Lana Khavinson, Small Business Segment Marketing Lead for LinkedIn, discusses a recent report regarding how small businesses are using social media and, more specifically, how LinkedIn is focused on helping them.
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Small Business Trends: Before we start talking about a recent study you did around how small businesses are using social media, and how LinkedIn is helping small businesses, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your personal background?
Lana Khavinson: I’ve been in marketing well over 10 years and have always, in one way or another, been in the small business segment. I come from an entrepreneurial small business family and have always had a passion for helping smaller businesses figure out how they can succeed.
Small Business Trends: Can you share a little information on that report and why LinkedIn decided to do it?
Lana Khavinson: Sure. So on LinkedIn, we have quite a significant small business segment. We really wanted to learn more about small businesses to understand what their thoughts are around social media.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the main findings?
Lana Khavinson: We were really blown away by the growth of small businesses using social media now. We found 81% of small businesses are currently using social media to drive business and 9% are planning to use it in the future.
We found they’re not only using social media, they’re succeeding with it. Three in five said it helped them gain new customers.
The other thing we found – a strong correlation between use of social media and hyper growth small businesses. Ninety one percent of hyper growth small businesses said social media helped them increase awareness and 82% said it helped them with lead generation. So it’s really quite incredible the success small businesses are seeing when they learn and really apply themselves to social media.
Small Business Trends: Is this a case of these small businesses using social media for a while, and now they’re starting to get the hang of it? Or is it a case of having more realistic expectations?
Lana Khavinson: Absolutely a mix. There are definitely those small businesses out there that have been using social media for a while and have been testing and really figuring out what the secret sauce is.
And there are those others that have just been embracing it recently. One of the great things is there’s so much information out there now on best practices around different social media platforms. There are also so many more tools now to help you manage your social media presence, test it and gain some success.
Small Business Trends: Were there any findings in the report that surprised you?
Lana Khavinson: Yes. One of the things we were really excited to see was, after growing or attracting customers and gaining new customers through social media, 49% of the small businesses said they’re using social media to learn.
So it’s really exciting to see small businesses understanding social media is not only about marketing, but a place to have peer-to-peer connections, learn from the experts, gather best practices information and then use that in their day-to-day work.
Small Business Trends: If you think about how small businesses are leveraging the LinkedIn platform, have you seen a change over the years?
Lana Khavinson: I’d say initially, small businesses were very nervous about using LinkedIn, so they’d have their profiles and potentially even have a company page to showcase their business. But now they’re taking it to a whole new level of interaction and engagement.
What that means is they’re building up their networks – realizing their network on LinkedIn is not just about friends and family because it’s not intended to be your personal network; it’s your professional network.
Small Business Trends: What are some things small businesses may not be taking full advantage of when using LinkedIn’s platform to engage customers?
Lana Khavinson: I’d absolutely encourage, if small businesses do not have a company page yet, that they absolutely have one. What we hear time and again is two people meet at an event or conference, discuss possible business opportunities and then one of them will go back to LinkedIn, look at that person’s personal profile, then go to their company page.
If you don’t have a company page on LinkedIn, it’s a big loss. By creating that presence, you’re giving authenticity to that conversation you had.
Having a company page alone is not enough. It’s also about getting your voice out there through company updates, personal updates and joining groups relevant to your particular industry or specialization.
Small Business Trends: Where can they go to learn more about the results of the study, and how they should be using social media?
Lana Khavinson: We actually just launched a new resource center for smaller businesses  that gives free tools and tips on things that you can, and should, be doing on LinkedIn.
This is an edited transcript. To hear the full interview, click on the audio player below.