The Small Business Owner's Guide To LinkedIn
Of all the social media platforms out there, LinkedIn might be the one that gets the least mainstream attention, which is odd given it has 875 MILLION users! [Cue Dr. Evil impression]
With it being more business-focused, rather than the influx of nonsense, toxicity and banality you find on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn tends to attract a different kind of user and is generally used in different ways than its more mainstream brethren.
If you own a small business, it's easy to forget about LinkedIn when it comes to your marketing strategy.
Too many people put focus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, often because they're more personally familiar with them, but don't discount LinkedIn too easily.
If you own or manage a small business, there are a lot of benefits to including LinkedIn in your marketing strategy. If it's new to you or you're not fully utilising it, this is the blog for you!
WHO USES LINKEDIN?
As we've just detailed, a lot of people do, but we're not looking at everyone here. As this is a blog for small business owners, we're going to focus on them and how they can get the most from this platform.
Generally speaking, small business owners who are also LinkedIn users often fall into two categories;
those who set up an account in the early days of their online career to act as an easily accessible virtual CV (and then haven't logged in in years!)
those who dabble in it occasionally but don't give it too much attention (compared to Facebook or Instagram).
If you only go by those anecdotes, you might be right not to care too much about LinkedIn or its 850+ million users, but you should!
According to LinkedIn's own marketing solutions page;
4 out of 5 LinkedIn members say it helps drive decisions within their own business.
40% of B2B (Business to Business) marketers say LinkedIn is their most effective channel for driving high-quality leads.
78%of social sellers outsell their peers compared with those that don't use social media at all.
Like any social media platform, LinkedIn has evolved over the years.
Initially, it was almost purely a recruitment platform (hence the number of people posting their CV), but over the years it has grown beyond that. Especially since 2016 when it was bought by Microsoft for $26.2 BILLION! [Another Dr Evil impression]
If you're a small business owner and are wanting to leverage LinkedIn to help drive brand awareness, build relationships and connections and generate leads, we've put together a 4-step guide to help you get started (or revitalise your profile) and show you how to get the best from this platform.
It's important to stress that, in regard to this blog, we're only talking about your personal LinkedIn profile, rather than a company business page. So, without further ado, let's start with...
STEP 1 - Set Up Your Profile
We're probably all familiar with having a social media profile on these networks. This is effectively the window to who you are to the rest of the network.
We all want to find that photo that makes us look younger, slimmer or happier than we might actually be. LinkedIn is no different.
Think of your profile on LinkedIn as your own mini website or online business card. This is what people will see when they first interact with you, so it's important it accurately reflects who you are starting with:
For all the details your profile will hold, the header (aka banner) image will be the first thing people see. There are a number of ways to design your banner, but for small businesses always include your business name, your key services, your website address and a Call-To-Action (Email me / Text Me / DM Me, etc). These work especially well if you're a service-based business.
Whenever you post something, comment or send a message, your profile image is going to be seen and follows you around the site.
When choosing a profile image, find one that (a) represents you properly and (b) attracts attention.
Ideally, your profile picture should:
Be a recent photo of you showing your head / head and shoulders with a clean, uncluttered background.
Show a bright, positive expression (i.e. a nice smiley photo).
Along with your profile and header images and the other standard profile details (name, pronouns, locations, etc), LinkedIn profiles ask for a headline. Think of it like your own personal tagline.
Before you start writing your life story, bear in mind that LinkedIn headlines give you just 220 characters (around 50 words) to describe yourself, so be selective about what you include.
Remember that, outside of your profile page, only the first 10 words or so will show up, to put all the important stuff up front.
Ideally, you should include things like what you do, how you create value and what makes you different. Whilst it's tempting to maximise it, sometimes one clear memorable line can have just as much impact.
Other than your images, the main section of your profile that people will navigate to is the 'Featured' section. This is your opportunity to add links to your website, images, PDF files, posts that have gained traction or anything else you think people need to see.
