Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: Twitter versus LinkedIn, which is more effective?

Wen (Claire) Tian / March 28, 2016

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The Higher ED Blog: Twitter versus LinkedIn, which is more effective?

The increasing popularity of the internet has made information more accessible than ever, but it has also made disseminating information more difficult than ever. How do you effectively share knowledge when there are so many channels and so many other users competing for attention?

While I was in the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development master’s program, I decided to explore the effectiveness of communication channels in disseminating information about sustainable community plans. The full paper, Knowledge Dissemination through Online and Offline Communication channels: An Examination of Audiences’ Attitudes, Channel Effectiveness, and Engagement Drivers, supervised by Amelia Clarke and Lei Huang, compared three channels but this blog focuses on just two: LinkedIn and Twitter. Although a large number of studies have been done to investigate user experience with social networking sites, very few studies have directly compared these platforms. Recognizing the significance of knowledge dissemination, this study aimed to assess their effectiveness in disseminating sustainability-relevant knowledge. While this study uses sustainability research as a domain, the results are transferable to other disciplines.

For this major research paper, I employed a quantitative approach, and distributed an online survey to Twitter and LinkedIn users. The knowledge (or the information) to be disseminated was Professor Amelia Clarke’s research on sustainable community plans (Figure 1). The target audience was sustainability practitioners: a group of people who work in sustainability-associated fields or are involved in sustainability-relevant activities. A survey I designed was distributed to Amelia Clarke’s LinkedIn and Twitter connections; subsequently, data were analyzed using T-testing and Chi-Square tests.

Figure 1: Community Sustainability Plans

sustainability plans

LinkedIn and Twitter sustainability practitioners

The survey received 41 responses from Twitter and 78 responses from LinkedIn. Participants aged 25 to 34 made up one quarter of respondents. In addition, 35 to 44 year-old respondents accounted for one fifth of respondents. Interestingly, more than half were no more than 44 year-old (65%). By contrast, only around 4% of respondents were over 65 years old, and less than 20% were over 55 (18%). Based on the difference between the number of respondents and age groups, it seems that younger users tend to be more active on the Internet and more willing to participate in social media activities.

About 42% of online respondents completed Master’s degree, almost 30% possessed a Bachelor’s degree, and about 13% of the respondents had a Ph.D. degree. Overall, it was calculated that nearly 90% of online respondents had obtained at least a Bachelor’s degree (88%). These results are likely influenced by the fact that Amelia Clarke is a professor and is connected to many students and university colleagues.

LinkedIn vs. Twitter in dissemination effectiveness

The paper investigated the dissemination effectiveness using four indicators: service quality (level of satisfaction regarding the quality of services offered by communication channels), word-of-mouth (willingness to share), audience engagement (level of involvement with disseminated information), and message persuasiveness (how likely the disseminated information affects audiences’ behaviors).

No significant differences were found between these two social networking sites. Although messages on LinkedIn were perceived to be more persuasive than those on Twitter, dissemination through Twitter was found to be a slightly more effective way to disseminate information about sustainable community plans. However, in a practical sense, only a slight difference exists between Twitter and LinkedIn in terms of service quality, audiences’ willingness to share, audience engagement and message persuasiveness.

In general, both social networking sites provide high quality of services. Participants were willing to share the disseminated information on both social networking sites. Online participants viewed themselves as highly engaged in the disseminated information and those on Twitter seemed to be slightly more engaged than those on LinkedIn. It is notable that the overall message disseminated on both the social networking sites was viewed as not persuasive; participants reported that they had a neutral perception of the disseminated information.

What does this mean for economic developers?

Although this study uses sustainability research, my study has some implications for economic developers using social networking sites (such as LinkedIn and Twitter) for public sector marketing.  Social media marketing has the potential to reach large audiences, and it is cost-effective as well. Obtaining accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn is free of charge, although these two sites provide options of paid service for promoting users’ posts as well. Marketing through social networking sites, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn, is recommended for government agencies or corporations if they have well-maintained official accounts and sufficient social connections. If resources are limited and the organization can only maintain one account (or a limited number), both Twitter and LinkedIn are viable options. The difference in impact is so slight that the choice can be based on what your target audience uses most frequently, or if all else is equal, personal preference.


About the author

Wen (Claire) Tian is a recent graduate of the LED master’s program. Follow her on Twitter at @54WenTian. Through the LED internship program, she worked as a social entrepreneurship researcher for Independent Living Canada, a national not-for-profit organization providing support for people with disabilities. Recently, she has a new role as an Employment consultant, working toward building the economic structure of the community and offsetting labor market challenges in White River, Ontario.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1988, the Local Economic Development program is the only master’s program in Canada devoted solely to local economic development. It offers a balance between theory and practice by combining coursework, a major research paper, an internship, and weekly seminars featuring guest speakers. Students are prepared for careers in local, community, or regional economic development.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.


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