For our Wednesday edition of using social media, today is LinkedIn. If you think LinkedIn is only for those who are looking for a new job, you need to keep reading. If you think you start new LinkedIn profiles with each new job, let me just say, it is NOT a 401k! It is yours, take it with you, but MAKE it about your business, whether you are the owner or not!
This was a guest article at LinkedIN’s blog in April of 2010, but is still among the best I’ve read!
Ed. note: This is a guest post from Guy Kawasaki, co-founder at AllTop, syndicated from his web column on American Express’ OPEN Forum blog. Feel free to leave a comment, share a favorite small business tip or ask Guy a question in the comments section.
When I first blogged about ten ways to use LinkedIn, the site had 8.5 million total users worldwide. I’m told that now there are over twelve million small-business people on LinkedIn, which is roughly 20 percent of its total user base.
Many of these small-business people are using the site in ways you’d commonly imagine: finding leads, growing their business globally, or finding the right vendors. My buddies at LinkedIn recently provided me a list of ten additional ways small businesses can use LinkedIn:
- Acquire new customers through online recommendations and word of mouth. Satisfied customers are the best source of new customers. Increase your word of mouth referrals by asking your happy clients to write you a recommendation, which will be published on your LinkedIn profile and will be broadcast to their entire LinkedIn network.
- Keep in touch with people who care most about your business. Sites like LinkedIn help keep your business alive in the minds of the people who care most about your business. LinkedIn is effective for two reasons: the business intent of LinkedIn users and fewer status updates, which mean you stay on top of mind. Tip: You can also increase the impact of your status updates by syncing your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
- Find the right vendors to outsource services you’re not an expert on. Think of the number of times you’ve asked your colleagues if they knew of a great web designer or photographer. LinkedIn makes it easy for you to find and vet vendors through the network of your peers. Additionally, you can also trade services with your vendor connections on LinkedIn; sort of a mutual referral system.
- Build your industry network—online and in person. Search LinkedIn’s Groups directory to find industry associations and networks to take part in. For example, if you’re in the event planning or wedding industry, there are over 530 groups. In addition, LinkedIn also surfaces popular events in your industry calling out local events that your connections are attending. Imagine being able to find only industry events that your prospective clients are attending.
- Get answers to tough business questions with a little help from your real friends. Small business owners deal with challenging questions on a slew of topics each day. LinkedIn Answers and Groups let you find answers to those vexing questions quickly by tapping into the wisdom of your network (LinkedIn tells me there are over 200 different categories on Answers including one dedicated just to small business and over 2000 groups on small business related topics). Wondering whether your recent office purchase is tax deductible? Check out hundreds of questions on related topics here.
- Win new business by answering questions in your area of expertise. Use the many forums on LinkedIn to share the knowledge you’ve gained in your area of expertise. This is a great opportunity to win new business or at least find prospective clients to pitch your business to. Prospective customers will find your answers when they use LinkedIn’s advanced Answers search. And don’t forget, what goes around comes around. Don’t forget, this is a great way to soft pitch your skills and expertise.
- Raise funding. You can use LinkedIn to find mentors or potential investors for your startup because there are over three million startup professionals and over 12M small business professionals on LinkedIn and it’s always good to stay in touch with folks who’ve been there, done that and willing to mentor you. Once you’re connected, your participation on LinkedIn (answers, status updates or group conversations) may even cause them to consider investing in your small business.
- Network with peers in your industry for repeat business referrals. LinkedIn Groups is a powerful medium to find peers in your respective industries to network with and to find complimentary businesses to share referrals with. For example, mortgage brokers can find real estate agents to partner with on relevant groups and as most small businesses know, these partners are your best source of referrals that can turn into repeat business. With over 2000 groups dedicated to small business topics, you’re sure to find a relevant group to network.