If part of your value is the experience you've gained, this section is key to showcasing that.
You don't have to include EVERY job you've ever had (not sure that paper round when you were 12 would carry much weight anymore), but certainly include positions that are relevant and, if useful, the dates you started / ended.
This also helps previous colleagues, suppliers, et. to connect with you amidst the other people on there who share your name.
It's one thing for you to tell everyone all about the fantastic things you can do or can offer, but being endorsed by other people ca be the social proof other people might need.
You can request endorsements from the people you work with now or in the past, suppliers and even customers and they will be stored here for all to see.
STEP 2 - Build Your Network
What good is a social network without a network? The real strength of LinkedIn, especially for a small business, is the power of the people you connect with.
Now you have a solid profile of your own, it's time to start curating a network of people who can help you succeed.
Whereas on Facebook, where you have 'friends' who can see your posts, on LinkedIn, your network is split into two camps;
Connections are the way most people will understand or be familiar with LinkedIn. Like Facebook's friend process, you send and receive invitations to 'connect'.
These will often be friends, family, people you work with, or have worked with in the past, or those you have done business with over the years. You may have a business relationship with them or maybe you just met at a conference/event.
Generally, they will be people you know (to some degree) but not always. There's absolutely nothing to stop you from adding complete randoms to the list, but we wouldn't recommend it.
Over time, as you accept their invitations and they accept yours, you start to build up a network of connections and your little LinkedIn community grows.
As you are now connected, you can see their posts and they can see yours. You can also message them directly. Fundamentally it's now a two-way virtual relationship that you can build upon.
Followers on the other hand are generally a one-way street. By following someone on LinkedIn, you will still be able to see and read the posts they make, but you won't be connected to them in the same way as if they're a 'connection'.
If people start to follow you (rather connect to you), likewise, they will see your posts, but unless you follow them back, you won't see theirs. This works similiar to Twitter as in you have followers (who follow you), and those you follow. They don't have to be the same.
Statistically, you will always be able to see how many followers someone has (and they will be able to see yours). That is also true of Connections, but only up to 500. Any more than that and you will just see the rather more ambiguous 'more than 500 connections'.
Now you might be thinking that, once your network of followers and connections starts to rise, everyone will be waiting patiently for your next post and everyone will be able to see it. Sadly that's not the case.
Yes, they WILL be able to see it, but it won't necessarily be automatically added to their newsfeed. In other words, that connection doesn't guarantee prominence of your content.
Just like almost all social networks, there is an algorithm at play that provides you with your newsfeed which won't include everyone you're following.
LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter show you a cross-section of posts from people you're connected with and yours might not make the cut. Generally, people are served posts from those they engage with more often.
However, if there's someone you're following and are keen to be notified every time they post new content, you can choose to 'ring their bell'. This guarantees that you'll see their content.
This might be because they're a colleague, someone who posts inspirational or interesting content you like, your dream employer or you're just sucking up to the boss. Hey, we've all done it!
When you go to the profile of one of your connections, you'll see an outline of a 'bell' icon. If you want to be notified when they post, click this icon. It will change from an outline to a solid (as shown below).
Growing Your Network
Before you start spamming everyone you've ever looked at on LinkedIn, take a moment. LinkedIn's algorithm, like all others, changes regularly.
At the time of writing (Feb. 2023), you can only send 100 connection requests every week, but growing your network needs a little more work than sending requests to any and everyone you like the look of.
To grow your LinkedIn network and BEFORE you send a Connection request:
Take time to read their profile and pick out any commonalities or talking points.
Make sure it's an active profile.
There's no point in sending a request to a user whose profile hasn't been updated in years.
If they are active, send a unique message with each request.
Don't just copy-n-paste the same generic message to everyone or just send a request in isolation with no message at all. Use those commonalities or talking points to make your introduction.
