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An ancient proverb states that a "cord of three strands is not easily broken." By way of analogy, I hypothesize that the more individual connections to a person, the stronger your overall relationship with that person.

In constructing my social graph (i.e., my network of connections), I build relationships at three sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. In some cases, I have connections with people on all three networks.

The connectivity usually begins on one network and gradually extends to two or three networks, and sometimes more, as we get to know each other. It seems logical and natural to continue the relationship cycle, building to sites where we both have a presence.

My focus is on creating threefold connections to individuals. It's not enough that you have a presence on each site, but that you leverage your presence to connect with others who also have a presence on those sites. Social media is about being social. Each platform offers distinct advantages, but you need all three to build the strongest connection.

If the "cord of three strands" philosophy is true, what are the top-three social networks for business? Based on my experience, I recommend LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is your business suit. It is not very conversational in its orientation, but people expect you to have a profile there. The network lends a degree of professional credibility—and requires the least amount of upkeep.

According to its Web site, LinkedIn is an interconnected network of more than 35 million business professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. It is designed to be a place where you can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals with whom you need to work to accomplish your goals.

For a long time, I thought of LinkedIn solely as a place to find jobs or employees. My profile there was complete and detailed, but it was nothing more than an online resume. I kept it updated, thinking that one day a prospective employer might come along and offer me that dream job.

However, I have come to realize that LinkedIn is much more than just a place to hunt for a job. It's a social network that offers you the opportunity to connect with others in your field, find vendors and consultants, develop your business, and generate leads.

2. Facebook

If LinkedIn is your business suit, then Facebook is your business-casual attire in that it allows more of a 360-degree view of you by combining both your professional and your personal sides. Facebook is a more conversational platform than LinkedIn.

A little over four years ago, I was visiting my son in college. At the time, he was a junior in college. He showed me some photos he had taken and posted online to a site called Facebook. I had heard of the site, but I really had no  idea what it was other than a social network for college students. (Back then, you couldn't register on Facebook unless you had a .edu email address.)

I queried him about the site. I was interested in its unique features, such as the now infamous Wall, photo galleries, and status messages. I thought to myself how nice it would be if Facebook were available to users other than the college crowd. Not long after, in the fall of 2006, Facebook's young CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, did precisely that, opening the platform to anyone over the age of 13.

Since then, the average age of Facebook users has become progressively older. In February 2009, one of the fastest-growing demographic segments in the network was females age 55 and older.

However, the number of Facebook users in all age/gender demographic groups is growing, with use among women growing faster than among men in nearly all age groups. Among all users, those age 26-30 form the fastest-growing age group; 45% of Facebook's US audience is now age 26 or older.

With more than 300 million users worldwide and over five million new users joining every week, Facebook is the largest social network on the planet. Those numbers are strong evidence that social media is in the mainstream and businesses need to pay attention and consider establishing a presence there.

3. Twitter

If LinkedIn is your business suit and Facebook is your business-casual attire, Twitter is your business social-networking cocktail hour: You go there to casually and informally interact with potentially thousands of others.

Whereas LinkedIn tends to be a more latent form of engagement, interaction on Twitter is (or can be) in real time. It's the most informal of the three networks and allows for the greatest degree of conversation.

Conclusion

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that participation in the three big social networks—LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter—is an absolute must for just about every business.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney is a veteran digital marketing consultant, trainer, writer, editor, and author of four books, including The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media. Reach him via pchaney@gmail.com.

LinkedIn: Paul Chaney

Twitter: @pchaney