LinkedIn is one of the best business development tools online, many small businesses could be missing out by not leveraging this valuable free resource. LinkedIn provides information on users’ professional backgrounds and personal connections. You can even search for people you are not connected to. One of the best ways to make a connection with someone you don’t know is to join a group they belong to and reach out to them as a member of their group. Here are 10 more ways to use LinkedIn to grow your small business.
- Establish a 100% profile: If you are just getting started in social media, this is where you should begin. Once your LinkedIn profile is 100%, you become searchable. This will add to your social media presence online. Make sure you have a professional headshot and the minimum three recommendations to complete your profile.
- Use it for market research: When you are trying to figure out a way to pitch a prospect, your LinkedIn account is a good place to start. You can find people by company, industry and city or search for a specific name. 75% of all professionals in the U.S. have a LinkedIn account. Always use LinkedIn to research prospects before meeting or contacting them. Look for any common contacts or interests to build rapport.
- Demonstrate your expertise: There is a section inside LinkedIn where you can answer questions in your industry. It’s called “Questions and Answers”. It’s a great way to show expertise without being a self-promoter. If the person who asked the question selects your answer as the best, that will always appear in your profile as well, which adds another layer of credibility.
- Gather insight from prospects: You can use surveys and polls through LinkedIn to collect valuable information from your contacts. It’s also helpful to ask questions to get a feel for what customers and prospects want or think.
- Grow your network: All accounts in LinkedIn enable you to join up to 50 groups. I would suggest joining all industry groups relevant to your business and any alumni groups related to your educational background. If you are a blogger, consider sharing content within your groups to drive traffic to your website and generate new connections.
- Integrate your other social media accounts: Use widgets to integrate other tools, such as importing presentations from SlideShare, your blog entries or Twitter stream into your profile.
- Use status updates regularly: All of your connections get a daily or weekly update on anyone that post a status change, so you want to update your status daily if you can, weekly at the very least. It’s a great way to keep your contacts up-to-date on any recent work changes, content or successful contracts. You can also share useful articles and resources that will be of interest to your prospects.
- Establish a group on LinkedIn: There is power in being a convener as a small business owner. Consider establishing and managing a LinkedIn group for your industry. If done well you’ll position yourself as a key influencer and make friends with industry colleagues. Make sure to post rules for interaction in the group. The best groups are regularly moderated. Do not start a group of you do not have time to monitor it.
- Ask for warm sales leads: Nothing beats a personal introduction when you are trying to generate a sale for your business.Ask your first-level contacts for introductions to their first-level contacts. Make sure that you only ask connections that you know personally for this assistance, otherwise you can really turn-off someone in your network.
- Request LinkedIn recommendations: Request LinkedIn recommendations from satisfied customers within two weeks of providing service. You also want to request recommendations from former colleagues to establish credibility for your business. One of best ways to get a recommendation is to give a valuable recommendation for one your contacts.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to use LinkedIn for a small business?
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business experts. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.