If you’re wanting a way to promote your small business for free then LinkedIn may be an option for you to consider.
LinkedIn is a complicated beast. It wears many hats. It’s not just for touting your resume when you’re looking for a job.
Follow me on a my sugar induced explanation of how to use LinkedIn to market your small business for free.
LinkedIn is just like my special super duper Christmas trifle.
The top layer is sparkles and sprinkles.
This is the job hunting part of the platform. It filters and displays highly relevant jobs much better than your average seek search filter which for some reason often sends me jobs as a dental nurse….
The second layer is liquor soaked cherries poached down to incredibly cherry sour sweetness.
This is the self-promotion part using your profile to give you credibility and findability.
The third layer is the lemon curd cream.
This is the gooey business development piece to help you find leads and foster genuine business relationships.
The fourth is the pink champagne jelly.
This is the nebulous base that complements all three layers. It’s all about thought leadership. Either you becoming one or you benefiting from others that have the coveted title.
Who is LInkedIn good for?
First, let’s check that LinkedIn is actually a good fit for marketing your business.
LInkedIn is a great tool for small business to promote and market themselves without actually spending any money. However, it’s not for everyone.
Generally you can say that LinkedIn is good for businesses selling to other businesses, rather than the general public. However, this is not a hard and fast rule.
If you’re audience is here and you’re selling something that relates to their business or professional life or career, then it could do well on this platform. But be very clear on how it’s relevant, in the context of LinkedIn as a professional networking tool and how you’re relevant to the people that you’re connecting with.
What won’t fly is personal or social conversations. LinkedIn is 100% business so avoid the cat discussions, pictures of babies and please no selfies of you at the beach or the bar with your friends.
You can read a detailed profile of the LInkedIn user in this list of social platforms but generally LInkedIn is frequented by those that are university graduates and have a much higher income than say Facebook (about $70k v $30 average).
If you think you’ve got a product or service that will go well on this platform, then read on.
Layer 1 - Sprinkles and sparkles
The first layer is all about job hunting. I’m not going to say much more other than it’s not going to assist you with your business marketing and advertising program. Having said that, if you’re after new staff, then using a well developed LinkedIn network can yield great results as well as advertising your vacant positions.
Layer 2 - Cherries
The second layer is all about you. Promoting you to the best of your ability. LinkedIn is great for promoting your business because at the heart of LinkedIn are the connections between professionally like minded people.
This is important to understand. While you can have a business page on LinkedIn, this is not where a small business with no budget will win. Success on LinkedIn is linked to the individual. That’s you.
If you were hoping to be an anonymous piece in the marketing puzzle, this won’t work. My favourite saying is that digital is nothing more than human behavior amplified and played back online.
Your profile will:
provide the background, history and proof of who you are and by extension your business.
make you credible and real so that people can trust you. Your connections and recommendations will see to this.
make you discoverable and findable. If you play it right using the right keywords, your LinkedIn profile will help you and your be business found on Google and other search engines.
How to use your profile to market your small business
Make sure that your profile is complete. It should be written to present skills, knowledge and experience relevant to your potential customers. It needs to reflect the type of experience and knowledge they would expect from the leader/founder of your business.
Get recommendations from your existing clients or related network on your expertise relating to your business. When you ask for these recommendation make sure you ask that they reference your business and it’s capabilities.
You need to be well endorsed. The best way to do this is to endorse others. Generally this prompts them to endorse you in return.
Make sure you claim your proper name in the name of your profile. This becomes your LinkedIn profile
Personalise and link to all of your websites. Your business website, your personal profile, blog etc.
Link your company name to your company page on LinkedIn or to your website.
Link your profile to Twitter. Each time you update your profile this will be shared on that network.
If you have any staff, ensure that their profiles are up to date and that the link on their place of work (your company) is up to date.
To ensure that you are getting in-front of your network, consider regular updates or posts which can be quick commentary or opinions or a link to a helpful article. Better however, are well thought out articles that you write.
Layer 3 Lemon curd cream
Business development is the cream in the pudding. On LinkedIn this means using it to find new people to connect with and fostering relationships with both new and existing connections. The other key aspect of LinkedIn is actively using it to stay top of mind with your leads.
How to do this?
Join related groups and actually participate in the conversation. Comment, post and ask and answer questions. This is not the quick route, but it’s the genuine way to start to get to know the people in the group and them to get to know you. This is what proper business development looks like. Getting to know people and helping them out to the point where genuine relationships evolve. Once you know people, you can then start to invite them to join your network.
