Why LinkedIn is Important to Small Businesses

In the summer of 2006 I read an article about a networking site that was for business people. I had heard of MySpace and Facebook, but those were networks for high school kids and people in college. A network dedicated to business professionals was definitely worth checking out. That network was LinkedIn.

I signed up for an account and started looking through it to see if I knew anyone and to also see if there were any ways to use it as a prospecting vehicle. After numerous searches my conclusion at the time was that this was a good site for people in technology industries but not necessarily relevant for anyone else.

At the time you could connect to other business professionals, participate in Answers, and join groups (although there really wasn’t any additional functionality to groups).

Five years later I have a different perspective, having used the service to build a network of business professionals and driven new business from being a member of the site. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment; it’s just that LinkedIn has evolved into a great tool through the increase in membership and functionality. It just had to mature a little bit, much like the internet of the late 90’s.

In the late 1990’s the internet was starting to gain traction and companies were starting to get in on the action. For a while, having a website was a cool thing to do but not a make or break decision. That changed and eventually having a website was as much a credibility play as it was a functional part of any businesses marketing efforts.

Social networking/media has followed the same path, although at a much quicker pace. Two years ago having a presence on the various social networking spaces was a cool thing to do for a business but once again not a make or break decision. Today if you’re not on a social networking site like LinkedIn you’re missing the boat.

Social Media/Networking has expanded the opportunity to have conversations with your prospects, increased the availability of information on companies and individuals, and provided new opportunities to deliver your message to tens of thousands of individuals and companies.

When I work with a client on developing a social media/networking strategy we focus on three of the available networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Out of the three LinkedIn is still the one that provides the most opportunity for small businesses.  Let’s take a look at some of the advantages LinkedIn offers:

1. An Impressive Membership

Consider the demographics of the average LinkedIn user:

  • The average household income is $92,000
  • 50% are college graduate (another 30% have attended college)
  • 50%+ are decision makers in their companies
  • Demographics exceed those of Wall street Journal in most categories

If you’re looking for a financially qualified prospect you’ve come to the right place.

2. Expand and Enhance Your Networking

Networking has been a staple for most business people throughout the years. LinkedIn doesn’t replace face to face networking but it can enhance it. When I first started getting serious about using LinkedIn I used my offline networking to drive new connections.

After each event I attended I went online to LinkedIn to invite those that I met to connect. This allowed me to add a new dimension to the people I was meeting.

I took it a step further by inviting those that I did not get a chance to speak with to connect as well. This allowed me to connect with someone who attended the event even though we didn’t have a chance to meet or have a conversation. If they never attended another chamber event I still had the opportunity to connect online and then decide if they were someone I wanted to meet offline.

3. Identify Prospects or Potential Employees

Most businesses rely on sales people to develop new prospects. The difference between a failing business and a successful one is often the ability to find and develop new prospects. LinkedIn allows youYou have the ability to search for members that fit specific criteria. If you want to find a Purchasing Manager in Atlanta Georgia you can search for this specific person. Looking to fill a business development position with software sales experience in Denver, you can identify individuals to target. You can even add keywords to narrow your search for instance if you need someone with Oracle experience.

It gets better. Once you identify the individual that you are looking for you have access to their profile. You can learn a lot by reading a person’s profile. Where did they go to school? Where have they worked in the past? Who recommends them? Who do they recommend?

In the old days you might walk into an office and look at the photos and items on a shelf to get a feel for the person you were meeting to find common ground. Now you can learn a lot before you even meet.

4. See How You Connect Into an Opportunity

Having the ability to conduct research on a prospect is important. Being able to identify how you connect to an opportunity is even more valuable. When you look at a person that is a 2nd or 3rd degree connection LinkedIn shows you the people that connect you to the person. It’s no longer about whom you know; but who do the people you know, know!

You can also choose to connect directly to the prospect or potential employee establishing the beginning of a relationship

You also have the ability to join up to 50 groups. Groups on LinkedIn are usually created based on a single factor that the group members have in common. It could be an industry, a geographic location, a concept, an alumni group, or based on current or former employees of a company. You can leverage memberships in groups to identify and connect to prospects.

5. Identify Companies and Employees

Since introducing their Companies section LinkedIn has continued to make changes to add value. These profiles offer a great resource to identify potential prospects. You can learn a lot about a company reviewing their profile including seeing a list of employees that have LinkedIn profiles. This allows you to identify employees that you can connect to in order to network your way up the ladder to gain access to decision makers.

If your sales or business development people are not utilizing this resource they’re leaving a valuable tool in their toolbox.

Its also a great way to promote your company with the ability to feature products and jobs.

6. Communicate Your Message in a Cost Efficient Manner

Over 90% of the people on LinkedIn utilize a free account. With their account they can contact their direct connections or fellow members directly, they can communicate a message through the “Status Update” feature, they can poll their connections, engage in discussion conversations in groups, and post press releases or news articles in groups. All done at no cost.

You can build your community and communicate with it on a ongoing basis for the simple cost of the time to implement. Talk about a valuable resource in a time of financial constraints.

Getting Started

It all begins with creating an account on LinkedIn and learning the various features and functions. LinkedIn may have 90 million members but only 24% of members are considered active users. This gives you and your sales people an opportunity to establish a foothold while most of your competitors are looking the other way.

LinkedIn has built the community, they’ve provided tools to engage and interact, you simply need to take the first step and invest the time to make it productive.  How are you putting LinkedIn to work for your business?

Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

Published by

Sean Nelson

Sean has been a Keynote speaker at Norvax University, conducts social media workshops and webinars, and has released three books on LinkedIn and written several social media guides. Sean currently runs Social Media Sonar, which in addition to providing free resources, manages social media strategies and tactics for companies. He is also a partner in Surge Labs, a conversion rate optimization company, helping companies improve conversions and profitability through scientific testing of Landing Pages, Websites, Email communications, and Shopping Carts.

9 thoughts on “Why LinkedIn is Important to Small Businesses”

  1. Facebook and Twitter can be beneficial, but LinkedIn was created with business professionals in mind. There is certainly less clutter. LinkedIn has evolved over the years and if used properly, is a great way to make connections and interact with potential clients and customers.

  2. If you’re in business LinkedIn is the one to start with. LinkedIn has made some great steps forward such as with Groups and the Companies section. They’ve made some blunders as well such as elimination of news board in groups and the de-emphasis on the service Providers section.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Not just linkedIn, but others too.

    It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my awesomize.me can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    CEO & Founder

  4. It is simple , a powerful tool for developing and maintaining professional relationships
    The real point of LinkedIn is bridging relationships…LinkedIn offers many practices that organizations should follow when building internal applications.

  5. ..Its easy to see why LinkedIn is considered the worlds largest audience of influential affluent professionals in one place. Like other forms of marketing a small or home business on LinkedIn is relatively inexpensive and provides a lot of bang for the buck.

  6. Nice Article…What other sites (like Linkedin) are available in the market that can help grow small businesses

  7. Time is money so you need to spend it effectively. Unless their are specific industry sites I stick to the basics …LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Flickr or Picasso.

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