Making LinkedIn work for your small business

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LinkedIn is commonly touted as a strategic social media tool for professionals and small business owners. But for many users (and even non-users) in South Africa and elsewhere, the power of LinkedIn is questionable.

How many of us have received LinkedIn requests to connect with random people we do not know and whose usefulness to us is dubious or uncertain?

How many of us have connected with or joined numerous people, institutions, and groups, but have only ever directly communicated with a small fraction of people in our LinkedIn networks?

How many businesses have created LinkedIn profiles which are rarely updated and do not contain much interesting or useful content?

What can South African small business owners realistically expect from LinkedIn, and what can they do to maximize the impact of their LinkedIn presence?

Considering that South Africa has about 1.6 million LinkedIn members (accounting for approximately 1% of LinkedIn’s worldwide membership), it seems to be a good vehicle for South African small business owners who are looking to establish international business relationships and contacts, particularly in North America, Latin America and Europe, the three regions with the highest concentration of LinkedIn members.

Interestingly, 39% of LinkedIn members hold the title of Manager/Owner/Director/Chief Officer/Vice President, suggesting that small business owners will be able to build networks with the key decision-makers whose input is required to broker business deals.

Below are some practical measures small business owners can take to enhance the benefits they receive from LinkedIn:

• Upgrade from a free account to a paid account – Paid accounts have additional features such as the ability to send InMails to people inside and outside your network, access to more introduction requests that are permitted on the basic account, and access to more search results.

• Make full use of the features available on company pages or profiles to showcase your business – This includes writing accurate and catchy descriptions of products and services, uploading videos, and advertising available jobs.

• Customize your LinkedIn profile for search engine optimization.

• Focus on developing a quality network that helps you to achieve your small business’ goals - This means not feeling compelled to accept any and every request to connect, but instead being more selective about the people in your network. It also means that small business owners should proactively search the LinkedIn database to identify and approach potentially useful contacts. Finally, small business owners should cultivate relationships within their networks by sending occasional InMails to stay in touch, contributing to group discussions, and using LinkedIn to promote events being hosted by their business.

• Sync your LinkedIn updates with your Twitter updates – This ensures that these two social media platforms are integrated, reducing your workload by conducting only one round of updates which are then reflected on both LinkedIn and Twitter. Tell us what you think – how has LinkedIn helped you to market your business, connect with potential business partners, or recruit employees?

Post By: Fadzai Munyaradzi

 

