The power of LinkedIn for SMEs

The statistics around LinkedIn speak for themselves, with someone creating a new profile every second and over 300 million members worldwide. LinkedIn rightly deserves its reputation as the world’s number one business networking platform. Understanding the basics of this social networking service and making sure your business profile is visible, could have a big impact on your visibility and results.

Very different from other social media platforms, LinkedIn is not a “social” platform in the way we commonly understand it from platforms like Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn isn’t there to document our daily lives and you definitely won’t find pictures of tasty meals or skateboarding kittens here!

Put simply, LinkedIn is a platform for business networking. When you consider nearly 50% of LinkedIn members have decision making powers for their companies – LinkedIn  is very much a platform exclusively geared towards professionals, and can be an exceptional business tool for SME’s, whatever your product or service, and whether your business is geared towards other businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C).

As LinkedIn is a global concern, your profile is busily working away for you even when you’re fast asleep, so make sure it stands out from the crowd. There are a few key things to think about to get started; namely a picture, headline and then the detail of your profile – think of it as a bit of digital marketing and in the same way you would take time to develop a marketing piece, time taken when you set up your profile will be time well spent.

Creating a Profile
it’s really important to have a profile on the platform to give your business a presence. How you use that profile is up to you;  it can be used in a passive or more proactive way – more of that later but most importantly  –  make sure you familiarise yourselves with the basics to create a full and relevant profile.

Picture and Headline
Your headline and picture are your LinkedIn “shop window”, so make sure your picture is smart, approachable, and above all professional, think about it as a business CV shot. Make sure you include a picture as it builds up a picture of you and your business and gives you credibility.
Your headline needs to be thought through wisely, it’s how people will search for you so rather than listing our name and job title, think about how people would use LinkedIn to search for you – so rather than ‘Jo Bloggs, Managing Director CateringCo’, think about key words that will resonate with people searching for you outlining what you do and where you operate, for example ‘Commercial and Private Catering and Chef / Merseyside’.

Summary
Your summary is based around what you do, who you are, and what your goals are. You can also use is to list skills and specialities. Think about words and key phrases that accurately describe your business that others might use to search for you, and make sure you weave in the most important keywords into your profile summary so you will appear on any searches.

Passive and proactive Linked in marketing
Setting up a profile, and using LinkedIn in a passive way may be enough for you but remember, like most marketing strategies, the more time you invest in your LinkedIn marketing efforts,  the greater the rewards are likely to be.

Passive Profile
Having an accurate presence by creating a profile, and refreshing and updating it regularly certainly gives you access to a whole network. Having an engaging profile which contains all relevant keywords pertinent to your business can undoubtedly draw the attention of potential new customers and clients, as well as allowing you to tap into key influencers in your industry. Using LinkedIn in a passive way will:

  • Give you exposure to people seeking products or services.
  • Give you access to introductions to potential clients; a virtual ‘in’ with people and businesses you might not ordinarily access.
  • Be a useful forum to display endorsements and testimonials from others which provide credibility and encourage other users to do business with you.

Proactive.

However, a more proactive approach, although it takes a little more time, can really have a big impact on your business. Like much tactical marketing, the more involved you are, and the more you keep in touch with your network, the more you are likely to get out and the quicker and more effective the results are likely to be. To make best use of LinkedIn as a marketing tool to promote your business:

  • Use the search tool to find decision makers or people you want to connect with, by selecting ‘people’ and filling out relevant fields, such as ‘industry’ and ‘job title’ and using keywords.
  • Once you find who you are looking for, look for mutual connections who can introduce you, and research influencer profiles, recommendations, and read what they are writing about others in your industry. It will give you a real insight into what is current for them.
  • Post regular status updates, new business won, awards, new starters and expansion, all will increase your visibility and give a clear picture of progression,
  • Post a general summary of what you’re working on and who for – as long as it’s relevant to your target customers and clients or it will turn people away.
  • Join groups related to your business. Using LinkedIn as a real opportunity to network can also help establish you as an expert in your field.
  • Don’t always talk about your own business; be prepared to answer questions, offer congratulations on new roles and anniversaries etc, as well as commenting on the general feed in your industry. Always make sure it’s brief and work related. Such as ‘Enjoyed working on XXXX with XXXX, and looking forward to the next project’. That way, you can become a resource for others too.
  • Like all social media, there is a level of give and take on this platform; send messages and invites to people in your network. Don’t spam or become a pest, make sure interactions are always 2 way and use LinkedIn as a mutually beneficial channel.

In summary, having any profile at all on Linked in, can be a huge boost to your business. But don’t underestimate LinkedIn as a really effective marketing tool – you could even consider building LinkedIn into your marketing strategy. In terms of time and resource, even using LinkedIn in a proactive way shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes of your time every day. Regular and relevant is key here. I hope this summary has given you an insight into the positive impact of LinkedIn as a professional networking platform and has inspired you to go ahead and create a profile for your business. If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, feel free to give me a call and I’d be happy to chat through.

Agnes Marketing is owned by Lindsey Moore, a Merseyside-based business development and marketing consultant. Lindsey works with ambitious small businesses who are keen to grow, know where they want to get to but need some hand-on support getting there.