Using LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business

Thanks to everyone who joined our teleclass with Nicole Williams, Connection Director of LinkedIn, and Tory Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire and Spark & Hustle and workplace contributor on “Good Morning America.”

Nicole and Tory shared tips everyone can use to make the most of their presence on LinkedIn, especially small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Listen to the Teleclass: 5 Ways to Find Customers Using LinkedIn

What can small business owners and entrepreneurs gain from being on LinkedIn?

“Networking is the key to entrepreneurial success,” says Williams, “That’s why LinkedIn is perfect for your small business. LinkedIn is one of the most effective ways of putting it out there, in terms of connecting to your customer, in terms of learning what your competition is doing, in terms of engaging in conversation—it’s a free marketing and networking forum so you’re not having to spend a lot of time and a lot of money.”

Nicole also shared how some simple steps can make a big difference in entrepreneurial success.

What key sections of the profile should we pay key attention to?

You should have ALL of your experience, including your work experience prior to starting your business. Fill out the Skill section so people can find you; the more specific you can be relative to your skills the better, and go back many years. Add volunteer experience!

How can we best use LinkedIn to get in front of new customers?

1. Boost your profile

Using your own profile the right way can be the gateway for potential clients, employees and industry partners to contact you. The more complete your profile, the easier it will be for people to find you through search engines. Make sure your summary is complete, and include a photo of yourself to increase your credibility (people are seven times more likely to view a profile with a photo!). Always include your website in your electronic signature (this includes new messages and replies). Add Skills to your profile to highlight your expertise and be found by others seeking those abilities.

Use LinkedIn’s applications to boost your profile, by syncing your Twitter account, blog or company website (look through LinkedIn’s Application Directory to find the right applications for you). Use status updates to announce new products, to post interesting articles, and even to get answers to business questions you’re pondering (like, “Does anyone know a great corporate realtor? I’m hunting for office space.”).

2. Join discussions and groups

Get a feel for what customers and prospects want or think by asking questions, and check the Answers section of LinkedIn to answer questions from connections in your area of expertise.

Potential clients can find you through groups, as the group members have the ability to directly message each other, even if they aren’t directly connected. Find groups that align with your industry or interests, and join the discussion!

3. Create a company page

Company profiles give members an opportunity to view information about each company, such as its description, number of employees and the industry it operates in. Develop your company profile with a logo, locations and feed from your company blog.

4. Ask for recommendations

Recommendations are one of the best ways to secure new clients because this is the feature looked for most when viewing a new profile. They enhance your professional credibility and create a great impression on people reading your profile.

5. Stay on top of industry news

Follow the top trending news each day on LinkedIn Today so you’re up-to-speed on industry news. Visit LinkedIn daily to get valuable insights about your connections and their activities. Access LinkedIn on the move through iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps enabling you to update your profile and search for others on LinkedIn to help recall and connect with business acquaintances at events and conferences.

You can also use the LinkedIn mobile application to pull up background details of the person you are meeting on-the-go, putting you in good stead for a great introduction and conversation points.

Is there a magic number when it comes to connections?

“Think of your connections as your professional Rolodex,” says Williams. Connect to at least 50 people that you know and trust. That’s when you start seeing more first, second and third degree connections that can help you get in touch with people or companies that will help propel your business forward. Offering to connect with everyone from customers to clients and vendors is a great idea because it shows your customers you are online, and gives you an edge on the competition who is probably not engaging customers in the same way.

Join the Texas Conference for Women LinkedIn group here. Visit the LinkedIn Connection Lounge at the Texas Conference for Women for one-on-one expert advice on how to make the most of your LinkedIn network!