If a relevant group doesn’t exist then start one and invite your network to join. You can then promote membership in other areas and platforms.
Use groups to promote any white papers or articles that you write, but only do it when it’s relevant and genuinely part of the existing conversations. This is not a place to be doing hard pitch selling.
Make sure you’ve connected with everyone in your network and contacts. Send personalised messages when you invite them. There is no excuse for an automated invitation. Again, this is about real people and real relationships.
Every time you meet someone at a networking event or conference, or just out and about follow up with an invitation to connect.
I don’t believe in inviting people to connect that you’ve never met or had interactions with. Out of the blue invitations from people you’ve never met before is just plain weird. But connecting with people that you’ve met in person once at a conference or you interacted with in a group or via an article that you’ve had dialogue with, is the right way to do it.
Once you’ve connected with people use the CRM feature in LinkedIn to make notes on where you met them, what you talked about and things of interest. You can even set reminders to follow up. The CRM can then act as a huge support to make sure you remember who and why you connected with but also as your network grows keep your details straight, and actively remind you to check in with them every once and awhile.
Tag people based on topics of interest, leads versus customers versus thought leadership/influencers - whatever makes sense to you.
Direct message people articles that you write or find, based on their interests or things that you’ve chatted to them about. It’s a genuine way to start to build a real relationship. When you’re passing on the articles don’t sell - just be useful.
Make use of the ‘15 ways’ to keep in contact. This is found on the home page in the top right hand corner. Like or send messages to people on an intermittent basis.
Make sure your settings are on for sharing updates to your profile as you make them. This keeps you front of your network.
Connect to your Twitter account, if you have one to help spread the word.
Develop a plan around what you will regularly update or share on your profile. New skills, recommendations, posts, achievements but also share updates that aren’t about you, but others, such as offering commentary and encouragement on industry happenings.
To target people outside of your network sphere (you can only message/connect with people up to 2nd connections) follow them so you’ll see their posts and updates. You can then regularly interact by commenting and sharing their posts. If you’re on point it’s possible to start a connection in this way.
Other ways of fostering connections are to write recommendations and endorse people. But please don’t do this for people you’ve never worked or had formal dealings with. That’s a ploy just waiting to be exposed.
The pros and cons of a business page
This seems like the appropriate time to address whether you should have a business page on LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows you to create a page to promote your business. But there are limited benefits to this page and so you need to temper effort with the likely return.
The reason is that the business page is a passive page. You can’t be interactive as an organisation like you can as an individual. This means you can’t connect, comment, like, share and all the other things that you can as an individual. As a business page, you can only talk to others if they initiate the conversation.
However, you can publish blogs to the page and have people follow it. This means anything published to the page will then appear in their LinkedIn homepage stream.
The other benefit is it allows you to do very targeted paid advertising. However as this is about getting bang for bucks based on FREE, I won’t go into this.
The other benefit if you have staff, is they can also link to your business page to increase the number of people seeing and following the page. The page will also appear in a rollover increasing your business’ exposure. The content published to this page will also contribute to your business being indexed on the various search engines.
Layer 4 Pink Champagne Jelly
The final layer is about building your profile as a thought leader or as an influencer, and if this isn’t your goal, follow these people in your area of speciality to connect and learn from.
LinkedIn do categorise people as “Influencers”. This is an official title that’s by invitation only to industry luminaries such as Richard Branson and Guy Kawasaki. Becoming an ‘influencer’ won’t be possible for most us however there is something you can be doing to build your reputation and become an influencer and thought leader within your own network.
Linkedin allows you to publish blog style articles to your profile and your business page. Your profile and business page can be followed, so you are able to reach an audience much broader than your connected network. Remember, you can’t connect with anyone unless you either have a first or second connection with them or their email address.
Any articles that you publish will appear in the newstream of your network and those following you. People can then like, comment and share your articles.
If you get a significant number of likes, comments or shares, then an editor for Pulse, the LinkedIn curated newstream and email will include it in Pulse, and your promotion will increase significantly.
However, before you jump in and start creating content willy nilly, make sure you’ve thought through what you’re going to say. Make sure that it’s unique and useful to your audience.
The other key benefit of publishing your own articles on LinkedIn is the keyword and search engine indexing of your articles. Images and length are important. What works best on LinkedIn are longer articles, good graphics and even video.
The outcome is up to you and how much time and effort you will put into building your LinkedIn network and how great your content is!