LinkedIn has been around for almost 20 years and is the leading business networking and information sharing site in the world. Even now, many small businesses still regard it as a “corporate tool” or something that a hopeful event speaker spends all day on to connect with people. Well, that’s not wrong. But it’s only a small percentage of what makes up LinkedIn. Surprisingly, the majority is small business-focused since according to LinkedIn, “small businesses comprise 99.7% of all United States-based companies, and LinkedIn counts at least 10 million small business leaders who use the site’s tools and services to reach out to clients.” That means that even if you’re a single-location ice cream parlor with only 3 staff members, you have a network of potential customers, partners, and employees that’s just waiting to be tapped.
There’s a laundry list of benefits to LinkedIn if you have the time to devote to it. Admittedly, though, few small business have the time to create a marketing strategy for the site. The good news is that there are still some solid core benefits that you can take advantage of right now just by having a profile. Here we go.
1. Legitimize who you are
These days, every company is online even if it’s just a simple Google My Business or Yelp listing. Try as they might, these big listing websites do what they can to legitimize the businesses that are represented there, but cyberattacks are on the rise. This means consumers are getting smarter about doing a little of their own research before they reach out to a company. The more complete profiles that you have online, the more your market can trust you are who you say you are.
Don’t think your audience is on LinkedIn? If you’re on Facebook (another important business practice), then consider that 90% of LinkedIn users have a Facebook account. Which means that you’re meeting them in yet another of their most common online pitstops. That’s Digital Marketing 101.
2. People buy from people
To add another dimension to the point above, customers are also becoming more wary of large, faceless organizations. This is in large part due to the big business data hacks in recent years as well as stories about less-than-impeccable business practices. Consumers that support small businesses want to know that their money is staying local, that they can count on the company’s promises, and—it may sound trite, but it’s true—that they generally like the people that they’ll engage with. That goes for departments with multiple salespeople as well as it does for the owner of the dry-cleaning business that’s behind the counter during rush hour. Allow your customers to know not only your company, but the people who make it up. You’ll see a lot more customer loyalty when you let them see a like-minded, caring professional instead of sending them a random 20% off coupon in the mail.
3. Expand and diversify your network
No one can do business alone. Even if you’re a sole proprietor who provides one-to-one services, you probably still need to get the word about what you do. Making connections with other trusted companies in your field helps you create a referral network, especially if you spend a little time letting them know what’s special about what you do (and that you’re a good person, see #2 above).
Small companies are always trying to streamline and reduce costs, which means that having a strong partner network can help keep the bottom line in the black. Learning about product distributors and what your peer companies think of them, discovering a new office supply company with better rates, or finding the perfect store remodel designer that fits your budget are all great reasons to be on LinkedIn. And they all indirectly increase your overall profit margin.
Networking is essentially about cooperative support. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 756 million members. So, even connecting with other organizations that you support, like local nonprofits and other small businesses you love, can help you raise awareness of what your company does. Even if your network doesn’t specifically need your services or product, those individual people might know someone who does.
4. Stay informed in your industry and community
Even for slower moving industries like construction, manufacturing, and retail, understanding the trends and opportunities that your competitors are probably watching can help you stay competitive. For instance, knowing that restaurants in the local area are interested in Up n’ go’s technology (which makes self-serve check payment easier and faster) might help a little sidewalk bistro get a bigger piece of the daily lunch traffic. Since 2 million posts, articles, and videos are published on LinkedIn every day, there’s a very high likelihood that companies which are similar in size, industry, and region are all pushing out plenty of relevant information.
5. Find the best talent
The work-from-home era brings a whole workforce that is now fully prepared to look and be found for jobs online. This isn’t limited to office workers. Retail attendants, shipping clerks, restaurant servers, and delivery drivers are all using LinkedIn’s huge database of companies to reach out to organizations that best fit their availability, skills, and interests. In fact, 40 million people use LinkedIn to search for jobs each week and 40% of LinkedIn users change their job, company, or industry every 4 years. This means that the professional talent base who is actually looking for open positions remains large year after year.
The good news specifically for small business is that most of these users are looking for smaller companies as their new home. That’s because 59% of LinkedIn members have never worked at a company with more than 200 employees. But how are going to attract these experienced and interested workers if you don’t take the time to build out even the simplest online company profile?
Take advantage of all of your tools
As a small business ourselves, we know from firsthand experience that the two things which are always in short supply are time and money. Using free online tools like LinkedIn helps your business succeed in a multitude of small and indirect ways that would take ages to write out in a simple blog article. But for all for off the reasons above, we hope you take advantage of every one of them at your disposal. After all, our mission is to help small businesses thrive, and that includes yours. Just contact us if we can help.