LinkedIn – Beginning Tips for Small Business

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Other than your blog and blogging activities, LinkedIn offers perhaps the best platform for business’s, especially company’s that market to other businesses, to network and connect with current and potential customers. This is true for large multi-nationals and it’s true for smaller companies. This post is geared more towards small business’s just joining LinkedIn.

LinkedIn attracts and holds a fairly specific demographic that many businesses and professionals could benefit from connecting with. One report (that I lost link to, please accept my sincere apologies) says that LinkedIn:

  • Users tend to be more senior in an organization
  • 16% are management level
  • 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

If you haven’t created your Company Page, LinkedIn provides an easy to follow tutorial in their Learning Center.  LinkedIn Company Pages can be optimized by adding your blog (one click if WordPress, code required for other types of blogs), Twitter stream and of course ensuring that company staff and leadership are featured on the the company page. NOTE: You can’t interact on LinkedIn as a business – you will need to use your personal account to network, join Groups and Answer questions.

Networking on LinkedIn is improved by taking part in the discussions that occur in two areas; in Groups and in Answers. Step one is to search for Groups that are already discussing topics that you blog about.

There are many, many groups to choose from. To get started search for Groups that relate to your particular business or industry.  In addition you may want to search for Groups that are not directly related to your industry but that have a high likelihood of membership that includes prospective customers. Jesse Stanchak, posting on SmartBlog for Social Media, wisely suggests:

There’s a larger conversation out there that their brand can take part in, once they find the niche that grants them access. Ask yourself:

  • What do my customers love?
  • What do they worry about?
  • What excites them?
  • What is my brand’s relationship to those things?

I suggest that you take a day or a couple of afternoons and thoroughly explore the Groups section, make notes, read some of the posts, look for actual activity level and overall tone of the group. Then decide which two or five groups you want to get involved with. I say two to five as a starting point and in the hopes by keeping the numbers down you will have time to really become involved, become a leader and well respected member of the groups you are in. Ideally you’ll want to join a dozen or more.

LinkedIn Answers is another way to boost your credibility and standing as an expert and provides an opportunity for you to leverage that personal standing to promote your company.

The LinkedIn Answers section, like Groups, is searchable by category and provides a great place to to check into regularly to see if you can offer your expertise.  If you can link to a blog that you have on the company website your short answer does double duty by increasing notoriety and linking back to the all important company website.

This is the list of possible “to do’s” to increase the effectiveness of a business’s LinkedIn activities.

  • Add your blog to you LinkedIn company page
  • Add your Twitter stream to company page
  • Make sure everyone the company has a LinkedIn profile linked to the company page and that they understand that their activities on LinkedIn are work related
  • Make sure your profile is pristine, use some LinkedIn apps, and promote your company
  • Join and actively participate in Groups that will allow maximum opportunities to articulate your industry related knowledge
  • Search Answers section for opportunities to help others and when appropriate link back to your blog and website
  • Follow influential company’s and individuals in your industry
  • Promote and recommend others whenever you can (karma is magnified with social media) as long as it’s genuine
  • Ask current customers who are on LinkedIn for a recommendation for your company – especially those that have provided testimonials for you to use on your website and those who have messaged you directly to thank you for your great service
  • Include more personal responses when appropriate using direct messaging in order to build stronger relationships with some people
  • Promote your LinkedIn company profile on your blog and on other social networking sites and business cards and other traditional media
  • Be clear internally about the company values you want implied – This is critical. You don’t need or want to be explicit, you want the values and vision of your company and your social media strategy to shine through in all your social media activities
  • Be nice, professional, yourself, and have some fun! HubSpot suggests that Facebook is like going to your local pub, LinkedIn is like going to a convention.

The analytics provided on your LinkedIn company page can provide you with some measures of page views but it will be up to you to analyze these against business outcomes. The goal of social media for companies, like all marketing activities, is to increase sales. The impact of social media on sales is rarely quick or easy to measure.  That being said, the impact can be impressive and comparing social media activity analytics to business gains is one way to measure real results.

This is just a starting point, at some point you may want to start your own group, purchase ads and much more. In the meantime get out there, get to know the space, get to know some people and share, share, share!

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