Don't just talk about how amazing you are (which we're sure you are) or pitch to them straight off the bat. Building your network is about other people, not you!
Connection messages work better when there's substance to them. If you have no response after a month or so, withdraw the request. They are either not interested or active. Don't take it personally and just move on.
STEP 3 - Create Content
For all of your who read our blogs regularly, you'll know about our 'content is king' mantra. You won't be surprised to learn that, when it comes to LinkedIn, this is still more than valid!
For all of its 800+ million users only around 2% of them actually create content for the platform on a regular basis, so if you're one of them, then you're already onto a winner. If not, there's a huge market for you to explore.
If you're looking to stand out from the competition, then LinkedIn might be your content creation ground zero!
That said, the golden rules of content creation are just as applicable on LinkedIn as they are on any platform, namely:
Even if you're writing from a business account, write it as a person and give it personality.
Make them easy to read; no huge swathes of text so, where possible, break them down into shorter snappy sentences, bullet points, etc. Text that's easily digestible.
Aim for around 300 - 400 words (max).
Balance your posts to keep them interesting for you and your audience.
There are a number of 'formulas' you can use for this (80-20, Rule of Thirds, Declining Deck - more on those here) but for LinkedIn, a good one is:
More than half of your posts should be designed to offer educational, engaging content on your particular area of speciality or business expertise but not asking for anything in return (i.e. no newsletter sign-ups, email capture, etc). Just you sharing your insight.
20% are Personal
An insight into who you are as a person (obviously not TOO personal) but share what you love to do in your spare time, any pets, health challenges, volunteer work, business learnings from YOUR unique perspective, etc.
Posts about your business but without the hard sell; testimonials, case studies, business events you've attended, campaigns you're part of, etc.
More direct selling posts where you can talk about the product/service you offer, pricing, special offers, discounts, etc.
If you're going to use images to illustrate your post (which you should) make sure they're eye-catching to draw people's eye as they scroll through.
End your posts with a very clear Call-To-Action (CTA).
STEP 4 - Engage With People!
LinkedIn, like any other social network, is all about creating connections and building relationships with other people.
Just having a profile on this, or any other network isn't enough, you have to engage with other people on the platform for it to be effective. Thankfully, this engagement doesn't have to take long to be useful for you.
Now you have a growing network, it's important to cultivate it. Every day, take a little time to;
Log in (obvs).
Scroll through your news feed to see what your connections have been posting (remember to ring the bell of those you particularly want to follow).
Where appropriate/relevant, leave some positive comments or offer your own point of view on business matters.
These don't have to be ground-breaking to be useful, just show you're engaged.
If you want to reach people via direct messages, then DO NOT turn it into a sales pitch.
If you're curious about what they do, ask questions but do so with a degree of humanity and personality.
When making your own posts, commenting on other peoples or sending messages include some questions (to generate engagement / replies).
It's also a good idea to engage with those people with large (or larger) networks, just so you get more visibility.
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
There's no denying that engaging with LinkedIn, or any social media, takes a little time and a modicum of effort, but like anything else, putting the work in pays dividends, especially for a small business where budgets are small and resources even more so.
Being able to directly engage with hundreds, if not thousands, of new potential clients and connections and having your business insights put in front of these decision-makers can only be a good thing.
Not only that, but if you're looking to drive brand awareness and generate leads through those all-important business relationships, then LinkedIn is a critical tool in your marketing arsenal. You don't have to work for a huge conglomerate to make it work for you.
Do you use LinkedIn for your own small (or large) business? How do you find it? What works for you? Have you made any lasting connections on there that helped your business? Let us know in the comments below.
Also, if there's another social network you'd like us to write a guide for, drop a comment below.
If you'd like to keep up with us at CubeSquared Digital, you can follow our own Business Page on LinkedIn, which is linked here. It's where we post links to all of our latest blogs so be sure to connect with us. Feel free to ring our bell ;-)
Original blog photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash