LinkedIn has over 500 million users, making it the single biggest business-centric social network available. Unlike other social networking sites, when someone goes on LinkedIn, they intend on engaging in professional practices. You have a powerful networking resource on your hands, but only if you know how to get the most out of your available opportunities.


The Importance of Maintaining Your LinkedIn Profile


How often do you visit LinkedIn and update your profile? If you only stop by the site when you want to drum up leads for your small business, then you’re not going to come across in a favorable light.


Make sure that you add LinkedIn to your regular routine. Create content for the site, share interesting resources that you find in your industry, report on the latest news in your market sector, and generally, create a fully fleshed out and active profile and business page. Remember that you represent your business, and allow your profile to reflect that.


Your LinkedIn profile is an excellent way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. You can repurpose content from your website and add it as a LinkedIn article, which expands its original audience. Consider putting presentations and e-books on Slideshare, which is now a part of LinkedIn.


How to Get the Most Out of Your Circle


Go beyond simply adding people to your network. Actively engage with their content and look for ways to add value to each interaction. You want to build up a relationship through multiple touchpoints before you try to approach them for networking or reach out to them as a lead.


Start the networking process by highlighting something the individual or their company accomplished recently. You want to show that you’re paying attention to their moves in the industry and not simply someone trying to sell them something. Even if you eventually want to lead up to a pitch for your products or services, worry about that once you start connecting.


Reach out to your existing contacts to see if they can introduce you to people of interest. You never know when one of your followers has a valuable connection that could make a big difference in your business.


Many recruiters leverage LinkedIn as part of their workflow, so they’re often open to being approached directly. If you want to get their help recruiting employees for your small business, send a message and give an overview of what you’re looking for. If you’d like to connect with a recruiter for potential job positions, they often outline their processes on their LinkedIn profile or recruiting website.


Participate in the Conversations


LinkedIn Groups cover nearly every business topic you can imagine, so you can find the right group for your industry and market segment. If you notice that your area is under-served, set up the group yourself. You can establish your business as an authority in this topic, which helps you build a solid reputation.


When you post replies to conversations in your group or someone else’s, make sure that you bring something to the discussion. You don’t want to name drop your products or brand in most cases, unless it’s directly relevant to what the original poster is requesting.


You get to read through the insights of other people and companies in your industry, as well as potential customers. This perspective and feedback are invaluable during the networking process and when you want to refine your services and products for a particular customer segment.


Groups are also a good way to get support from other small business owners. You have a challenging position, and talking with people who are in your shoes can be a great way to get past frustration.


Don’t Forget to Follow Up


Keep up with the messages, notifications and conversations that you are involved in on LinkedIn. You don’t want to drop the ball and give someone the impression that you’re an unreliable company. Responding immediately may not be feasible, but try to get back to someone in a reasonable time frame. If you have problems keeping up, consider a customer relationship management or lead management system that integrates with your LinkedIn account.


You have a lot of options for small business networking, and LinkedIn is an efficient way to connect with other businesses in your industry, along with a potential customer base if you work in the B2B area.