For any small business, having an online presence and evolving a professional network is just as important as making contacts at events and expositions. With more than 400 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the ideal place for start-ups to grow their network, engage with like-minded professionals, increase brand visibility online as well as carve out a professional identity for their business. So how can SMEs make the most of LinkedIn and stay one step ahead of the competition? Selda Shamoo is a Consumer & Brand Marketing Specialist at LinkedIn - here are her tips for small business owners to promote their business and stand out from the crowd on LinkedIn.
1. Create a Company Page
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out with your new business or a more established company; the first thing to do is create a LinkedIn Company Page so clients and fellow industry professionals can “follow” you. There are over two million company pages on LinkedIn. Once you’re set up make sure you “follow” competitors, clients and companies that you admire by clicking the “Follow” button on the top right hand corner of a page. This way you’re always on top of industry news and updates that are relevant to your sector.
2. Grow Your Network
Once your page is set up, start by connecting to at least 50 people - clients, business partners, friends or family members - that you know and trust. When you have at least 50 connections you’ll start seeing more first, second and third-degree connections which can help you get in touch with people who could help propel your business forward. Don’t forget to import your address book to find out which of your contacts are already on LinkedIn. You can do this by clicking “add contacts” under the “my network” tab on the LinkedIn homepage.
3. Update Your Status
Let your connections know what you’re up to and how your business is growing by updating your status regularly. Use status updates to announce new products and developments, or just to post interesting articles you’ve spotted. Once you’ve expanded your network, you can even use LinkedIn to ask business questions you’ve been thinking about and obtain useful advice through a range of opinions.
4. Customer Recommendations
Recommendations are one of the best ways to secure new clients, because they spread virally on LinkedIn. They also enhance your professional credibility and create a great impression when potential clients read your profile. Request recommendations from happy customers and don’t be afraid to hint at some of the key things you’d like them to mention. (For example, “Ben, I’d love it if you could post a recommendation on my profile. If you could note that you’ve been using our product for X years and also discuss how we were able to customise it to fit your company’s needs, that would be fantastic.”)
5. Find Other Passionate Small Business Owners
Groups are a great way to engage with like-minded people who can provide you with support and answer SME-specific questions. Use groups to make new connections and participate in discussions which keep your profile active and show you’re plugged in to what’s happening in your industry. To start, search for “small business” or “entrepreneur” to find related LinkedIn Groups. For example, the group “On Startups – The Community For Entrepreneurs” has over 500,000 members. Also, join groups that are related to your industry, city or province. Look for groups where you can get information about potential clients too. (If you usually sell to marketers, join marketing related groups to get a better feel for the topics and discussions your potential customers are concerned about.)
6. Find Experts
Whether you want to hire a rock star salesperson or an expert to help you solve a business problem, LinkedIn can connect you with the talent you need. No one is expected to be an expert at everything, so it’s useful to have a network of people who can support you when you need them. Advanced People Search is an easy way to search by title (Head of Communications) and company name (Uber) to find exactly the person you’re looking for. Any member can search through those facets for free by clicking the “Advanced” link in the top right hand corner of LinkedIn after sign in.
7. Gain Insights
Visit LinkedIn daily to get valuable insights about your connections and their activities. Follow the top trending news each day on LinkedIn Pulse so you’re up-to-speed on any industry news. You can also use LinkedIn to offer your own opinions on industry matters by publishing a post on LinkedIn, positioning you, and therefore your company, as a thought leader in the space.
8. Realise your own potential
Even if you’re not interested in building your own business empire, remember you might still have skills that others would find useful. Don’t be afraid to shout about the talents you possess on your own LinkedIn profile. Keep it up to date with skills and work you are proud of so other people can find you and potentially offer you exciting opportunities.