In the battle for business, Twitter appears to be standing head and shoulders above LinkedIn and Facebook. A recent study by Optify, a provider of digital marketing software, shows that Twitter bests social media giants Facebook and LinkedIn with a hefty 9-to-1 ratio. In other words, Twitter is nine times better than the two other networks at generating leads for businesses looking to work with other businesses. Twitter is responsible for 82 percent of leads gained from social media, pushing it way ahead of the B2B marketing game.

Optify’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report (which is available for free download) found that social media generate a mere 1.9 percent of B2B website traffic overall while direct and organic searches—at 40 and 41 percent, respectively—remain much more efficient methods of generating leads. Additionally, although increasing traffic is a good step forward, converting those visitors into buyers can best be done through email. Email’s 2.9 percent conversion rate beat social media’s 1.2 percent.

Even so, micro-blogging site Twitter remains an important tool in the online marketer’s arsenal. This channel of marketing communication may not generate as much traffic as Facebook, and it may not convert as well as email, but it wins out when it comes to generating leads. Companies that actively manage advertising campaigns on social media, including Twitter, were found to enjoy relatively high engagement and conversion rates.

Twitter’s conversion rate is a robust 2.2 percent to Facebook's 0.7 percent and LinkedIn’s 0.8 percent. Taken individually, these figures are far from impressive. When compared with each other, though, they become significant; Twitter is about three times more effective at conversion than either LinkedIn or Facebook, and about one-and-a-half times more effective than the two combined.

To generate its study results, Optify analyzed more than 60 million visits from over 600 small and medium-size B2B sites between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012. The company determined the proportion of hits and leads from various sources to B2B sites, limiting its parameters to US-based .com websites with monthly visits numbering between 100 and 100,000.

B2B sales managers face a number of considerations when using Twitter to gain the trust of potential clients and turn them into repeat customers. First, sales managers should develop buyer personas of the kinds of people they’d like to conduct business with, including the objections they will raise. Second, they should use Twitter’s search function to discover and engage with brands, creating those connections that will lead to working relationships. Third, they should qualify companies by comparing them to previously generated buyer personas and weeding out those organizations that do not align with these personas. Finally, they should nurture highly qualified leads, reading and responding to tweets, providing free resources and trial offers, and using the direct message function to close the sale. Following these steps will ensure positive results and productive relationships.