Small Business LinkedIn For 21st Century Customer Engagement
As foreword-thinking folks who've been in business for a number of years will attest, 20th Century business practices no longer cut the mustard. Ushered in by a hockey-stick uptick of Internet usage, small business operators saw the need to seek out new strategies and tactics to achieve more of a competitive edge in the new century. From 'cold calling' to 'glad-handing,' to '3-martini lunches' and other Mad Men type of engagement, savvy new marketers were quick to re-equip their 'old school' toolboxes with a whole new assortment of devices that emerged with the entrée of Web 2.0.
Get with the ToolsThat which came part-and-parcel as a result of this new paradigm shift, included software applications, user-generated content, search engine optimization, citizen journalism, blogs and real-time communication vis a vis social media. For the over-taxed multi-tasking small business owner whose job title is often referred to as the "wearer-of-many-hats," the number of new and innovative tools that became available were initially overwhelming.
Let's Get SocialSocial Networks were the most perplexing. With limitations on resources, it soon became imperative for small businesses to select options that could provide the best ROI (return on investment). However, the question that was asked over and over again - if I only have a finite amount of time and labor force to deploy which "one" social network will garner me, the best results?
With new start-ups entering the online landscape daily, it became a process to separate the wheat from the chaff. Should we go with the early heavy weights like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, or those that came later such as Google+, Pinterest, Instagram or Foursquare? Others like MySpace and Friendster and Orkut could be discounted as they lost favor early on.
Game-ChangerWhile it was obvious that to remain current in our customer's mind's eye, lacking a presence in any one of the primary social network was a major business faux pas. However, it wasn't long before it also became obvious that the one "game-changing" network that displayed more networking heft in the field of business was far and away -- LinkedIn.
Dissimilar to Facebook, Twitter and Google+, this was the one network that did not try to be "all things to all people," but instead focused on building an effective platform to grow one's visibility and engagement online between businesses and customers. And it also became clear that Linkedin was just as important for small businesses, as it was for big brands.
According to LinkedIn's Group Product Marketing ManagerLana Khavinson is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn where she is tasked with driving growth and engagement for LinkedIn. She joined LinkedIn with over ten years of experience working in a variety of marketing capacities at such marquee companies as American Express, Yahoo! and Intuit. In her current role, she is deeply engaged in increasing the adoption of the LinkedIn Company Pages, with a special focus on helping small/medium businesses accelerate their marketing efforts, by providing them with a full menu of tools customized to the small business operator.
"Many small businesses are already using LinkedIn to generate leads, make business connections, and build follower communities around their products and services," according to Lana Khavinson, Group Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.
Social Media TipsThis instructive interview with Khavinson by social media strategist Kim Beasley details some of the pertinent social media tactics small businesses can use to connect with their target markets.
The Year of the Social Media Small Buiness (Infographic)The dedication to small business is further reinforced by Davis Schneider, marketing manager for small business at LinkedIn who recently published an infographic which highlights how 2014 is "The Year of the Social Small Business."
According to Schneider, "small businesses make the US economy tick - they create six out of every ten jobs, and pumped about $3 trillion into the economy last year."
LinkedIn's Small Business ResourceLinkedIn also provides small business entrepreneurs with additional tools, tips and guidance at their 'Small Business Resource,' microsite. There you can learn to brand not only your small business but yourself as an individual - as LinkedIn's definitely proven that our individual 'personal branding,' is just as important as building one's online identity for their companies..
This is a free resource center established purely for educational purposes. Upgrades are available for purchase, but if a company lacks the budget, this resource site will provide you more than enough ammunition to kickstart and arm your firm with a competitive edge.
Distilling LinkedIn Down to Two Tools:As noted previously, because a small owners's time is so valuable, even with LinkedIn's vast capabilities you might only be able to dedicate your energies in limited ways. If that be the case, in terms of practices, Khavinson recommends that small business owners should start by focusing on learning (and eventually mastering) these two tools, above all else.
1. Company pages: For any business, creating a company page is a great starting point for building a presence on LinkedIn. This page is free to create, and it acts as an information hub where LinkedIn users can visit and learn more about your company. A well-planned and executed company page is also a great way to build a community of followers around your brand, making it easy to engage with that community regularly so that these users are always keeping your business in mind.
2. Sponsored updates: Once you create a company page for your business, it’s easy to use LinkedIn’s sponsored updates to extend your reach, build brand awareness and generate leads for prospective clients and customers. For example, if the key demographic your business needs to reach is financial services executives, you can sponsor a company update targeted to this exact demographic. This tool ensures that your company is providing relevant content to the right audience, when they are in the right mindset for doing business.
For more on small business advice and tips, check out the 2014 Small Business Book Awards. For the first time in the "Resource" category, I'm proud to announce that this blog site has been nominated for this year's prestigious award. And feel free to connect with me (Ron Callari) on Linkedin, as I reciprocate with all followers.