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A common question asked by start ups and small business owners these days is “which social network is the best?” The answer is simple. The social channel that suits your business and meets your marketing goals is the best. But the sad fact is, many SMBs have not looked beyond Facebook and Twitter. They have not tapped into the power of LinkedIn to increase business revenue and connect with like minded people. Many still assume, or rather presume, that LinkedIn is a repository of online resumes. The fact is this is a professional social networking site where you can optimize your brand, network with people who share your business interest, advertise, form groups and also enter into discussions and share your opinions and suggestions with other entrepreneurs.

What is LinkedIn and why you should be there

Simply put, LinkedIn is a social networking channel for professionals of various professions, without the distractions of games and other applications which are commonly found in other social networks. It is the largest professional online network with presence in more than 200 countries. Here are a few reasons why all small business owners should have a member profile and company page on LinkedIn. You could rightly say that your LinkedIn profile is your online business card because it informs your clients and potential customers about the nature of your business and why they should connect with you. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile yet, create one today.

• Increasing the Internet presence – If you have a profile on LinkedIn and Google your name, your profile will be listed on the first page of Google. This shows that LinkedIn has some sort of search engine optimization arranged with Google.

• Does a wonder to your SEO Efforts – LinkedIn has an option to display your websites and blog. Instead of giving boring URLs, give catchy keyword phrases which will describe your company. When using specific keyword phrases, your profile will rank above all others they search for your specific keyword.

• Networking - LinkedIn helps with networking. When you share your expertise and blog content with members of your group, they will knowingly or unknowingly share through word-of-mouth publicity to their friends and peers about your business. Sharing content and knowledge that you post online is made easier when you have a profile on LinkedIn.

• Platform for showcasing your expertise - On LinkedIn, you can form groups and invite your colleagues and also like minded people. Similarly you can also join various groups that suit your business. Here, you can post questions and at the same time answer the queries posted by various members of the group. This way you can demonstrate your expertise in your specific field.

• Ads Campaign in LinkedIn - Did you know that you can create direct Ads Campaign on LinkedIn? When you create ad campaigns on LinkedIn, you are targeting specific groups of professionals who have a need for your type of business.

• Meet your clients/potential customers through events – LinkedIn has an interesting feature called ‘Events.’ Here you can create an event and invite your vendors, clients and potential customers. Even if you are not hosting an event but are planning to attend a business event organized by someone else you, can post it on LinkedIn. This is an opportunity to meet prospective clients and also a great way to promote your business.

Difference between Member Profile and a Company Page

A member profile is the profile of any individual while a company page displays the company’s profile. LinkedIn encourages you to have both a member and company profile. The reason being that member profiles are all about personal branding, while a Company Page will showcase your products or services i.e. your business brand. A member profile and Company Page should be consistent and blend with one another. This will give a complete picture about you and your business to prospective client.

How Small Business Should Use LinkedIn to their Advantage

SMBs must embrace social media to grow their business. It goes without saying that LinkedIn is a great channel for staying connected with people who you already know. However, it is also a great resource to make new connections and also find new customers. LinkedIn has many paid and unpaid services that small business owners should use to their advantage. Some of the services offered by LinkedIn include Company pages, in Mails, LinkedIn Ads and so on. Remember, if you are opting for free services, then you can only see the second degree connections. That is people who know people you know. However, if you are willing to pay a nominal monthly fee that starts at $25, you can go through the profile of members beyond your second degree network. If you are a premium member then you can use in Mail to contact any member of LinkedIn. Here are a few to tips to use LinkedIn to turn your business around.

Online recommendations and word help to get new clients/customers - You can ask your customers to write recommendation on your LinkedIn profile. This is more than enough to send word across to your network about your credibility.

Be active in LinkedIn groups – To keep your business alive among your groups, you should participate in group discussions. You can post questions and also answer ones posted by other members. This will help showcase your knowledge in that particular domain.

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