- Convince potential customers of your expertise by sharing unique blog content. Small businesses smart enough to create unique content on their expertise (either with a blog or twitter account) should link to it from their LinkedIn profiles. Or take it one step further by promoting featured blog content to LinkedIn members on the site (for e.g. with small text ads). You can specify exactly who will see your ads—Executives or VPs—and include a link to your profile so they know who’s behind this content.
- Keep your friends close and your competition closer. Over 150,000 companies have a company profile on LinkedIn, the “public profile” for companies. These pages surface key stats on companies; recent hires as well movers and shakers. Not only do company profiles give you unique insight into your competition, they also give you an opportunity to stumble upon potential hires by browsing through company pages.
I hope this helps you take LinkedIn beyond the usual uses and makes your small business even more successful.
This your captain speaking! LinkedIn is a powerful tool and the tips above are wonderful. The key is to use it, complete each and every part of your profile, make sure you update your profile at LEAST annually if not twice a year (yes, I’m due to update mine!), and share not only information but of yourself. Offer recommendations, ask & answer questions, respond to requests, get active in the groups you join.
I veer away from the standard LinkedIn rule in one relatively significant way. I don’t just accept friend requests from people I know. LinkedIN for me is not just about connecting with my network and sharing information about the Chamber but about networking. If I only network with people I already know, that really isn’t networking … that is called relationships!
Tomorrow in our social media week – blogging!
Can you believe it has been a year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers heralded the economic upheaval of 2008-09, a year since it was officially announced we were in a recession and nearly a year since a Presidential election brought significant change to our political landscape?
Whew! What a ride it has been and, no, I don’t mean the “E” Ticket kind at Disneyland. It is been trying and difficult yet it has also been a time of people doing what people always do. Looking for ways to be better people, securing the future for themselves and their families, and making plans for the future while getting through the day-to-day. We don’t always agree with each other or with the solutions proffered, but part of being an American is having the conversation – and being blessed with the legally protected ability to do so. Unfortunately, some of the conversations recently were less than civil and respectful; I’m very proud of our members and the event we held in August on healthcare with Congressman Kagen. It accomplished all I wanted it to: Direct information from someone intimately involved in the process was given, all submitted questions were answered, and it was a dignified, respectful event.
This last year saw the arrival of a great number of new members to the Chamber and many new businesses to our community, along with the closure of (thankfully only) a few. That is also part of the normal cycle of business, but it doesn’t lessen the sadness to see them go. As an entrepreneur myself, I have great respect and empathy for those who take the plunge. It is a rewarding and exciting journey that is wrought with perils and challenges. We stand ready to assist you in all those ways we can.
Here at the Chamber, it’s been nearly two years since I started in my role with the organization and we are completing year one of our Plan of Action. We are looking toward the future and examining our current Plan of Action for revisions, deletions and/or additions for next year. It is a normal course of business for us and I’m sure many of you are doing the same for your businesses. We are also crafting budgets for next year. Since chambers invented the “naming rights” model (the sports world stole it from us!!), we are looking at our events and programs for sponsorship opportunities for 2010. Don’t be surprised when you get a call from Kim or Rick regarding a great opportunity to partner your business with an outstanding opportunity for visibility for you while at the same time giving us the funds we need to do all the community and economic development work we do. If you aren’t a member yet, don’t be surprised to get that call too!!
Before I let the opportunity slip away, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to everyone who was involved with successful and fun Fall Fest De Pere 09 and the first ever St Norbert Day held on the 19th. I especially want to recognize and thank Ryan Jennings (xo Fitness), Margie Ott (Bank Mutual) and Amy Sorenson (St Norbert College). We met for months coordinating that one day and they were great to work with. I also want to give my heartfelt thanks to Rick Steeber and Brian Lueth, chamber staff. Gentlemen, the day itself would never have come together without your tireless work that week and day. Many thanks also go to the City of De Pere Public Works for the donation of their time to handle the detours and street closures. It was a Saturday and, gentlemen, we thank you.
