LinkedIn for Start-ups and Small Businesses
A common question asked by start ups and small business owners these days is “which social network is the best?”
The answer is simple. The social channel that suits your business and meets your marketing goals is the best. But the sad fact is many small businesses have not looked beyond Facebook and Twitter. They have not tapped into the power of LinkedIn to increase business revenue and connect with like minded people. Many still assume, or rather presume, that LinkedIn is a repository of online CV’s.
LinkedIn is a professional social networking site where you can optimize your brand, network with people who share your business interest, advertise, form groups and also enter into discussions and share your opinions and suggestions with other entrepreneurs.
What is LinkedIn and why you should be there?
Simply put, LinkedIn is a social networking channel for professionals of various professions, without the distractions of games and other applications which are commonly found in other social networks. It is the largest professional online network with presence in more than 200 countries.
You could rightly say that your LinkedIn profile is your online business card because it informs your clients and potential customers about the nature of your business and why they should connect with you. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile yet, create one today.
Here are a few reasons why all small business owners should have a member profile and company page on LinkedIn.
Increasing your Internet presence
If you have a profile on LinkedIn and Google your name, your profile will be listed on the first page of Google. This shows that LinkedIn has some sort of search engine optimization arranged with Google.
Does a wonder to your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Efforts
LinkedIn has an option to display your websites and blog. Instead of giving boring URLs, give catchy keyword phrases which will describe your company. When using specific keyword phrases, your profile will rank above all others they search for your specific keyword.
LinkedIn helps with networking. When you share your expertise and blog content with members of your group, they will knowingly or unknowingly share through word-of-mouth publicity to their friends and peers about your business. Sharing content and knowledge that you post online is made easier when you have a profile on LinkedIn.
Platform for showcasing your expertise
On LinkedIn, you can form groups and invite your colleagues and also like minded people. Similarly you can also join various groups that suit your business. Here, you can post questions and at the same time answer the queries posted by various members of the group. This way you can demonstrate your expertise in your specific field.
Ads Campaign in LinkedIn
Did you know that you can create direct Ads Campaign on LinkedIn? When you create ad campaigns on LinkedIn, you are targeting specific groups of professionals who have a need for your type of business.
Meet your clients/potential customers through events
LinkedIn has an interesting feature called ‘Events.’ Here you can create an event and invite your vendors, clients and potential customers. Even if you are not hosting an event but are planning to attend a business event organized by someone else you, can post it on LinkedIn. This is an opportunity to meet prospective clients and also a great way to promote your business.
Difference between Member Profile and a Company Page
A member profile is the profile of any individual while a company page displays the company’s profile. LinkedIn encourages you to have both a member and company profile. The reason being that member profiles are all about personal branding, while a Company Page will showcase your products or services i.e. your business brand. A member profile and Company Page should be consistent and blend with one another. This will give a complete picture about you and your business to prospective client.
How Small Business Should Use LinkedIn to their Advantage
Small Businesses must embrace social media to grow their business. It goes without saying that LinkedIn is a great channel for staying connected with people who you already know. However, it is also a great resource to make new connections and also find new customers. LinkedIn has many paid and unpaid services that small business owners should use to their advantage. Some of the services offered by LinkedIn include Company pages, in Mails, LinkedIn Ads and so on. Remember, if you are opting for free services, then you can only see the second degree connections. That is people who know people you know. However, if you are willing to pay a nominal monthly fee that starts at around £15, you can go through the profile of members beyond your second degree network. If you are a premium member then you can use in Mail to contact any member of LinkedIn. Here are a few to tips to use LinkedIn to turn your business around.
Online recommendations and word help to get new clients/customers
You can ask your customers to write recommendation on your LinkedIn profile. This is more than enough to send word across to your network about your credibility.
Be active in LinkedIn groups
To keep your business alive among your groups, you should participate in group discussions. You can post questions and also answer ones posted by other members. This will help showcase your knowledge in that particular domain.
It's almost scary how fast the term social has become a cliché. For the past few years, the word social has been attached to everything from media to gaming to consumerism - a trend that may be finally coming to an end.
Social is simply the new normal.
But as much as that fact is acknowledged, some decision makers - particularly in small business - still struggle with how they can use social media as part of an overall marketing strategy. There is still a reluctance or uncertainty about its value. A recent poll of 500 consumers and 1,180 small-to mid-sized business decision makers found that 44% of small businesses were using social media as part of their overall marketing effort.