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24 comments
  • There are a number of things I find interesting about this article since I am also an entrepreneur. 1) TIME SAVER: I am an advocate for time savers - I therefore enjoy the optimized sync of my LinkedIn and twitter accounts updates. The integrated function helps ease my worries about individually managing separate accounts. 2) CONNECTING WITH THE LIKE-MINDED: As an independent consultant I have managed to secure a few accounts with clients whom I have connected with via LinkedIn this goes to the reality that LinkedIn’s USP is that you connect with like minded professional who take their professions seriously and they care about their services. You are more likely toreceive good service. I must share that I have had a few clients from across the Atlantic Ocean who could have otherwise not known of my services. 3) OUTSOURCE TO YOUR CONNECTIONS: You can also outsource some of the workload to other independent entrepreneurs whom you connect with on the platform. The question is how do you secure yourself?
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  • You can be more visible on LinkedIn without devoting an enormous amount of time to it. Here are a few ways to do this: Post a recommendation for someone you’re connected to. A key element of effective networking is to give first. And you never know someone else may feel compelled to write a recommendation for you. This is not the reason to do it just a possible outcome. You can join up to 50 groups. On the main navigation click on ‘Interests’ from the drop-down box there click on ‘Groups’. There you will see a list of all of the groups you are a member of and below that a list of groups that you may find interesting. Give people you know endorsements. When you visit the profile of one of your connections at the top you will see an option to endorse their skills. This is a fast an easy way to support people whose work you value. Check out who has been looking at your profile. This is located on the right sidebar of your home page and is under the heading ‘Who’s Viewed My Profile?’ and if you click underneath you can see a list. You can also find this under the main navigation ‘Profile.’ You may find that you know people who are looking at your profile and you can invite them to connect. Update your status daily a few times weekly or as often as possible. You can share quotes interesting links to articles and websites and ask questions. This positions you as a resource and keeps your business visible.
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  • These are awesome tips @thetastychef !
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  • How do you mean 'secure yourself'? Do you mean you want to be able to prescreen invitations or do you not want to appear on others' timelines to make contact wth you?
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  • LinkedIn in South Africa is gemerally only perceived as 'an online survey' for job seelers and a 'bucket' for employers to search for possible employees. This couldn't be further from the truth as it is a social media platform like all the others we have come to know and love over the years. LinkedIn like all the other platforms have the following capabilities : 1. Timelines 2. a space for your update/post (your post can include most media channels i.e. images videos music podcasts etc) 3. ability to share information pictures videos etc 4. check-in and geotagging ability 5. connect with friends and followers But it has the added capacity to upload and present your CV and career history. It allows you to use your CV as a key driver of your profile.
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  • I am a huge fan of LinkedIn as a driver of branding and profiling of people and businesses. I do believe however that LinkedIn is not seen as a 'sexy' or 'cool' platform like the others are perceived to be and if you do believe that you are seriously missing out. The article above speaks about 39% of LinkedIn users are decision makers but this message is driven home with the fact that the average income of LinkedIn users is about $105000-$110000. These 2 facts tells us that Linkedin is about the Business of Business so if you ares erious about your career or your business your social profiling needs to include LinkedIn and it must be a feature that you use regularly.
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  • Yavi exactly that. How do you pre-screen/
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  • It’s also super easy to add videos and photos to the ‘Summary’ ‘Experience’ or ‘Education’ sections of your LinkedIn profile. Simply click on ‘Profile’ in the main navigation at the top of the page and then click on ‘Edit Profile’ and go to the section you want to add video or photos to. Once you get to the section you want to update look for a little box in the upper right hand corner of the section. Click on that box icon and you’ll get a drop down menu where you can choose to ‘Add Link’ or ‘Upload a File’ – click on that and then select the file(s) you want to upload. It’s that easy.
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  • This is so true: TheTastyChef! This is so useful information for a small and medium sized enterprises.
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  • I see LinkedIn is gaining ground. I’ve long held that it’s the dark horse of the social media platforms—and the workhorse of the bunch. If Twitter is where you go to meet people you don’t know and Facebook is where you go to talk with friends then LinkedIn is where you can meet up to get work done. We might think of LinkedIn as simply a kind of digital Rolodex—a place to park your résumé and perhaps network a bit. But it’s also a rich tool for generating business—increasingly so in fact because as you said @YaviMadurai the network itself has developed ways to make this easier.
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  • Good Question Yavi and I would also like to know what you think about accepting invitations from people you don't neccessarily know and sending invitations to people you don't know but may benefit your network. What is the rule of thumb and how do you view this @YaviMadurai?
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  • So I've told you how LinkedIn is like the other social media platforms but I think it's important to clarify that its only differences are the ones that matter. We definitely use a different mindset when we log into Linkedin (vs Facebook Twitter etc etc). We use a different side of our brain and our expectations of it are completely different but we use the same knowledge and skills to navigate the site as we would use for the 'cousin' platforms (FB Twitter etc) We are looking for different things when we get into the LinkedIn space. Your wholemood changes andthe messages are more professional (looking and sounding). Conversations are more transcational and they serve to define an outcome unlike 'normal' conversations. We are all there for only one reason - business! We are either looking to advance our careers create a great business network online receive information do research find people to connect with contrubute your own thought leadership follow other thought leaders engage in discussion forums starrt online forums apply for jobs market ourselves look for employees build our company brands and the list is almost non-exhaustive. LinkedIn =Business Social Media experts will lament at length about how brilliant Facebook ads are and I know they are not wrong as I would say the same when talking about Facebook but theres a lot to be said about the LinkedIn Ads - just because of who your captive audience is ... #decisionmakers My point being if you aren’t using this powerful site to market your business yet then it’s time to start taking it more seriously and step your game up.
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  • Something I would also like to know is how to balance your LinkedIn profile if you have more than one job? Say if you work for someone and have your own business.
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  • Great question! You would have to set up 2 different profiles for each side of your professional life. Remember generally it should not be 2 of the same jobs or even industry for that matter because legally there would not be a company in the world that would allow a conflict of interest 2nd job. So its best to keep it seperate. You don't have to go extreme lengths to 'hide' the one profile from the other but it just needs to represent both sides of your career. It's important to understand thought that people who know or find both profiles will not differentiate you in 2 different ways so in other words they will treat you the same way they know you. They are not going to see you as 2 different people they will see you as 2 parts of 1 whole
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  • So here are some tips about how to use LinkedIn to market you your brand your company : 1. Complete Your Profile and keep it completed always Your profile (content = text pics video's etc) is the heart and soul of your online (business) brand. It usually ranks in the top 5 of Google search results for “Your First and Last Name”. When others do a search for your name to learn about your product service company or previous work experience its crucial to have a very credible and pedigree profile because first impressions could drastically improve or tarnish your value. Make sure you fill out your profile 100% for starters then go on from there to make your full profile 'sexy'. Upload pictires videos and more to keep content high. 2. Connect With Everyone Why would you want to only connect with people you know on LinkedIn - how is that going to increase your network or showcase your profile to others? You should be on LinkedIn to broaden your horizons and expand your network. So please - connect with everyone To be continued ....
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  • Thanks Yavi So then how would I explain or fill the gaps in my two profiles if I was working for myself for 6 years in one career and started working for someone a year ago?
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  • You don'tneed to explain the gaps to anyone unless someone asks specifically. Remember you will have a history of one career that is consecutive and a history of the other that is also consecutive so people won't see the gaps as such they will look at it as a cumulutive. Obviously if you are being recruited then this will have to be explained because its about the detail of one career history but when viewing your profile people see it as a whole. Thinkof it like this : when you view a company you see their brand as holistic and their products and services as the detail - its the same analogy your whole profile combined is the brand and your career history on both sides or just one is your product and service offering.
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  • continued ... some tips for an awesome profile on LinkedIn 3. Link your personal profile to your company profile You will find that Linkedin has company pages that allow for companies to create brand awareness for their company products and services and if you are an employee please make sure that you link your profile to the company page. This allows your profile to be ranked higher when there are searches for your skills and knowledge. If this is your company its great when your employees tag and link themselves to your company page. 4. Brandyour websites Its important to fully maximise the tools offered by LinkedIn and there are many opportunities to customise your site with certain buttons drop down menu's information display graphics etc. It's important for customisation because it attracts more attention than having something that is generic.
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  • continued ... some tips for an awesome profile on LinkedIn 4. Be Compelling Why stand out when you can rise above? Change the game completely.Most profiles are so fearful of stepping outside the comfort zone that it's become one big CV and job interview online. So add something interesting - The story of your life (in a paragraph and no more)in your summary have a video recommendation pop up in the first few seconds or at the least tell people who you are who you help and how you help them so there is some direction for people when they land on your profile. Come on lets change the profile-game together! 5. Recommend and Help Others Along the Way I have always been a big believer in 'abundance mentality' meaning that there is enough for everyone and that the most wealth is created through collaboration and reciprocation. If you understand how online marketing works i.t.o the analytics and search ROI you will realise that you will benefit the most from your marketing efforts if you give others the spotlight in your space - showcase your clients and celebrate their achievements help people within your industry especially those that are up-and-coming. Giving of your time is sometimes more valuable than money so remember this when you are doing CSI activations that you would like to communicate about. Remind yourself of the simple adage: the more you give the more you receive.
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  • continued ... some tips for an awesome profile on LinkedIn 6. Optimise your Optimisation : SEO is Everything Your proiles are being viewed your career history is being scrutinised and you are being discussed - simply because people are searching for people who have certain skills knowledge and experience - You need toput effort into optimising your profile so that those people who are searching for your skills find you firstin ranking. 7. Advance your profile with advanced apps A few years ago Linkedin gave you the ability to access some really cool apps to help promote your brand and your business.It doesn’t matter what industry you are in there is an application for everyone that can help you get your message across better and improve the overall experience of your LinkedIn profile. Go to the applications section on your profile to see which ones you could start using today and make the most out of the new ones that come out in the future.
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  • So its important to understand what setting you have available to your on your LinkedIn profile just depending on whether you are on the free version or premium one. So play around with your settings function to see what it available to you. Once you understand the basis of how far you can go in 'securing' your profile then take up the security settings that you want - you can choose to not appear to anyone or appear to everyone or only your posts get posted. But here's the question would you go to a networking event and then have a superpower to make yourself invisible so that only you choose who you want to talk to but they are not allowed to 'see you' or approach you to talk? If you don't want to be approached then rather don't go. Remember the online world mirrors the offline world so if you wouldn't do that in a real-life situation why do you not want to 'network' online? LinkedIn was created for exactly that and so were the other platforms in other ways. Also if you think you are only wanting to use your profile to look for staff then also bear in mind that people also will make a choice about whether they want to be interviewed by you because they can't find your profile online and it will seem 'dodgy'. So ladies all in all to each their own so please do whatever is comfortable for you but remember why LinkedIn was created.
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  • You are really good with motivation. you changed my entire mindset
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  • Does linkedin really contribute in your business? ....Because for me i have not really seen its contributions so i wana know fro you guys.
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  • I find LinkedIn really useful in finding clients to see my products to in bulk as they are mainly business owners and professionals

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