are used to promote exactly the same message to very different user populations.

Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

It is very easy to post the same message to all three platforms.  But should you?  Are you really serving each community to the best of their needs?

Updates from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can all cross-pollinate, sometimes resulting in messages infinitely looping between the three.  Messages from Twitter about what movie you just streamed from Netflix is automatically posted to your LinkedIn profile.  Foursquare checkins go to Twitter and Facebook, and then by association LinkedIn.  How is that helping anyone besides YOU?  Do the professionals on LinkedIn care what movie you are watching? Probably not.

There are ways to cross-post without becoming annoying.  For example, LinkedIn allows you to only bring in Twitter messages with #inHootsuite allows you to enter in a status message and choose exactly what platform you would like to publish it on.  Our advice is be selective in where and what you post on each social network platform.  Not sure how to divide and conquer?  Create a unique strategy for each platform that accommodates your business goals and master social marketing plan.  Take a step back and determine who follows you (or that you want to follow you) on each platform, zero in on their top three needs from you, and deliver.

Done right, the interaction and value you get from each space will increase by having the right conversation on the right platform with the right people for the right reasons.