Raise your hand if you have a LinkedIn account.

Now raise your hand if you haven’t used it since you set it up!

If you’re like many business owners, you set up your LinkedIn account a while ago, but other than serving as an online resume you have no idea what to do with it. But now is the time to change that, because there are many features within LinkedIn that can help you market your small business.

LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool. It is excellent for helping you connect with other professionals with whom you might be able to do business. Whether that’s an employer/employee relationship, a joint venture, or someone that joins your direct sales team, you can find motivated, competent people to connect with for your business when you use LinkedIn effectively.

Here are some ways to take better advantage of your LinkedIn account:

  • Your Profile: Be sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete, and lists all of your experience. Why? Because when people are searching for other people to connect with professionally, they will find you based on the keywords you use in your profile. It’s also a way to highlight your professional experience when people come to check you out. The more experience you have, the more likely it is that someone will choose to work with you.
  • Recommendations: Think about Amazon.com for a moment. Why do you think they include a place for people to leave comments about products? It’s because we’re more likely to believe what other people say about something than what a manufacturer says about its own product. The same holds true for you! When your LinkedIn profile is full of recommendations about how great you are…how committed you are to the professional development of your team…how amazing it is to work with you…people are more likely to believe it! It’s the difference between the resume, and glowing recommendations. Make sure you ask lots of the people that have worked with you to give you recommendations on LinkedIn. It’s an online way to make sure everyone knows how committed you are to the work you do.
  • Groups: LinkedIn also offers Groups, which are an outstanding way to network with others around certain topics, and demonstrate your expertise. Simply search for Groups related to what you do. There are many groups set up for direct sales, product lines, professions, etc. Once you join a group, participate in the conversation, share useful resources, answer questions, and get to know people. As you share great content, people will check out your profile to see who you are (which is why it needs to be complete!) And you can also spark offline conversations with people that may lead to additional business relationships.
  • Answers: Another way to demonstrate your professional expertise on LinkedIn is through LinkedIn Answers. You can find Answers under the “More” section of the LinkedIn top toolbar. Simply browse through the question categories to find questions related to your expertise. Then provide answers to those questions that you can. The more questions you answer, the more you demonstrate your expertise to LinkedIn users, which can lead to future business.

Now all of this, of course, takes time. And you must determine that the target market you want to reach is on LinkedIn. But if LinkedIn’s user base is in line with your goals for social media, making good use of the tools available can help you network professionally and build more opportunities for your business.

Do you use LinkedIn for your business? Does it provide you with additional business opportunities? Would love to read your thoughts on this tool in the comments below.

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