Guest Post by Tasia Gonsalves-Barriero
Photo credit: LinkedIn chocolates by Nan Palmero on Flickr
The first time I saw an invitation from a friend (I can’t recall who it was now) to connect with her on LinkedIn, I simply sighed deeply and ignored the note. My initial thought was, “What’s wrong with these people; wasn’t Facebook enough drama for them?” Fast forward a year later and every day my inbox is filled with interesting discussions, blog posts, and comments from various groups I am a part of on LinkedIn.
What changed my mind? If you really want to know, then read on my friends!
LinkedIn is arguably the world’s largest networking site for professionals. As a matter of fact, Craig Smith on Expandedramblings.com indicates that there are more than 200 million users on LinkedIn to date.
LinkedIn: It’s More Than Just a Resume Site
It is not enough to upload your photo and put out a laundry list of your qualifications and expertise (though that is not bad in itself). LinkedIn is about starting relationships of the professional kind and maintaining them.
So, how does that affect you as a small business owner and what should you do about it?
I love it when I get asked these questions because I just love to share helpful tips.
1. Get your business face on – It’s good that there is a personal profile for you on LinkedIn, but you should also set one up for your company. What do you do? What does your business offer uniquely that I would be hard pressed to find somewhere else? After all, you need to stand out and be different in a world of so many small businesses.
When you set up a company page, there are three headings which many companies fail to utilize: don’t be one of them! The three headings are:
- Home – Under this heading, give the basic information on what your business does, when it was founded, and the number of employees, etc.
- Products – Too many times this has been left empty. Let it work for you. What does your business sell? What are its featured products or services? Highlight them here, and include an image, video, and a link to your website.
- Updates – Under this heading you will give information on the latest happenings in your business. Did you just acquire a new employee? Promote that here. Have you become involved with a local charity? Inform your readers here. Do you get my gist? Everything that can impact your business positively should be highlighted and shared.
Actionable tip: Check out the business pages of at least three of your favorite businesses on LinkedIn. See how they use their business pages. Adopt and tweak as you need. Have someone update the page regularly. If you blog, you may post links to your article on this page as well.
2. It’s all about connecting baby. Let’s get this straight: people can’t know who you are and what you have to offer until you connect with them. Find new customers, engage them, and connect with them in meaningful ways. Some experts advise that you ask your 1st level connections to introduce you to someone you’d like to be connected to. And that probably works (although I have not tried it as yet).
You see sometimes I can be a contrarian. For the most part, I try to personalize my requests and send them off. So far no one has queried why I would like to connect with them yet.
Actionable tip: Once you have identified your ideal customers (you’ve done that haven’t you?) search for them on LinkedIn. For example, if you sell educational supplies for teachers, who would your best target customer be? Teachers, of course! A search for teachers on LinkedIn netted more than 3 million results! This is a good base from which to choose your prospective connections.
3. Engagement is key– Now that you have reached out to these customers, just how do you intend to keep them? People like to know that you are not all about selling your products or services. They love getting tips from someone in the know. That means joining groups aligned with your small business goals (or you could start your own, which would establish you as a thought leader in your chosen field). Start discussions and answer questions to demonstrate your expertise.
Actionable tip: Give your connection a reason to come and check out your business either online (if you are) or in person. For example, whenever you connect with someone new, send a message thanking him or her for connecting with you. You may also tell the new connection that if he or she visits your business during the next 5 days, you will provide a discount of 10% on a purchase. Your prospect may not be able to pass up this opportunity.
4. Share, share, share, and share again. Remember the old adage that we learned from our mothers as children: it is better to give than to receive?
That is one of LinkedIn’s golden rules.
You have specialized knowledge that others need to know about. Don’t’ be selfish with it; help them out! But don’t see this as an opportunity to talk about yourself only. Post updates, quotes, and relevant articles that may be of interest to your connections from other parties.
Actionable tip: Determine how much time you are able to spend on LinkedIn each day. If you decide it will be fifteen minutes in the morning, then stick to it. And with sites such as Hootsuite, you can schedule future updates to various Social Media accounts without being overwhelmed.
5. Looking to expand and need capital? Have you ever wondered how some startup companies get so lucky and find investors to help them expand?
Trust me, luck has very little to do with it. They have to seek out these investors, see which ones are a good fit for them, and then bring their A games to sell their ideas to these investors.
Those same opportunities exist for you on LinkedIn.
Angel investors, venture capitalists, and investment firms that specialize in funding small businesses live on LinkedIn. Reach out or ask your 1st level connections to introduce you and get a conversation started. You never know just what may happen.
Actionable tip: Using LinkedIn search, identify angel investors, venture capitalists, and investment firms that fund small businesses. A search for information for this article on angel investors alone gave me a result of 746 companies! That is quite a number to choose from.
One last bonus tip:
6. Go Premium if you can – That is one of LinkedIn’s other features. With the Premium account there are a lot of options available, such as Inmail (where you are able to contact someone directly from LinkedIn even if you don’t know their email address). You are also able to see expanded profiles and see the full list of others who have viewed your personal profile.
Actionable tip: The basic account in LinkedIn works well for a small business. If you don’t have space in your budget for the Premium account, stick with the Basic until you feel you are in a position to explore the other options available to you.
As you can see, integrating LinkedIn Networking into your marketing mix can reap long term benefits for your small business. The success won’t come overnight, but the consistent work that you put in will surely help to push your business along.
Over to you: Have you been using LinkedIn at all? What has your experience been? Will you be implementing any of these tips above?
Please comment below.
About the author: Hi, I am Tasia Gonsalves-Barriero and I am a professional writer at TGB Copywriting and am also a teacher. I write for the B2B and Education sectors. To learn more about me, check me out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.