Small businesses use Social Media primarily for three reasons:
It still means that 56% are not using social media as part of their overall marketing efforts, but they should! The survey highlighted 4 compelling arguments for its use:
More than 50% of small business decision makers reported gaining new customers through social media, most notable Facebook & LinkedIn.
Followers become buyers;
Roughly 51% of consumers Facebook users and 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow in social media.
Small business owners don't have to spend much to get incredible results. Nearly 60 percent of those using Social Media spend very little on their Social Media efforts.
It can take just 20 people using their networks to bring an entire online community to action. Reaching out to 20 people is something almost any small business can do.
The problem for many small business owners is threefold;
The question remains: why aren't those other 56% using social media?
The answer may reside in a failure to realize the true power of Social Media - the ability it has to affect behaviour and influence decisions. It's no longer about which channel is winning, but about how people spend their time connecting and interacting and what happens as a result.
Are you in the 44% who get it or the 56% still waiting on the sidelines?
Social networking can be valuable to businesses.
In today’s world of online social circles it’s hard to imagine any business not joining the universal scramble for a free soapbox to a wider audience. Yet many small businesses don’t see how they can benefit from social media. Not everyone has had their eyes opened by the massive opportunities for engagement and new business that tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ along with the various blogging platforms present.
3 reasons why small businesses should consider social media
Word of mouth is the most powerful force of discovery, and social media is nothing more than word of mouth amplified.
Engage with a larger audience - As a business owner you can be guaranteed a large portion of your customers – and potential customers – are likely to spend a lot of time on social sites. Here is an opportunity for you to engage with a large audience and present the ‘human’ side of your business.
You don’t have to be big to be noticed - Most areas of social media require the investment of time and not money, making it a level playing field to be noticed.
What is the starting point?
Get a website. The first very important step is to get an online presence, your ‘store front’. Once you have a website (or even a blog) created then you are ready to get started with social media. The costs of getting a website up and running have come down dramatically recently and small businesses have a number of options available. Whichever solution you choose, make sure you can easily and cheaply make changes to your site as you have more content and news to share.
Spend time on social sites - Once you have a business website then your next step is to spend time on a number of social sites. Spend some time listening, before you start talking and don’t forget that business owners are consumers too, so look at how other businesses are doing it. Educate yourself on social media, and then decide what you want. Jump in, experiment and learn.
Link to your website - Think of social media as a party, a big conversation and one that you can be part of. Link your online presence (or website) from all sites you engage in back to one common place – which would be your website – or store front. So for example all those links on your Twitter and Facebook profile should take people to one place.
Define a strategy - Strategy is a heavy and can be an expensive word. First of all make sure you have your website done, then think about how you want to use it, to which audiences, with which messages. Having a plan will give you short cuts and cut out a lot of effort later.
Key questions to ask yourself
How much time can you invest?
Do you have the resources to invest in social media (for example an employee)?
What are your business objectives?
Are you looking to make more direct sales, solicit feedback or raise awareness?
Do you have the resources to dedicate to blogging?
Small business owners often make these mistakes when embarking into social media for the first time. You can learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to make them again.
A dead blog – or one that isn’t maintained – is counter productive. Commit to finding time to put relevant and engaging content together for your blog before starting, and don’t start one if you don’t think you can commit to it.
Starting and not keeping going - if you start to get feedback and you’re not monitoring it or responding, it won’t look good.
Familiarise yourself with the unwritten rules that often exist on social/community sites. For example, don’t go to Twitter and update it but only to advertise your business and not add any additional value.
Patience is very important as social media is about building relationships, and this takes time. These relationships build up slowly and so the more effort you invest the more rewards you’ll reap.
The relevance of blogging
Being human - Having a blog gives you the chance to present the human side of your business and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Search engine ranking - Content is crucial when it comes to your business being discovered on the web. Your business has a higher chance of being found by search engines through rich, good content.
More engagement with customers - The use of images and video when creating your content also to helps keep it rich – and is ideal for search engine optimisation.
Easy to publish content - A blog can be a fantastic platform to easily create excellent content.
Which social media sites and tools are right for my business?
Start with the big ones, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and testimonials sites.
Measuring the effectiveness of my social media
Monitor all your feedback - Look at the stats on your website and see which social media sites are sending traffic to you.
If you analyse the results of your activities you can tweak and improve them.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for feedback and get your customers to engage with the sites you have a presence on.
Golden rules for businesses using social media
Measure and monitor your feedback, don’t let it drift.
Be genuine, truthful and transparent. The great thing about social media is that word of mouth spreads quickly.
Never impersonate, just be yourself and represent your business.