Ray Sidney-Smith presented a workshop about how to use LinkedIn for small business. Here are some takeaways and important points to consider when using LinkedIn as a small business owner.
LinkedIn is the largest professional social networking platform today. They also happen to now be owned by Microsoft. As a Small Business Owner, you may think that LinkedIn is purely for keeping an updated “Web resume,” but you’d be heartily mistaken. LinkedIn is a dynamic, rich environment for developing your professional/industry reputation, building your company’s reputation, recruit talent within and outside your community or network, market your business, and increases your sales. Here’s an overview of the LinkedIn platform and what each has to offer your business.
This is where it all begins. LinkedIn allows you as a business owner to create a user account and profile so that you can best represent yourself. You can create your profile using whatever email you’d like (and add additional email addresses–both personal and professional–that people you know might use to connect with you on LinkedIn) and then follow through the onboarding process. The onboarding process attempts to have you input your interests, work experience, and other data points that gives LinkedIn a good picture of you professionally. Remember, you don’t need to tell LinkedIn everything, but you want to put in as much as is necessary to get your profile mostly complete (above Beginner or Intermediate according to LinkedIn’s Profile Strength indicator).
Your professional engagement begins for your business with the connections you make and the content you share on LinkedIn as the owner of your business. It continues with additional engagement in LinkedIn Groups.
LinkedIn Groups is a powerful community-building tool where groups are people with shared interests. Those interests are for those who need your professional expertise, products, or services. So, while you might join a few active LinkedIn Groups where you are among colleagues, your main groups to be active in are those where your target audience is and engages.
The power is in that while people sometimes engage by going to LinkedIn.com and visit the Groups forums, most people engage with the Groups discussions via email conversations and daily/weekly digests they receive from LinkedIn about the groups of which they are members. It’s similar to having a large email list without the need to maintain it. LinkedIn is doing the work for you.
The focus for you is to be helpful and provide only the most valuable content in these LinkedIn Groups so that people don’t ever feel like you are spamming them, and that they look forward to your assistance and content.
LinkedIn Company and Showcase Pages
Remember, the goal of all content is to inform, entertain, and persuade. And, while it may be good to have that content also shared from your blog, curated from others, to your profile’s connections, there are people on LinkedIn who don’t know you but do know your company. For that, you want to create Company and Showcase Pages as appropriate to engage them so that you and your brand stay “top of mind” when potential customers are ready to buy.
LinkedIn Company Pages are the actual entity that exists and represents your primary business. Underneath that, you can create what are known as Showcase Pages, or sub-pages that can act as company divisions, product channels, service lines, business areas (human resources, marketing, accounting/finance, etc.), or any other slice of your company that has an external audience with whom you want to share content through updates.
Now, you can create or curate that informative, entertaining, and/or persuasive content out to audiences not connected to your individually. But, sometimes you just don’t have time, and that takes us next to “paying to play.”
In the world of Social Media, it was once heretical to talk about advertising, but that’s no longer the case. In fact, now it’s almost impossible to get seen without spending money on social networks such as Facebook (e.g., boosting posts, placing advertisements, or promoting your pages) or Twitter (e.g., promoted tweets). On LinkedIn, this comes in the form of sponsoring content updates, and placing text and image advertisements, that appear throughout the LinkedIn ecosystem.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Next in the world of LinkedIn pay-to-play, you have the ability to put your social selling on steroids. By engaging directly with leads without the limitations of LinkedIn’s profiles, LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows you to search and prime leads (individuals who can buy from or refer you) for conversion. You have the ability to InMail message them, watch their company and profile updates (and engage with them), and connect with them. The LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a completely separate platform from LinkedIn.com and designed with sales in mind, so it’s got an effectively-focused layout to do just that. It’s well worth at least designing a social sales strategy for your business and then trying out the 30-day free trial.
Altogether, LinkedIn gives you opportunities to build your professional reputation, broadcast your brand’s value to an external audience, and engage in talent acquisition (not discussed here but if you can learn more about their job tools for employers) via the world’s largest online pool of professionals. There are many tools on LinkedIn, and one-third of the American population is there (i.e., working professionals who need your products and services); your goal is to build your profile and page, engage them effectively, and provide compelling calls-to-action for them to buy from you when they have the need or want.