LinkedIn has grown to be one of the most popular social media sites for business professionals to make connections and build their network. At times though, it can seem like only big businesses or recruiters use LinkedIn.
However, LinkedIn offers plenty of great tools for small and medium-sized businesses to connect with current customers and find new customers as well. In fact, LinkedIn can help your business look bigger, extend your marketing efforts and drive growth for your business.
LinkedIn and other social media tools allow you to get your messages out more quickly and easily than ever before. While most small businesses can't compete with high-scale advertising campaigns that large companies produce, leveraging social media levels the playing field as the tools available are the same for all companies, big and small. Even niche small businesses have the potential to do well on social media, because you can find customers anywhere in the world interested in your unique offerings.
The following are 10 tips for growing your business on LinkedIn:
1. Create your company page. If your business doesn't have a company page, create one right now. Follow the steps here to get your page set up quickly. You will need to verify that you are an official representative of the company during the process. Make sure you build out your company page completely by adding a header image, logos, a detailed description about your business, industry, website link and contact information.
2. Maximize your presence. Add products and services to your page and include detailed descriptions and images. Once you've created your products and services, ask your connections to recommend them through the tools offered by LinkedIn – it's easy. Having recommendations on each of your products and services allow prospective customers to see who's finding value in your business. Also, add job openings to your company page to let potential employees know that you're hiring. Your current customers and followers may also see these openings and have the perfect candidate in mind. LinkedIn also recently created Showcase Pages that allow companies to highlight brands, products and services with dedicated pages that allow for specific content updates about each product.
3. Update your personal profile. Like it or not, you and your employees frequently become the "face" of your business. A professional-looking profile on LinkedIn goes a long way to present the image you want for your company. Make sure your profile – and the profiles of your key employees – includes:
- Professional photo.
- Concise description about you and your position at your company.
- Industry keywords and terms to further demonstrate your business expertise and what makes you different.
- Complete education and work history with description of each role at previous employers.
4. Make connections. A key for growing your business is networking and making connections. And chances are, you know many of your customers personally. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn and grow your personal network. One note though – resist the urge to use LinkedIn's "stock" connection invitation. Instead, write a short note telling the individual why you'd like to stay connected on LinkedIn. Once you've built up your connections, LinkedIn's "People You May Know" tool can help you find even more connections. Having more connections gives you more opportunities to get introduced through LinkedIn to people you'd like to know – future customers.
5. Engage your followers. When posting updates to your company and your personal profile page, make sure you're following best practices to create content your followers will read, comment on or share. Make sure you:
- Use images – According to LinkedIn, posts with images have a 98 per cent higher comment rate.
- Include links – Posts with links to other content have twice the engagement rate than posts without.
- Add videos – Adding a video in your company page update can result in a 75 per cent higher chance of that update being shared by your followers.
- Post frequently – Companies that post 20 times per month reach at least 60 per cent of their audience. That works out to about once per business day.
- Pose questions – When adding links to content, don’t just post them and hope someone replies. Ask your followers questions relative to the information you post to get them to engage with you.
6. Attract more followers. First, invite your customers and your connections to follow your company page. Explain that you'll be providing valuable content and updates on your company page, making it easy for them to stay informed. Add a LinkedIn icon to your website and email signatures and link the icon to your LinkedIn company page. Give your current followers a reason to share your content with their connections. This provides your business with exposure to a greater audience and the opportunity to gain new followers. You can always view who is following your company by clicking on the number of followers near the top of your page. Try experimenting with sponsored updates to reach additional new followers as well. LinkedIn provides great segmentation tools to help you reach your target audience.
7. Join and post in groups. Many business professionals join LinkedIn groups to network with others in their industry. Make sure you're posting your content and questions in your industry's group as well. Answer questions posted by others. Learn from your peers and make more connections in the group to expand exposure for your business. You may want to join your industry's association or local chamber of commerce to gain access to their group on LinkedIn as well.
8. Follow your customers' company pages. Stay up to date with what your customers are doing and how they are marketing their company by following their company pages on LinkedIn. They will appreciate your interest in their business and will likely follow your organization's page, too. This helps you create a large base of fans to help share your company's content and posts.
9. Share your members' posts. When you see posts on your customers' company pages or their individual profiles that you find valuable, click that "Share" button and share the information with your network. Doing so builds on your relationship with that person and provides great information to the rest of your network. And, your followers will be more likely to engage with and share your content in the future.
10. Create and share valuable content. Many small businesses are looking for ways to keep their current customers engaged and – at the same time – find more customers. How can you do that online? By providing great content and resources to your members and followers.
- Answer customer questions. Your customers ask you questions all the time via email, on the phone and at your business. Take those questions and turn them into content on your website or blog. Then share that content on your LinkedIn page. After all, if one customer has a question, chances are that many more will wonder the same thing.
- Find questions they aren’t asking you. Use LinkedIn Groups, Quora, Yahoo Answers, Twitter searches and Google alerts to learn more about the topics that are important to your customer and your industry. Also, review other industry or competitive websites to look for topics you can create content around.
- Use numbered lists. Developing titles for your content such as “10 Tips to Grow Your Business Using LinkedIn” creates a more concise and engaging headline for your followers. You’ll set expectations that your content will be a quick read and prevent them from guessing what the article is about. They’ll be more likely to read and share your information if you deliver on this promise of short, easy to read content.
- Ask them. There’s no better way to give your customers want they want than by asking them. When you conduct customer surveys or follow-ups via phone, always include a few questions about what kinds of products, services and information will help them in the future. You’ll quickly build up a library of new content ideas.
- Share others’ content. Providing great content on your LinkedIn page doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. And, it doesn’t mean you only have to share your company’s content. When you find useful information on other websites or blogs, post that information to your LinkedIn page, too. And, engage the rest of your employees to share your posts with their networks. Be sure to follow the best practices above and ask them questions about how that information impacts them. Your followers will view you as a valuable resource and feel that your company is in tune with the needs of your customers and followers.
Just like many things, LinkedIn is what you make of it. Make sure you create a communications plan that includes updating your company page and personal profile on LinkedIn. It's important to stay disciplined and keep posting to let your connections and followers know you're not only a great business, but you actively use LinkedIn to share information and connect with your followers.
Remember, the goal is to use LinkedIn to provide information your connections and customers find valuable so they will share it with their networks and extend the reach of your business. By using the free tools offered from LinkedIn, you can make more connections and drive growth for your business.
DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.