When small business leaders think about increasing their social media presence to attract new clients and keep their network engaged, LinkedIn isn't always at the top of the list. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others dominate the social media landscape in most sectors, but giving a little extra attention to the professional networking monolith that is LinkedIn could be one of the smartest marketing strategies for small business you find this year. On this network, in particular, you are far more likely to generate relevant leads in both clientele and candidates for employment.
Developing your brand on LinkedIn
Like a Facebook or a Twitter page, it's important to have a well-developed presence for your business on the LinkedIn website, as well as a designated person to regularly update content and engage with visitors. Cloud hosting makes it possible for you to view the profiles, essentially a digital resumé, of those interested in your company as a way of assessing whether that person may be a potential qualified candidate for employment or someone who might be interested in your product or service.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is designed to be a more professional platform on which you can share information with like-minded people. On this network, improving business efficiency means balancing the social media constructs everyone knows so well - encouraging engagement, frequent posting and the occasional contest or just-for-fun link - with a higher level of professionalism. This means businesses shouldn't shy away from relevant jargon and can and should address industry news instead of focusing on mere marketing copy. Chances are, visitors will be interested and want to engage with that content.
Once the business page is complete, CIO Magazine recommended beginning your own LinkedIn Group - this is one of the most productive areas of the website, and the section is also where many companies and customers interact and generate a lead for the first time. CIO writer Jennifer Lonoff Schiff spoke to Sam Ford, Director of Audience Engagement at leading New York marketing firm PepperComm, about the best practices for developing a productive LinkedIn group.
"To truly build community, companies are often best served [by starting a LinkedIn Group] for a very specific group of people with whom the company hopes to engage and - crucially - who would find value in engaging with one another, and having your company facilitate that connection," Ford told the magazine.
That is to say, know who your target is before a group becomes muddled - like any marketing strategy for small business, a successful LinkedIn presence requires concentrated planning and a distinct audience in order to be effective.
How to engage professionally without overdoing it
Once your page has become established, the best way to take advantage of this small business solution is to start interacting with relevant interest groups filled with potential clients. When done well, this technique can bring potential customers and employees to your business web presence, as well as your LinkedIn Group, to allow more person-to-person interaction. However, it is possible to overdo engagement in other groups - if the answers provided by a representative of your company aren't well thought-out and appear to be posted just for the sake of shoehorning a name into the conversation, you are doing your organization a disservice.
LinkedIn blogger Guy Kawasaki gave small businesses insight on effective practices for making the most of LinkedIn groups not only for lead generation, but as a method of getting quality advice from peers from your industry you may not ordinarily get the chance to interact with.
"LinkedIn Answers and Groups let you find answers to those vexing questions quickly by tapping into the wisdom of your network (LinkedIn tells me there are over 200 different categories on Answers including one dedicated just to small business and over 2000 groups on small business related topics)," Kawasaki explained.
In some ways, it's helpful to think of Internet for small businesses the same way one would view an in-person meeting - keep the topics relevant, speak authoritatively and don't overwhelm a potential buyer.
Keep employees engaged
An indirect way of ensuring your business has a good reputation on such a large professional network is seeing that your employees are making their association with the company prominent on their pages. Using cloud hosting to post a resume means that a business' name becomes a linked, searchable term on a LinkedIn profile, and the more a small organization can stand out in an SEO search, the better. If the folks you work with aren't already on the site, it's important to make sure that they are present as well as engaging with the company's content. To go the extra mile, feel free to give great employees positive "endorsements" and performance reviews on the site.
Online marketing for small businesses may seem overwhelming, but the payback is enormous - take advantage of what LinkedIn has to offer today.