How Small Businesses Should Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn for small business


Cathy Yerges discusses how small businesses should use LinkedIn on the Social Monday Podcast.

I had the privilege to talk with Bob Turner and Jason Goff on the Social Monday Podcast. We chatted about LinkedIn, specifically, how small businesses should use LinkedIn. Catch the full podcast here or read through the highlights below.

Bob: Cathy, can you tell us about your journey to social media? How did you begin working in it?

I come from a banking background and I went to college for management and finance. I worked in banking for a number of years and I wanted to make the leap to being a business owner myself. I saw a lot of opportunity for people who needed help in their small business. So, my company actually started as a virtual assistance company. (That’s one reason why I wrote the book for LinkedIn for virtual assistants.) I realized that a lot of small business owners get into business because they love to do what it is that they do and what they sell, but don’t like the admin or the back
office stuff.  There was a huge opportunity there.

Over the years, social media became more and more popular. My clients were asking me more about it. They heard about it, they read an article about it, somebody told them they should be on a certain platform. It was up to me to research it and see if it was really the best opportunity for them.

My focus on LinkedIn comes from the fact that a lot of my clients were B2B clients and that’s just the natural platform for them to be on.  Really, my journey to social media has just been to help my clients figure out the best spot and the best use of the platforms and their time; how they could perhaps delegate some of the tasks because they’re so busy as it is. Over the course of the years more and more of my time was being spent on social media so I dropped the rest of the services I was providing and I focus on social media and relationship marketing now.

Jason: My perception of LinkedIn up until about 2010 was… well I joined this group of business professionals. I really don’t know why I’m on it. Do you find that that’s the perception that your clients have?

That’s exactly what a lot of people are doing and finding. They say, okay, I joined or I was invited to join LinkedIn and connect with somebody so I did it. I filled out my profile halfway.  I’m there. I’m done. I’m part of it. But, that is not truth. There’s so much more that can be done with LinkedIn beyond just your profile. It’s a very large database of your prospects and your clients and your potential employees. By just learning a few tips and tools to navigate within LinkedIn, you’ll discover so many opportunities. I get excited working with clients and having them see the possibilities. You see the light bulb go off and see their eyes open to the wealth of possibilities that are there for them.

Bob: You know, this is an old saying, “put your best foot forward” and everybody knows that saying and I’m amazed at how many people open up a profile in LinkedIn and then do nothing with it. They’re not putting their best foot forward. They don’t represent themselves or their business very well because for whatever reason they think they don’t have to.

An exercise I have my clients do when I’m training is just Google your name. Google your name and see where is ranks. I bet it’s on the first page, if not the first spot. If somebody is researching you and vetting you out for whatever reason, that LinkedIn profile is out there standing front and center. Is it saying and portraying what you want it to say? Is it updated? Does it have your portfolio on there? Even though you may not be using LinkedIn, other people are using LinkedIn to find you. You have to make sure that it’s updated.

Bob: You know LinkedIn doesn’t get a lot of love when you compare to other social media sites. It’s not fun like Facebook and it’s not cool like Twitter. Tell me what advantages do small businesses have when they’re on LinkedIn?

Well, the first is that Google and LinkedIn play very nicely together. You get a lot of Google love if you have a well written profile or a company page. If you have your own company, make sure you have your company name and brand out there on LinkedIn because Google and LinkedIn play very nicely together. You’re going to get some good traction that way.

But really, it’s to connect with professionals in a professional setting. You can’t do that on Facebook. People are on Facebook for different reasons and are not in the same mindset of doing business when they’re checking their Facebook feeds. And Twitter, a lot of people haven’t adopted Twitter. Again, it’s a different animal. If you truly want to connect with professionals and build your business, LinkedIn is the spot to do that and really to just cut through a lot of that clutter. It may not be fun and it may not be pretty to look at, but it’s effective and can really help boost your business.

Jason: Let’s say, I am totally happy in the position that I’m in, how am I using LinkedIn to not just look for a job?

That’s really my focus. A lot of people think LinkedIn is just a resume or an online job application format and it is not. I focus with people on the lead generation side. Whether you’re a business owner or a sales professionals I really help people who need to fill their calendar with sales appointments and really have a quota of how many people they need to meet each week. We can get right down to the decision-makers. You can’t do that was cold calling. You can’t do that with email marketing or direct mail. You can get to the decision makers on LinkedIn.

