Are you wondering which network Facebook or LinkedIn would help you grow your business or find you more qualified prospects or leads?

For this post I’m going to ignore Twitter and just cover the differences between Facebook and LinkedIn.

Know Your Target Market

The first step before you begin outreach and engaging social media is you must know your  target market.

Simply knowing what, where, and how your target market communicates will give you insight on whether a more professional network like LinkedIn or a more friends and family network like Facebook should be your focus.

So you’ve defined your target market, you know them in and out… let’s move on.

The Numbers Approach

While LinkedIn’s membership has continued to surge, reaching 53.6 million at the end of November 2009 from 31.5 million a year ago, it has been dwarfed by Facebook, which has surpassed 350 million members.

Remember, it’s not always quantity but quality. Here are some great insights on LinkedIn…

* Most users connect to people they know, including those they’ve met only over the phone
* Users like the professional and business oriented look and feel of LinkedIn compared to other SNS
* Users tend to be more senior (56% are “individual contributors”, 16% are management level, and 28% are director/VP level or above)
* The majority (66%) are decision makers or have influence in the purchase decisions at their companies (decision makers also tend to be more active on LinkedIn)
* And perhaps most interestingly, the greater the number of connections the greater the likelihood of higher personal income – those with personal incomes between $200K-$350K were seven times more likely than others to have over 150 connections!

The Traffic Factor

Monthly traffic of unique visitors to both social networks over the course of November 2008 to November 2009.

Two things to take away from this. Obviously Facebook has much many more unique numbers than LinkedIn. Also the growth of LinkedIn has a smaller upside potential.

Time Spent

According to a recent report from comScore, visitors spent about 13 minutes on average at LinkedIn during October 2009, while Facebook users logged about 213 minutes.

Facebook wins on time and attention.

More time spent = more attention = more likely that you, your product or service gets interaction from your target market.

Psychology Of Networks

This can’t be measured but knowing the above numbers and knowing the difference between the two networks should point you in the right direction.

Here are some questions to ask yourself…

If you are engaging on Facebook, are users on Facebook going to be receptive to your product or service? Does it lend itself to a more friends and family trust relationship?

With LinkedIn, can you work your product into conversations in a professional manner. For instance, with LinkedInAnswers, can you do a daily search on keywords that you know your target market uses and engage that question or answer? Can you do this in such a way as it is not selling but informative?

The Key

As with any social media engagement the key to success are two things… consistency and tracking.

With either network design your outreach so you are being consistent (for most this means daily) in your interaction.

You also want to track your results. If you have an call to action on your website you should be able to get the raw numbers of how many people opt-in from each traffic source.

A good example is one of our special reports we no longer offer had tremendous success with traffic from LinkedIn. The two other big networks Twitter and Facebook had half the optin rate with about the same traffic numbers.

This lead us to develop a separate report and a different more effective strategy focused just on LinkedIn.

The bottom line is you should be engaging one or the other (or both). Not just engaging but consistently engaging and tracking.