We talk a lot about how small business owners can use blogs, Facebook and Twitter to aid in lead generation, build awareness and grow their audiences. But one social network that doesn’t get quite the same love or attention is LinkedIn. Because of that, you may be surprised to know that LinkedIn has more than 100 million members, according to TalentHQ. Combine those numbers with LinkedIn’s reputation for being the ultimate professional social search engine, and suddenly SMBs start looking at LinkedIn the way they should be – like a social media goldmine.
How can you use LinkedIn to grow your SMB? Here are just a few neat ways.
1. Dramatically Grow Your Network
Unlike the other social networks, people swarm to LinkedIn for one reason – to connect with others for business-related reasons. They’re looking for future vendors or job prospects or a way to build a resume they can cash in on later. Because the mindset of a typical LinkedIn user is much more focused than, say, that of a Twitter user, LinkedIn is the perfect platform to reach out and connect for business reasons. As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to find vendors you can outsource things to, connect with others in your industry you can partner with down the road, and more. People are on LinkedIn with the sole purpose of connecting for business reasons. Take advantage of it.
2. Do Market Research
One reason to focus on building your network is so that you’re able to leverage it in the future for tasks just like this. Instead of spending the time and money to poll your customers or organize an in-person focus group, do it online. Poll your audience via LinkedIn Q&As to get their opinion on new product ideas, your current offerings, what they like about your brand, where you could use some improvement, etc. By taking advantage of LinkedIn Q&A or even posing questions via your LinkedIn status message, you’re able to pick your audience’s brain without spending a lot of money to do it.
3. Find New Hires
While you’re keeping tabs on people in your industry and using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to track down people with the skills and experience of interest to you, keep your eyes open for potential new teammates and hires. I’m a really big fan of using LinkedIn to find hot local talent. If you haven’t used LinkedIn’s Advanced Search functionality before, you may be surprised to know that you’re able to search a number of criteria like keyword, years of experience, previous employers, etc, and then narrow that down by just a few miles from your location. Because of that, LinkedIn becomes the ultimate recruiting tool for business owners. If you have a position you’re looking to hire for, give LinkedIn a try.
4. Check In On Your Competitors
You’re looking into LinkedIn because you’re trying to build your network and keep potential prospects updated on what your business is up to. Guess what? So are your competitors! By keeping an eye on who they’re connecting with, who they’re leaving recommendations for and the projects they keep talking about in their status updates, you can actually learn a lot about what they’re working on and where their focus may be. You can also watch your competitors’ LinkedIn Company Page to stay updated on who’s been hired, who’s been fired and what job openings they’re currently showing.
5. Spot Industry Trends
Though it doesn’t get much attention, the Skills & Expertise search function on LinkedIn can help bloggers and business owners stay up to date on trends that may be happening in their market.
For example, by doing a search for [SEO], you can see who LinkedIn views as relevant to this niche, but you can also find interesting demographic and growth information located in the graph on the right side of the screen. You can see how quickly the area is growing compared to related fields, the average age of someone in that field, and how large it is. As a blogger, this helps me find noteworthy topics to blog about, but for business owners, this may alert you to changes in the market or new areas you may want to look into.
6. Build Your Online Reviews
You know how important it is to build up reviews of your business to show authority and relevance in the eyes of users and the search engines. But are you taking advantage of LinkedIn reviews? Because of how well LinkedIn pages rank, it’s likely that users are finding your LinkedIn profile when they do a search for your brand. And when they do, they’re looking for referrals and recommendations from people who have worked with you. What are you doing to make sure they’re finding the right information? Use the network you’re building to help create those positive referrals. Ask customers, vendors, partners, previous employers, etc., to recommend your business and share their experience with others.
Though LinkedIn may not be seen as the belle of the social media ball, it still provides some huge benefits for small business owners who take the time to explore it. Are you using LinkedIn as part of your social media campaign?