So why does this matter? One reason why companies often choose Twitter above other channels is its ability to break news stories before the mainstream media is, but news distribution is not the only thing that companies need to do on social media.
Undoubtedly, all companies should keep a close eye on what is being said about them on Twitter, and most companies should also consider using Twitter as a news distribution channel.
However, this is only part of the story. When it comes to social media, companies need to influence how they are perceived and how they are discussed.
The most obvious approach is to join the conversation but this requires skill and sensitivity and an investment of time and resource. It also entails a considerable degree of risk, which may not be acceptable for many companies.
Another powerful way of influencing the social media audience is through the corporate website: some of the uncontrolled conversation on social media can be diverted onto the controlled environment of a website.
The better the website is and the more frequently its content is updated, the more likely is it that people will use it as their primary information source, instead of scouring social media for titbits and rumour.
For this approach to work people need to find the corporate website in the first place. Companies need to steer people from social media onto their websites, and this is where LinkedIn comes into its own. Referrals from Twitter are growing (while Facebook referrals are falling) but LinkedIn is the out-and-out leader.
In part, its success can be ascribed to the fact that almost every company has a LinkedIn page: the same is not true of Twitter and Facebook. But the huge power of LinkedIn as a referrer suggests something more profound.
We can’t claim to have the definitive answer but it may be that the type of person who looks at a company page on LinkedIn in the first place is more interested in further information about that company than the average Twitter viewer.
Twitter is clearly still important and must not be ignored. However, our research suggests that companies would do well to reach out to LinkedIn users as well.
They can do this by enhancing their LinkedIn company page and by participating in (or even initiating) discussions on LinkedIn groups, always providing clear signposting back to the corporate website.
It is the LinkedIn audience who are most likely to be genuinely interested in you and who are most likely to come to your website, where you can deliver the information that they need.