The numbers alone tell the story of the benefits of LinkedIn for small businesses. With now over 100 million registered members plus 1 million new members joining each week, the importance of Linkedin can be neither denied nor ignored in small business marketing and networking strategies. Over a million companies—many small businesses like yours—agree. That’s the 2011 tally of company pages posted on Linkedin. That same year, more than 2 billion people searches were conducted on the site. Behind these abstract numbers, however, are concrete advantages of a LinkedIn presence that will help your enterprise thrive in today’s networked environment. Here are just a few of the benefits of LinkedIn for small businesses:
- Easy (And Free) Market Research. You can earmark a considerable budget of time and money for polling and focus groups to find out where the market’s trending in products or services. Or, you can utilize LinkedIn’s Q&A feature to query your targeted audience online. Find out quickly how a prospective product of yours might be received or how existing products are faring now. Get candid feedback on where improvements are needed.
- Be Your Own Head-Hunter. Another advantage of LinkedIn for small businesses is free access to people with talent and experience in your particular industry. You’ll benefit from exposure to these professionals and may even wish to make some of them part of your team. LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function is a powerful recruiting tool that allows you to people-search it’s massive membership using keyword criteria such as experience, previous employers and geographic location. Finding talented locals and bringing them on board is easy and free.
- Watch The Competition. While you’re on LinkedIn expanding your network and developing new contacts, your competitors are utilizing the advantages of LinkedIn for small businesses to accomplish the same thing. You can track who they are adding to their network, read their updates and get a feeling for what they’re thinking and where they’re heading. By staying up to date with a competitor’s Company Page on LinkedIn, you can monitor personnel changes and job openings—more vital pieces of intelligence that can inform you about the status and direction of the company.
- Hard Questions, Easy Advice. When you’re stumped about what move to make next or how to overcome an obstacle to your success, LinkedIn Answers allows you to connect with the collective wisdom and real-world experience of thousands of business owners who’ve been there and done it all. Answers features over 200 different categories where you can post questions and concerns and get fast advice and counsel on all facets of running a small business.
- Find Funds. With over 12 million small business owners and three million startup experts on LinkedIn, you’ll develop contacts and relationships with people in the position to become mentors and more. As your participation expands with status updates on your business, postings on Answers and involvement in group conversations within your industry, you’ll be well-positioned to draw the attention of investors seeking financial opportunities in high-potential businesses.
- Insider Outsourcing. Frequently your business requires services you can’t perform yourself and you don’t know where to start to outsource it. Whether you’re looking for a tax expert or a web designer or a caterer for the company party, LinkedIn's vast network connects you with vendors and service providers for every known small business need. In addition to referrals, you can utilize your LinkedIn contacts to solicit opinions and reviews of providers before you outsource services.