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Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn
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Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn

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Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn! From profile optimization to advertising to networking, learn how to put the most popular professional social network to use for your professional life.

Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn! From profile optimization to advertising to networking, learn how to put the most popular professional social network to use for your professional life.

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Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn Small Business Owners Guide to LinkedIn Document Transcript

  • The Small BusinessGuide to LinkedIn
  • The Small Business Guide to LinkedInDigitalSherpa.com1bout 30 percent of small business owners useLinkedIn regularly, according to a recent surveyconducted by the Wall Street Journal and VistageInternational, which found that LinkedIn was frequentedmore often than Facebook by this demographic. What sur-prised us most about this survey was the statistic that 70percent of business owners are not using LinkedIn regu-larly. Perhaps that’s because they fail to realize the potentialthat it has to expand their networks and grow their compa-nies. When small businesses use it properly, LinkedIn canplay a significant role in generating new business leads andproviding opportunities for collaboration with other busi-ness owners.Relevant LinkedIn Statistics for Small Businesses▶▶ More than 150,000 companies have LinkedInprofiles.▶▶ More than 12 million small business profession-als have LinkedIn accounts. This figure accountsfor approximately 20 percent of the total Linked-In user base. More than three million of theseindividuals are start-up professionals.▶▶ The LinkedIn Answers section has more than200 different categories with at least one solelydevoted to small business. It also has more than 2,000groups that pertain to various small business topics.▶▶ The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International sur-vey, conducted in January 2013, found that 41 percentof the owners surveyed rated it as their most valuableagent for business growth. Facebook follows as the sec-ond-most frequented channel, at 22 percent, and Twit-ter as the third channel, at 14 percent. Owners deter-mine the value of a social media channel through pagereviews or generated returns. LinkedIn is deemed thebest social media channel for targeting a professionalsdemographic.Optimize Your LinkedIn Business Profile▶▶ Create a customized URL. LinkedIn gives every user adefault URL with a numeric code that does not haveany significance. Go into your LinkedIn settings andclick on “Public Profile.” This section gives you the op-tion to change your URL. Keep this URL simple anduse your company name if it’s available.▶▶ Add relevant keywords. Include a number ofrelevant keywords in the description of yourcompany to increase your chances of ranking high inrelevant LinkedIn searches.▶▶ Request employee recommendations. One of thebest methods for generating relevant profiletraffic and generally setting your business apart fromthe pack is to garner recommendations from bothcurrent and past employees. Individuals who are in-terested in your company and thinking about do-ing business with you in the future may think morehighly of you when they see this positive feedback.▶▶ Update your company status on a regular basis.Nothing will turn potential customers off fast-er than an outdated profile. People want to seeat least one new update from the past month, ifnot the past week. Provide information aboutAWhen small businesses use it properly,LinkedIn can play a significant rolein generating new business leads andproviding opportunities for collabo-ration with other business owners.41% 22% 14%Social Media Value{
  • The Small Business Guide to LinkedInDigitalSherpa.com2happenings at your company or within your indus-try. Seek out interesting, relevant articles to sharewith your target audience that are likely to drawnew followers and generate discussion within thecomment sections.Best Small Business Practices on LinkedIn▶▶ Start a group. One of the best methods fornetworking with other professionals on Linked-In is to start a group based around a relevant topicfor your business or your target customer base. Isyour small business exclusive to a specific city or re-gion? You may want to consider creating a groupfor the industry within that particular area (i.e.Oak Park Small Businesses). Providing an oppor-tunity to network with other local businesses maygenerate more business for everyone. Relevantindustry groups also allow small business owners tobecome thought leaders in their particular areas of ex-pertise.▶▶ Cultivate genuine relationships. Keep yourfollowers engaged and build relationships withthem by providing relevant industry information,including tips and news stories. Avoid overt salespitches and don’t send constant promotional mes-sages. When you build meaningful relationships,the sales will come in time. Request feedbackfrom your followers to find out what they wantfrom your company and build online marketingcampaigns and goals accordingly.▶▶ Maximize opportunities for word-of-mouth and onlinerecommendations. Just about every small business re-lies on happy customers to bring in new customers.Consider asking satisfied clients to write recommenda-tions that you can post on your LinkedIn profile. Don’tforget to use LinkedIn forums to share knowledge andskill sets that you possess for your particular industry,as well. You never know when this practice will lead topotential customers or networking opportunities.