Owning a small business today is quite a bit different than even a generation ago. Whereas business owners used to be able to be just that, business people, these days it seems that they are expected to be two parts business person, one part techno-geek, and maybe one part social media maven.
While the good news is that all of that technology has enabled us to do more with less, the bad news is that the time demands put upon today’s business person is more burdensome than ever, begging the question:
Is it really that important to use social media in order to run a business today?
Many small business owners don’t want to be bothered with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. While understandable, that conclusion would be a partial mistake. Of all of the social media outlets out there, you might want to double-check LinkedIn. It just may be the single site that can do the most for most small businesses.
Here are 5 ways:
- Tap into the power of groups: True story – Not long ago a woman was starting a new business. Never having been an entrepreneur before, she decided to join some LinkedIn business groups. But unlike most people, she did more than sign up and receive an occasional group update in her inbox. No, she jumped in with both feet – posting, sharing, networking and helping.
A few months later, she decided that what she really needed was an advisory group, so she put out the word to her groups. Imagine her surprise (and delight) when she was inundated with offers from more than 50 highly qualified people who were willing to sit on her board, and help her, for free.
Connect: Whereas the purpose of Twitter eludes many entrepreneurs, LinkedIn makes eminent sense; after all, networking is in our bones. That said, too few small business people really understand how powerful LinkedIn can be to find and be found by the right people.
Sure, you can use the search feature on LinkedIn to find a specific person, but that’s sort of like using only 10% of your brain; LinkedIn advanced search can do so much more than that. With advanced search, you can powerfully expand your network by searching key words and phrases, professions and titles, industries and companies, experience, schools, zip codes and more. Even better: You can save the search results for later use. To the far right of your search result is a link that says “save this search.”
By the same token, if you play your cards right, you can ensure that when people do their own advanced search, their search result will include your name and profile. Here’s how: Your LinkedIn profile is similar to your website and, like your website, it needs to be chock full of SEO-friendly (Search Engine Optimization) key terms and key phrases. When someone searches for people with your specialty, the more keywords you have that fit their criteria, the higher the likelihood that they will find you.
Let’s say for instance that you are a PR person who used to work for a computer company. You might simply list “PR” “marketing” and “computers” in your Profile and under your Specialties, but you would be better served using more words, and more specific terms such as media, media relations specialist, publicist, IT marketing, IT branding, computer marketing and advertising. As with a website, the more you sprinkle specific SEO phrases around, the higher the likelihood that you will end up in an appropriate search result. If you are unsure what key words to use, there is no need to guess. Check out Wordtracker, a great tool that takes the guesswork out of key words.
Get free market research: LinkedIn has a very active questions and answers area. By posting pertinent questions –questions relevant to your business – you can quickly and inexpensively garner some very valuable feedback.
Added bonus: If you answer a question, you can build buzz by clicking the “share this” button.
Monitor buzz: What are people saying about your business and that of your competitors? LinkedIn has a cool tool that enables you to monitor buzz, called Company Buzz.
5. Discover important events: LinkedIn also has a function that allows you to easily discover important industry events.
So no, Twitter is, fortunately, far from the only social media game in town.
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.
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LinkedIn: Steve Strauss