I hope to see many, many of you at Apple Creek Inn Friday day for our 4th Annual Taste of Wine & Beer. If you don’t have tickets, call us NOW! We have room for you and this is a great night at a relaxed not to be missed event all for only $30! (<—– shameless plug)
As always, my very best regards and gratitude,
I know there have been many (many!) “social networking” “social media” seminars lately and I’ve been to a few.
What did I know before I went?
- If you aren’t in the social media mode, you need to be because your customers increasingly are and your competitors are (or will be)
- If you aren’t in yet, you need to have it as part of your overall communications and media strategy (be able to define that you: know your product, your customers, your potential customers and your competitors)
- It takes additional time, but is a necessity.
- If you aren’t in yet – get in.
What did I know after I went?
All of the above!!
Here is a Twitter 101 for businesses. I’m not going to post it all, just a few highlights and a LINK HERE to the whole article.
So what does Twitter do for businesses?
Twitter is a communication platform that helps businesses stay connected to their customers. As a business, you can use it to quickly share information with people interested in your company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about your company. As an individual user, you can use Twitter to tell a company (or anyone else) that you’ve had a great—or disappointing—experience with their business, offer product ideas, and learn about great offers.
So how does it work?
Twitter lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters, or the very length of this sentence, including all punctuation and spaces. The messages are public and you decide what sort of messages you want to receive—Twitter being a recipient driven information network. (it is about the reader, not the poster)
So how do businesses use Twitter?
Twitter connects you to your customers right now, in a way that was never before possible. For example, let’s say you work for a custom bike company. If you run a search for your brand, you may find people posting messages about how happy they are riding your bikes in the French Alps—giving you a chance to share tips about cyclist-friendly cafes along their route.
Others may post minor equipment complaints or desired features that they would never bother to contact you about—providing you with invaluable customer feedback that you can respond to right away or use for future planning. Still others may twitter about serious problems with your bikes—letting you offer customer service that can turn around a bad situation.
But Twitter isn’t just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers.
I know you have a lot to do … I know this is more and seems silly – but if your customers and your customers are reading these quick marketing messages, don’t you want them reading yours?
Due to an unfortunate password issue, we had to get a new blog! I’ll be figuring out how to add our old blog – but for now: HERE IS THE LINK FOR A GOOD NUMBER OF ENTRIES!! at our old blog site.
Now to new information:
SBA has a new pilot loan program, it began July 1st and is for auto, RV and other dealerships can apply for SBA guaranteed floor plan financing, which will make it easier for these small businesses to borrow against their inventory and increase their cash flow. More information here and HERE
An interesting article from the Wall Street Journal on how businesses are caring (“coddling”) their customers more in these more challenging times. How are you caring for YOUR customers?
This one, regarding the “death of the corner pharmacy” reminded me of working with my Grandparents in the inventory service, when the local corner pharmacy was THE business to have.
Good article for buying & selling small businesses.
Finally! Did you know that Main Street De Pere turns 20 in 2010?? Incredible work has been done in De Pere by amazing people during the last 19 years. I got the following report from Wisconsin Main Street on the first 20 years of the program in the state of Wisconsin. Check out this information:
The twenty (20) Year figures as reported in the 2007-2008 annual report:
Promotional Events: 2,583 (10 years)
Total Attendance: 5,731,369 (10 years)
Public Improvements: 1,336
Public Investment: $208,647,686
Building Rehabilitations: 4,791
Private investment in
Building Rehabilitations: $280,134,440
New Businesses: 3,542
New Jobs: 15,930
New Buildings: 248
in New Buildings: $277,739,154
Buildings Sold: 1,411
in Buildings sold: $207,021,468
Housing Units: 511
Total Private Investment: $764,895,062
Total Public & Private
That is almost $1 Billion increase in value. That pays for a lot of local, services, schools, technical colleges services, and even removes the snow.
Until next time!!