▶▶ Follow companies of interest. Stay in the loop forpossible business ventures by following compa-nies that catch your interest. These businesses maybe able to provide valuable insights, such as thebeginning of a new aspect of an industry (i.e. atechnology that will revolutionize a commonindustry practice) or the hiring pace for a close com-petitor in your area.▶▶ Nurture your networks. One of the best waysto succeed in any aspect of life is to pay it for-ward. Take the time to respond to questions fromlike-minded professionals and provide help inareasofexpertise.Peoplearemorelikelytohelpyouwhenthey have seen the help that you give to others. Thesepractices also strengthen a network as a whole, mak-ing it a more valuable resource for everyone involved.More LinkedIn Opportunities▶▶ Outsource services. Consider how many timesyou have consulted with co-workers to findgreat companies or individuals for any range ofoutsourcing needs, from photography to graphicdesign. LinkedIn makes it simple for small busi-nesses to locate and contact vendors throughpeer networks. Additionally, many people opt totrade for services through LinkedIn. For exam-ple, someone may be willing to do a graphic designjob in exchange for the contact information for acouple crucial industry connections.▶▶ Conduct research. Small business owners are30% of Small Business OwnersRegularly Use LinkedIn{
  • The Small Business Guide to LinkedInDigitalSherpa.com3confronted with difficult questions on any num-ber of different topics every day. LinkedIn’s Groupsand Answers sections allow users to tap intothe expertise of a particular network to get theanswers that they need.▶▶ Raise funding. LinkedIn is a great resource forlocating potential investors or mentors for startup companies. There are numerous opportuni-ties to reach out to people who have been there anddone that before in the world of small business andare more than willing to share their insight withothers. After you have made the proper connections,you may be able to generate interest in a small busi-ness investment for your start up or other initiative.LinkedIn Practices to Avoid▶▶ Giving only with the expectation of receiving.Networking with people through LinkedIn andwriting recommendations for their profiles isexpected and welcomed, unless you are only doing thisonly to get recommendations in return. This practice isviewed as tacky. Offer genuine recommendations be-cause you believe it is in your best interest as a consum-er, not because you have any expectation about the re-turn gesture. Many people who know you and respectyour business are likely to write the recommendationsanyway. If they don’t, there is no reason to worry. Youhave still provided credit where credit is due.▶▶ Not giving at all. The principle of strong networkingis based on giving as opposed to receiving. One of theeasiest ways to give on LinkedIn is with endorsements.Not only are you able to showcase a company’s skillsand give them a little pat on the back, you may also in-crease their search rank. Demonstrate that you respectthe skills of other individuals in your industry. Whilethis is still a networking technique, you can feel goodabout making others feel good.▶▶ Waiting for a need. When you put off cultivat-ing strong connections until you need a job leador new customers, you have waited too long.Consider where you want to be with your company ayear from now or even five years from now and startbuilding your connections and network.▶▶ Forgetting where you are. Most LinkedIn users see it asa professional social media channel. Steer clear of usingLinkedIn for personal commentary and networking. Itmay seem like harmless activity, but you never knowwhen a potential vendor, customer, employer, or em-ployee will come across this content. When it comes toprofessionalism, playing it safe is the best practice. Pic-tures of your children or your recent vacation belong onFacebook.▶▶ Ignoring the signs. LinkedIn is building itself up to bemore than a place for professionals to make connec-tions. Even though “influencers” can only be followedcurrently,atsomepointinthefutureit’slikelythatallus-ers can directly post original content and cultivate theirown followings. Smart people not only maximize thepotential of a tool but also start anticipating and plan-ning for what a tool may become. For small businessowners, this means that it is important to start payingattention, planning ahead, and positioning yourselfaccordingly now so that you’re ready when the time forthis big change comes.▶▶ Not sharing. One of the simplest methods forupdating your profile on a regular basis is shar-ing. Including blog posts, relevant industryarticles, and videos in your Activity stream allowspotential and existing customers to get a peek atwhat your small business is doing and where your in-terests lie. The more a target audience base can learnabout a company before they make a direct contact, thebetter.▶▶ Not caring. Are you curious about what yournetwork, connections, and target audience deemsimportant? Do you want to get a better read on howthe content that you share is received? The only wayto start making these things happen is keeping an eyeon your Activity feed. Take note of the content thatpeople like, read and respond to in their comments,Consider where you want to be withyour company a year from now or evenfive years from now and start buildingyour connections and network.
