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Five Ways Small Businesses Can Benefit From LinkedIn

09.30.2013
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Social media in general is a phenomenal marketing tool, but some networks have far more business potential than others. Whereas sites like Facebook and Twitter appeal to the masses, sites like LinkedIn take a niche-based approach to focus on professional audiences. Now boasting well over 100,000 registered users, LinkedIn has garnered the reputation as a platform companies and entrepreneurs can't afford to overlook. While the site is home to some of the biggest brands across multiple industries, it is diverse enough to benefit smaller organizations as well.

Still have a blind eye turned to LinkedIn? Here are five specific ways this powerful social network can benefit your small business.

1. Networking  

As a small business owner, you probably already have a network compromised of the key movers and shakers from your industry. Well, LinkedIn can help you build on that existing network and grow it by leaps and bounds. The groups feature is the perfect tool for the job. For instance, if you operate a design firm, you can use groups to mingle with developers, publishers, marketers and other professionals who not only keep you abreast of industry demands, but point you in the direction of clients. There are thousands of groups in numerous small business categories, so no matter what you do, you are almost certain to find something relevant to drive your networking endeavors.

2. Competitive Analysis

There is an old saying that goes something like: “keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer”.  It's a good piece of advice to follow because there is a lot to be learned from your competitors. LinkedIn lends itself to highly efficient competitive analysis with features that allow you to easily keep tabs on the competition. There are literally hundreds of thousands of companies with profiles on the network, making it possible to find out when they're recruiting, when they're hiring, when they're rolling out new products and much more.

Because many companies choose to make their profiles public to maximize visibility, you can either monitor your competitors from afar by simply checking for their updates, or move in closer by following them. Following your rivals gives you an opportunity to stay up to date with everything they're doing on LinkedIn. Who knows – you may be able to gather the intelligence needed to find out where they're headed and even steal top-notch talent right from under their noses.

3. Market Research

With the conversations and all the data they generate, social networks have become gold mines for market for researchers. LinkedIn is one of the best of the bunch. Not only can you learn a lot by mingling in groups, you can gather valuable insights by using the Q&A feature. This feature comes in handy for communicating with your industry peers or directly to your target audience. For example, with the right questions, you can get a general idea of how customers might respond to a new product or what they might be looking for in the way of content. If your niche has a pulse on LinkedIn, you can extract valuable life from it.

4. Chance to Flex Expertise

The other side of the LinkedIn Q&A function is the answering component, and it has happens to be an effective way to showcase your expertise. Savvy professionals have formed meaningful relationships, while some have even secured new business using this feature. You can also flaunt your authority in relevant in forums and groups that are related to your area of specialty. Establishing your expertise may take some time, but don't fret, because new clients may very well find you and your answers by using the search feature.

5. Recruiting

Recruitment is one of many things LinkedIn has become known for over the years. Professionals are literally looking to sell themselves based on education and expertise, so talent is abundant. In some cases, the true go-getters will seek you out, but if you have urgent staffing needs, you can get on the prowl and conduct some serious headhunting. LinkedIn's Advanced Search feature is incredibly useful as it lets you find professionals who might benefit your team. By using criteria relating to areas such as location, experience, and previous occupation, you may be able to discover the perfect match.

Conclusion

Every social network offers a little something different, but LinkedIn arguably offers the most to businesses and entrepreneurs. From research to recruiting, this fast growing platform has you covered. Now that you know the benefits, it's time to start fleshing out your profile and establishing a real presence. The longer you wait, the more you may have to play catchup.  

Francis Santos is the Marketing Manager for Benchmark Events. He graduated from Cal State Long Beach and holds a degree in Journalism. In addition, he is also the executive editor for separate popular news blogs. Follow him on Twitter.

Published at DZone with permission of Paul Andrews, author and DZone MVB.

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