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LinkedIn Best Practices for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

LinkedIn is the foremost community of professionals in the world. As a tool for recruiting, it’s unparalleled but it also serves a greater function. A robust presence on LinkedIn with meaningful content creation and engagement with other businesses can help your business to connect with like-minded professionals, potential mentors, and to identify sales leads.

Whether you are a recent graduate, have spent a few years in an industry, or are closer to retirement than not, having a solid LinkedIn page is a great way to connect with your peers and to grow your social presence. LinkedIn takes elements from traditional social media networks, such as the newsfeed, connection requests based on mutual acceptances, and a customizable profile, and imbues them with a strong networking platform and job posting board.

Users have the ability to create and act as the administrator of their own small business’s page, or to create their own profile as an individual. Individual profiles work hand in hand with company profiles, as the two can interact with each other, and direct traffic back to the other through links and branded content.

Managing an individual page

As users connect with other users, their network grows and offers new opportunities to engage and market. Savvy LinkedIn members are wise about who they connect with. LinkedIn encourages users to connect virtually with colleagues, acquaintances, and business contacts rather than with strangers, which helps to facilitate the networking aspect of the platform.

On your own individual page, it’s wise to link your education and experience back to the universities and corporations that you reference. These linkages add credibility to your page and act as a sort of internal SEO that boosts your profile when other users search for that organization.

An individual LinkedIn profile acts as a virtual resume, business card, and elevator pitch for yourself all in one. Adding a recent headshot, updating the profile when you receive a promotion or switch to a new position, and connecting with new contacts are all great ways to keep your profile looking its best and serving its ultimate networking function.

Using a company page

Small businesses and startups can also benefit from hosting their own company page. Here, you can post content about your business, post jobs and search for candidates, and grow a follower base that can be targeted as sales prospects.

Your company page will likely be built with similar content that you use on your website. Adding a photo of your company’s logo and a cover image will bring your page to life. LinkedIn states that companies that use their logo as their page photo drive six times more traffic. Using social media badges, you can link your LinkedIn to your website and vice versa, helping to drive traffic to both

Content Marketing is Key

Content is ultimately what will build up your LinkedIn following to your company’s page. Your content should be written for your target audience, not for the LinkedIn community at large. If you are a data visualization firm, post content on that subject rather than on some topic that is currently trending. Daily content is ideal, but posting once a week is a good benchmark.

Your content should be engaging, appeal to your target customers, and inform your readers about both the issue at hand and position you as a trustworthy thought leader and subject matter expert. If you have great content that you want to boost, you can pay to sponsor your content and extend its reach to new viewers, much like sponsored posts on other social media sites.

Optimize the headlines and keywords of your posts, and link them back to your other sites. Driving earned media through your own channels is a highly effective marketing technique and can drive your customers to your ecommerce platforms, if relevant to your business.

As with other social media platforms, you will want to spend time each week engaging with your followers, monitoring interactions, and making yourself available to answer any customer questions and concerns. You have the ability to track and monitor engagement with your page through LinkedIn analytics. Set goals for your page, just as you would with any of your other digital marketing channels, and assess your progress periodically.

Your company page adds credibility and trust to your brand. Millions of LinkedIn users engage with companies and brands every day, and you miss out on these engagements and potential sales opportunities by failing to update your page and posting content.

LinkedIn is also a great recruiting tool. The majority of LinkedIn’s user base are white collar, skilled workers and tend to skew towards higher socioeconomic statuses and education attainment levels. Niche industries and mega corporations alike post jobs on LinkedIn’s job board and attract interest from a varied base of applicants.

LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected to your professional contacts, to grow your base of sales leads and targets, and to establish you and your brand as thought leaders in your category. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional site, and that what you post has the potential to reach more than 500 million users around the world.

The networking opportunities are endless with a site like LinkedIn, but be thoughtful and err on the side of professionalism when it comes to accepting invitations to connect and sending out your own invitations, particularly if you are not acquaintances with the individual. Keeping your profiles up to date with important news and engaging content is the best way to attract followers and grow your network.

Cassidy Welter on Twitter
Cassidy Welter
Staff Writer: Cassidy Welter is a Chicago based researcher at a consulting firm specializing in nonprofits. When she's not working, she's reading anything she can get her hands on, debating politics, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and eating her way across the city's food scene. See more from Cassidy on Twitter at @CassidyWelter.

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Staff Writer: Cassidy Welter is a Chicago based researcher at a consulting firm specializing in nonprofits. When she's not working, she's reading anything she can get her hands on, debating politics, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and eating her way across the city's food scene. See more from Cassidy on Twitter at @CassidyWelter.

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