LinkedIn is now the largest business network in the UK and the third most popular social media platform. It has more than 300 million members worldwide, with more than half (67%) coming from outside the US. The UK, with 15 million users, has the fourth largest membership after India and Brazil. And unlike many business directories, you can get a basic account for free. But what can it offer SMEs in terms of broadcasting their brand, recruiting new staff and winning new business?
Broadcasting your brand
Like any social networking site, LinkedIn is all about making connections and getting advice from your SME peers. You can do this through the many professional discussion groups on the site. Which brings us to the first tip to boosting your business - broadcasting your brand. Giving advice is one of the more effective ways to get your business known on LinkedIn. Start by joining and contributing to a few LinkedIn groups related to your industry or job role.
When members ask questions of the group, your answer will help bring your brand to a wider audience – and it may even win you new work. If there’s not a group for your business area, then create one. It’s free and it only takes a few minutes to set up.
If you want a quicker way to promote your brand on LinkedIn, try Company Pages (which promote your business and employees) and Showcase Pages (which promote your products and services). Attract a strong following by creating bright and informative pages with regular postings, links and content.
So what can you post on LinkedIn? Word count is quite limited, and while it’s not as bad as the 140 characters in social network, Twitter, there is still an art to getting them right, for example, big pictures work better than smaller thumbnails. However, LinkedIn has recently opened up its publishing platform, which previously had only been available to 500 core 'influencers'. Some 25,000 members initially will be able to publish blog articles to their profile, eventually being opened up to all members.
"When you endorse someone on your network, they automatically get an email telling them you have recommended them, and that’s a great, informal way, of keeping your name and your business firmly on their radar."
Once this happens, users will be able to build their brand using content, follow other members not in their network and build a group of followers using their own published material as a hook.
Once you have more than 100 followers you can use the Targeted Company Updates, which allow you to tailor content to specific audiences. Updates can be targeted based on company size, industry, function, seniority, geography and language. You can also target non-employee followers with the same parameters.
Additionally, if you have some marketing money you can target adverts to the complete LinkedIn community using the same parameters. Like Google’s AdWords, LinkedIn allows you to create different ads so you can test headings, images and landing pages and set budgets based on a cost per click (CPC) or a cost per 1,000 impressions. However, a recent test on Social Media Today found that while advertising on LinkedIn attracted clicks, it was expensive compared to other internet advertising.
Recruiting new staff
LinkedIn is also invaluable for recruitment. If you want to find new people, and to see exactly who’s looking at your profile, consider upgrading to one of the paid for LinkedIn Premium accounts. This is most useful if you are a very active user, the words 'networking' or 'sales' are in your job title, you’re looking to recruit new staff or you’re in the recruitment industry.
With a full, paid-for account, you can get access to full listings, including your potential candidates’ recommendations, and endorsements, add more filters to your searches and do multiple searches. Google search is the free way to do this, but it is very slow in comparison.
LinkedIn's advanced searches allow you to pinpoint potential employees from a wide range of parameters and use InMail, LinkedIn’s own messaging system, to contact them. You also get access to the next valuable generation of candidates – according to LinkedIn, students and graduates are the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn, with their numbers more than doubling in the past year.
Winning new business
Of course, credibility in business is everything. By encouraging people in your LinkedIn network to give you a recommendation or an endorsement is a good way of showing new customers that you do good work and are reliable.
Recommendations and endorsements are also ideal ways to keep in touch with your network. When you endorse someone on your network, they automatically get an email telling them you have recommended them, and that’s a great, informal way, of keeping your name and your business firmly on their radar.
With 15 million potential business connections in the UK alone, can your business really afford not to be a part of the LinkedIn revolution?
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