With more than 85 million users worldwide and growing at a rate of one new member every second, LinkedIn has become a major presence in today’s business world for professionals of all kinds, including home-based and other small business opportunity and franchise owners. For those of you who aren’t clear on just what LinkedIn is all about, it can be best described as a virtual meeting place for anyone and everyone who is in or wants to be in business today.
More specifically, LinkedIn is a networker’s paradise; and if there’s anything successful entrepreneurs take to like ducks to water, it’s networking. LinkedIn provides a comprehensive platform for companies and individuals to not only network worldwide, but to promote their business interests, create and maintain brand identity, and find and access valuable resources.
By utilizing some of LinkedIn’s key features and functions to their maximum benefit, home-based and other small business or franchise owners can grow in unprecedented ways. It’s all a matter of knowing what’s possible using this relatively new and engaging tool and then taking the steps necessary to make it work for you.
What LinkedIn Can Do
The primary goal of any business is to generate revenue. Revenue is a direct function of not only keeping the business you’ve already got, but bringing in new business however you can. One of the most surefire ways you can bring in new business is by building new relationships. And one of your best options for building relationships in this day and age is by using LinkedIn.
So what are some key ways that LinkedIn can help you grow your business?
Here are just a few of the basics to get you thinking and hopefully inspire you to learn more about the potential benefits offered by tapping into this growing online professional community:
Generate Leads―Use LinkedIn to conduct research on individuals and companies that could most benefit from your products and services. LinkedIn’s more “advanced search” functions also allow you to search potential contacts by everything from job title within a given industry to more geographic factors such as postal or area code.
Get Referrals―Nothing gets your foot in the door like a referral from a trusted source. LinkedIn is your “go-to” resource when it comes to building relationships through mutual connections. Use it to find out who you need to know and how they are connected to you or others that you are connected to, then ask for an introduction and make a deal!
Sing Your Praises―Posting your satisfied clients’ recommendations on LinkedIn positions you as a respected resource in your field, which can quite readily lead to new business inquiries.
Become a Recognized Expert―LinkedIn allows you to actively answer questions and engage in group discussions that will ensure you become a recognized expert in your field. In addition, you can proactively share your answers to important questions via the “share this” feature on LinkedIn.
Stay “In the Know”―Keep current on events that might be of interest to you or your company. Find out in a flash what’s being said about you as well as your products and services. You can also use LinkedIn to conduct market research by using its polling application.
While all of these uses of LinkedIn can be extremely helpful to you as you grow your business, especially in a tough economy where networking is so important, none of it will happen unless you actively maintain your LinkedIn presence. The fact is that far too many LinkedIn users create an initial profile and then leave it unattended. Unfortunately, this represents a true lost opportunity for many of them.
Do yourself a favor. If you own your own business and you want to put LinkedIn to work for you, update your profile routinely. Invest in a book that will teach you the basics on how to work LinkedIn to your maximum advantage. Make it easy for others to find you by using the most obvious as well as the not-so-obvious keywords in your field. List any specialties that might be of interest to you or anyone who might want to work with you. Include industry-specific phrase and jargon in your profile so that they are easily picked up. And finally, link your profile to your Twitter account and Facebook page, if you have them. Anytime you can take what you're doing to the next level and go viral, that’s a good thing.