The key is being able to define your target audience which a lot of people struggle with.  (If you struggle with this, get our free guide below.) Who are you specifically looking for? If you can give me that information, we can put that into the search criteria on LinkedIn and we can come up with a pool of candidates for you to reach out to. LinkedIn is really about starting a conversation. It’s not about collecting the most people who follow you on Twitter or the most friends on Facebook. It’s about starting a conversation and building a relationship. By targeting your market and offering something of value and being of service to that segment of the population, you’re going to stand out as a thought leader and people are going to come to you any time they need you.

Bob: What are you seeing businesses do that’s really wrong, that they shouldn’t be doing?

Well, the wrong thing is having a profile but not engaging or not checking your profile or the profiles of your employees. There’s a lot of work to be done with companies to figure out how much they can demand of their employees on LinkedIn and how much control over their profile they can have. Being out there, but not using it as an engagement tool is really the most detrimental thing.

I taught a class of realtors a few months ago and it was surprising.  I went through beforehand and looked at profiles of 20 realtors that I would be teaching and 75% did not have contact information on their profile. So, how are realtors contacted…by phone or email! And they didn’t have them listed. Make it easy for people to contact you. Put your phone number out there. Put your email address out there in multiple spots so that if somebody is looking at your profile on LinkedIn, they can reach you outside of LinkedIn and not necessarily connect with you.

Use it. Log in and keep people posted on what you are doing.

Jason: Let’s talk about LinkedIn Groups. There have been a lot of changes. Can you back up and talk about what it was like maybe six months ago and then tell us a little about the changes?

The changes are still kind of settling and we hope that there’s a few tweaks to what they’ve rolled out currently. You can join up to 50 groups. That’s a lot of groups and there’s no way you’re going to keep up with the discussions in all your groups. What is does is help broaden your network so you don’t have to be directly connected with people. You can be part of the same group and converse with them, have discussions with them, and send them direct messages. That’s really the benefit of groups.

To go along with that, you have to make sure you’re joining the right groups. Certainly join groups from your alma mater, from your industry, some where your peers are hanging out. But, the majority of the groups you want to join are where your target market are because that’s going to put you in touch with that demographic. If you participate in the groups where they are hanging out, they’re going to see your name and your face. They’re going to understand the kind of information that you have to share, the value that you add.

Groups, there was a lot of spamming going on in groups. You could join all these groups without anyone really moderating it and you could post whatever you wanted.  The changes that LinkedIn have made have really been to cut down on that spamming. So now in all groups your membership has to be approved.

The search functionality within groups right now is limited to content, not people. That’s one of the things that a lot of us who work within LinkedIn are hoping they change. I used to be able to go into a LinkedIn group and I used to be able to type in “Madison, Wisconsin” and find the people (out of twenty thousand members of the group) who are in Madison. I can’t do that anymore.  If I search for Madison, Wisconsin it has to have appeared in the discussion or a conversation in that group. That functionality has gone away with the recent changes and we hope they will bring it back. Really, the changes were to cut down on the amount of spam and to really foster authentic conversation and discussions that goes on in the groups.

It’s going to be easier for you to stand out in those groups now if you provide some valuable content or start some discussions that get some traction.

Bob: You talked about sharing valuable content. Along with that that, just in general, what do you find that works well for small business?

Social Monday LinkedIn Podcast with Cathy YergesWhat works is sharing information about your company, obviously,  but really offering the answers to those questions that you get all day long. You don’t have to worry about writing the most prolific piece. You can simply answer the questions that you get via email or phone all day long. Just provide that content, either on your company page or in a post that you publish or an update that links to your blog.  That’s really what people are looking for. They are looking for answers. They’re out there trying to find somebody who understands their problems and looking for somebody to solve it. If you demonstrate, through the content that you share, that you understand your demographic and that you have the solution, you’re going to get people contacting you.

Where can we connect with you?

You can connect with me at either my company page, which is BG3 LLC on LinkedIn or on the web. For me personally, I can be found on LinkedIn at Cathy Yerges. But, be sure in the invitation to tell me you heard about me on the podcast (or read this post). Otherwise, I’m not going to know why you want to connect. So personalize the invitation and let me know that you heard of me on Social Monday.

Subscribe to Social Monday.

Cathy Yerges is a LinkedIn strategist and the founder and engagement strategist with BG3. She works with  small business owners to formulate business growth in three different ways –  through LinkedIn lead generation, social media strategy and email marketing. Cathy is also the author of two ebooks, LinkedIn for Business Professional and LinkedIn Strategies for Virtual Assistants. She joins us from Madison, Wisconsin.

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