When new clients engage me to help them market their small businesses here in Western Mass, I ask what social media they are using currently, if any. Social media is unchartered territory for many businesses today and figuring out how to jump on board, or whether they should incorporate social media into their marketing plan can seem scary.
Most have heard of Facebook from a non-business standpoint at least. Twitter is easily recognized by its little bird and memorable hashtags like #winning, made famous by Charlie Sheen in his 15 minutes of fame. On the other hand, when I mention LinkedIn, I am often met with furrowed brows and hear one of three responses:
- What’s Link-Ed-In? (no really, they say it like that)
- LinkedIn? I think I’m on it but I’m not sure. I just don’t have time for that stuff.
- I’m on LinkedIn, but I really don’t know how to use it. I get all these notifications but I don’t know what to do with them.
How can LinkedIn help you market your small business?
I use LinkedIn to find people easily. Just type in their name in the search box and I am led to their profile where I can link to their website, etc. I often need to recommend quality professionals for my clients. LinkedIn is a great way to locate the individuals I have confidence in referring to others. The biggest value I find with LinkedIn is in the groups I belong to and the discussions that occur. I have learned valuable information about how others think, gotten to understand new perspectives and have found common bonds with many members. I often do research on companies for my clients, finding marketing contacts not often made visible on corporate websites. I sometimes turn to LinkedIn to easily look up phone numbers that I’ve misplaced.
So, are you convinced that LinkedIn is worth the time and effort to add to your social media? Great!!! Let’s get started.
- Visit the Account & Settings page found under your name in the right upper corner of your screen. This is “command central”. Don’t do anything here yet, just remember where it’s located.
- Complete your Profile. That means adding a photo, educational and work background, specialties, website, blogs and social media links. This information is organized into categories to help you build your network. Take the time to do this well. Make sure your completion status is “100%”.
- Find Contacts. LinkedIn will help you by suggesting people you may know based upon where you work, your location, community involvement, etc. Once you connect with someone, you will be given more options to connect based upon their network. This gets a bit tricky. You may know OF someone, can pick them out of a crowd, but MAY NOT have a relationship with the person. My rule on LinkedIn is that I don’t accept invitations to connect from people I don’t know. In occasional situations I might not recognize the name due to marriage, divorce, etc. so I will reply by politely asking where I might know them from. With small businesses, this is pretty easy to control.
- Check out Groups. The biggest value in groups is becoming active in group discussions. For that reason, I recommend starting with one or two active groups, ie. those that have a few discussions going on. You can choose groups in your local area like LinkedIn Western Mass in our area, professional organizations or other networking groups that may have a presence in your neck of the woods.
- Whoa, you’re not done yet. . . . Now, go back to Account and Settings and customize your Email preferences to help you stay involved. You can change the frequency of notifications by selecting an email alert or a weekly digest.
Remember, networking is only as good as the effort you provide. LinkedIn cannot replace “face to face” networking, but it can enhance your ability to connect on another level.