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How to communicate on LinkedInOne of the most popular social media sites, LinkedIn has become the Facebook for business professionals seeking to expand their network. While at time it seems like only large scale businesses or recruiters use LinkedIn, the site offers a variety of options for small and medium-sized businesses to connect with existing customers and attract new ones. In fact, LinkedIn can effectively increase your business and expand your marketing efforts.

LinkedIn and other social media tools allow you promote your business more quickly and easily than ever before. While most small businesses can’t compete with the costly advertising campaigns utilized by large companies, social media levels the odds as the tools available are the same for all companies regardless of size. Even small niche businesses have the potential to succeed on social media because potential customers interested in your products can be reached globally.

The following 10 tips can help you expand your business through LinkedIn:

1. Create your company page. The first step is to create your company page. Follow the steps here to set it up, keeping in mind that you must verify that you are an official representative of the company. Be thorough and make sure to include images, logos, a detailed description of your business and include all pertinent links and contact information.

2. Maximize your presence. Showcase your products and services with detailed descriptions and images, then ask your connections to recommend them through LinkedIn’s tools. The process is simple and recommendations of your products and services allow prospective customers to view feedback about your business. Don’t forget to post any job vacancies within your company. Your connections, as well as current and prospective customers may have or even be the perfect candidate. LinkedIn also recently created Showcase Pages, which provides companies the opportunity to feature brands, products and services on dedicated pages highlighting specific contents and updates.

3. Update your personal profile. Your profile and those of your employees represent the ‘face’ of your business, therefore a professional LinkedIn profile is the best way to project your desired company image. Always ensure your profile and those of key employees includes:

  • Professional photos.
  • Brief and concise descriptions about you and your position at your company.
  • Industry keywords and terms to further demonstrate your business expertise and what makes you different.
  • Complete education and detailed employment history.

4. Make connections. Networking is critical for growing your business and making connections. Invite your circle of contacts to connect on LinkedIn and grow your personal network, but use a more personal style of invitation instead of LinkedIn’s generic invitation. Once you’ve built up your connections, use LinkedIn’s ‘People You May Know’ tool to seek more. The more connections in your network, the more opportunities to build your customer base.

5. Engage your followers. When updating your company or personal profile pages, take advantage of every option to create content that will engage your followers. Make sure you:

  • Use images – According to LinkedIn, posts with images have a 98% higher comment rate.
  • Include links – Posts linking other content have twice the engagement rate than posts without.
  • Add videos – Adding videos to your company page can result in a 75% higher chance of that video shared by your followers.
  • Post frequently – Companies that post 20 times per month reach at least 60% of their audience, which results to about once per business day.
  • Ask questions – When adding links to your page, don’t just post them and hope someone responds. Be proactive by asking questions about the post to engage your followers.

6. Attract more followers. Start by inviting your customers and connections to follow your company page. Let them know you’ll be providing valuable information and updates, which will make it easy for them to stay informed. Add LinkedIn icons to your website and email signatures, and link the icon to your LinkedIn company page. Keep your followers engaged so they will share your content with their connections and provide your business with  greater exposure and opportunities to attract new followers. Keep tabs of who is following you by clicking on the number of followers near the top of your page. Also explore sponsored updates to attract new followers as well. LinkedIn provides excellent segmentation tools to help you reach your target audience.

7. Join and post in groups. Joining LinkedIn groups is a great way for professionals to network with others in their industry. Ensure you post your content and questions in your industry’s group as well for maximum exposure. Answer questions posted by others and nurture relationships with your peers to make more connections and expand exposure for your business. Consider joining your industry’s association or local chamber of commerce to gain access to their LinkedIn group as well.

8. Follow your customers’ company pages. Stay current with what your customers and their marketing techniques by following their company pages on LinkedIn. Not only will they appreciate your interest but they will likely follow your company page too. This will create an even larger network of connections through which to share your company’s page.

9. Share your members’ posts. When a customer posts something you find valuable on their company page or personal profile, click the ‘share’ button to share the information with your network. This strengthens your relationship with that customer and provides useful information to the rest of your network, which will further engage your followers and encourage them to share your content.

10. Create and share valuable content. Many small businesses are constantly looking for ways to keep their current customers engaged while seeking more customers. You can achieve this online by providing interesting and useful content and resources to your members and followers.

  • Answer customer questions. Take questions from your customers and use them as content on your website or blog, then share it on your LinkedIn page. After all, if one customer has a question, chances are others will probably have some.
  • Find questions they aren’t asking you. Use LinkedIn Groups, Quora, Yahoo Answers, Twitter searches and Google alerts to stay on top of topics and issues relevant to your customers, your business, and your industry. Also, keep up with your competitors to find material for new content.
  • Use numbered lists. Be creative with your content. Using eye-catching titles such as “10 Tips to Grow Your Business Using LinkedIn” creates an instantly appealing headline that promises a quick and informative read that followers will be more likely to read and share.
  • Ask them. The direct approach is best. Ask your customers want they want and give it to them. If you use customer surveys, be sure to ask what products, services and information will help them in the future. You’ll also get new ideas for content.
  • Share others’ content. Augment the value of your content by sharing not only your content but whatever useful information you find on other sites or blogs. Encourage your employees to share your posts within their networks and follow up with questions as well to convey to your followers that your company is in synch with customer needs.

LinkedIn is what you make of it, so keep your pages current and interesting. It’s important to not only promote your business and services, but to remain connected with your network by sharing information with your followers.

The goal is to use LinkedIn to provide valuable information your connections and customers find valuable so they share it with their networks and expand the reach of your business. By using the free tools available on LinkedIn, you can build a strong network and drive growth for your business.