If you’re a small business owner or sales leader, you’ve likely used LinkedIn to research potential employees and broaden your professional network. But the potential of this social media platform goes far beyond just finding job candidates—savvy small businesses use LinkedIn to build their reputation, connect with customers, and boost their sales.
“As the driver of a small business, you can use LinkedIn to raise awareness of your company and engage in niche groups that could be potential clients,” says Gerry Moran, founder of MarketingThink.com and the Global Head of Social Media & Content for Cognizant, a global technology consulting firm.
Here are four ways to be sure you’re getting the most of this powerful platform:
Build Up Your Profile
“Don’t think of your LinkedIn profile as your resume,” Moran says. Instead, treat it like your business card and as another way to introduce people to your company. Use your profile to tell people how you can help them, showcase your great work, and highlight awards you’ve won. Also, be sure to collect recommendations from previous clients. Their endorsement of your work not only lends credibility to your business, but can help you connect with other potential customers in their networks.
Share Your Expertise
Use your status updates to share helpful information you’ve found, and any original content that your business has created. Moran suggests posting a minimum of six to eight times per day to ensure you reach your network regularly, instead of getting lost in the social media fray.
“The life of a LinkedIn post is about an hour,” he says. Programs like HootSuite and Buffer can help you organize and plan your posts in advance. You can also join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry, and use your posts to contribute to the conversation. Regular sharing helps build your reputation—and keeps you and your business in front of current and potential customers.
Find the Decision Makers
When it comes to introducing your product or service to a potential client, you want to make sure you’re talking to the right people. Search LinkedIn to find employees at the companies you’re targeting, and winnow that list of names to just the potential decision makers. Dive further into their profiles so you can understand more about what they do—and determine if they’re the right person for you to contact.
Connect, Connect, Connect
Once you’ve increased your posting, you’ll likely see a boost in interactions with your network ,as well as the networks of your contacts. Monitor these activities—from all the likes on your blog posts and LinkedIn updates to the number of views of your profile—and then use them as opportunities to follow up, Moran advises. For example, if a potential client shares one of your blog posts, send an email to thank them and offer another piece of useful content. You’ll help strengthen existing relationships and accelerate the sales process with future clients.
“Gone are the days of exchanging business cards at chamber of commerce events,” Moran says. Social media platforms like LinkedIn level the playing field for small businesses—and give you the power to establish your expertise, expand your network of potential clients, and grow your business.