  • The Small Business Guide to LinkedInDigitalSherpa.com4and make changes to future content shares accordingly.No matter how important you think a particular topicis, if customers are not engaged, it will not be effective.Apply your efforts wisely.▶▶ Ignoring a team network. The most effectivemethod for opening doors within an industryis building relationships, referrals, and generalrapport. Any given industry is going to have a certainnumber of people who have built up their own power-ful networks. You can take advantage of their connec-tions to further your own small business.▶▶ Being generic. Most LinkedIn users have re-ceived an auto-generated “I’d like to add you to myprofessional network on LinkedIn” message froma personal or professional contact at some point.All small business owners are busy, but writ-ing customized messages is a good use of pre-cious business-building time. Consider the con-tact at hand and tailor the message appropriately.Not all potential LinkedIn contacts should receiveexactly the same messages for all inquiries.Consider how you know a person and whatyou may have in common. Don’t discount thenotion of offering up a compliment. There shouldbe a legitimate reason for initiating a new contactbeyond simply padding numbers. Don’t be afraid tostate this reason.2013 LinkedIn UpdatesDuring the past six months, LinkedIn hasimplemented a number of major design changes.Personal profiles are now more streamlined, withfewer user-favorite features. As a small businessowner, you can take advantage of the following changes tomaximize the potential of your company.▶▶ Multimedia gallery in your personal profile. Users areable to add photos, videos, mp3 files, PowerPoint pres-entations, and PDF files right to their profiles, quicklyand easily. The gallery has taken the place of the oldawkward, cumbersome Apps feature, which requiredimporting. Users can add an unlimited number ofmultimedia items. Small business owners may want toconsider offering photos and video overviews of theirproducts and services as well as free ebooks and otherincentive items for potential and existing customers.▶▶ Reorder profile sections. Users can drag and drop per-sonal profile sections into the order of their choosing.This simple but powerful option allows businesses tohighlight their best features with ease.▶▶ One-click endorsements. LinkedIn has createdits own easy button for endorsements, giving anindividual the option to give someone a quickspecial skill endorsement with the simple click of a but-ton. No additional information is required. A photo ofthe user is shown alongside the endorsement skill. Itis important to approach LinkedIn endorsements witha grain of salt. Recommendations are still the optimalmethod for providing and receiving genuine testimo-nials.▶▶ News connections and larger images on the homepage. A LinkedIn home page features Linked-In Today with news stories from top leaders.Typically these topics have a focus on media anddigital, which may or may not be relevant to yourspecific small business. The new larger imageformat makes photos stand out within a news feed.Small businesses can maximize this feature byincluding at least one image in all of their LinkedIn up-dates.As a small business, your network is everything. Linkedinhelps you build that network, efficiently and effectively.Take advantage of the great tips in this white paper to expe-rience the powerful effects they can have on your businesstoday!