LinkedIn: Ten ways SMEs can harness LinkedIn to grow their businesses–Economic Times–01.06.2018

Like most enterprising individuals from his demographic cohort, 26-year-old Akash always wanted to start his own venture until he did. Early last year, he launched an offbeat food-tech company which was whipping up healthy breakfast smoothies for office workers on the go.

But he may have bitten off more than he could chew and choked on the overwhelming number of orders that came in. Without a robust supply chain or an efficient logistics network, his venture crumbled before it could make a real impact.

However, not all dorm room experiments have to suffer the same fate. Small companies developed from modest resources can scale on the back of meaningful connections by simply leveraging the power of social media. Platforms like LinkedIn can help novice entrepreneurs increase their visibility, build credibility, identify movers and shakers in the industry, and find the right people to further augment their ideas.

Although LinkedIn largely offered recruitment solutions to businesses back in the day, it has matured into a multi-pronged platform for companies to engage an audience and build a strong professional network.

“LinkedIn has constantly been developing new tools and solutions to help organizations reach the right audience for a variety of business goals,” says Director-Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn India, Virginia Sharma. “We offer a variety of tools that businesses can use to hire the right talent, upskill them, build their employer brand and at the same time market and sell to the right audiences in a professional context,” she adds.

Here’s how SMEs can harness LinkedIn to proliferate their businesses:

1. Create a company profile: This page should accurately carry key information about the company, including updated contact details. By enabling one to highlight core products and services, it strengthens the brand for stakeholders as well as customers. Moreover, it is absolutely free.

“A company’s LinkedIn profile should highlight its professional story (including its mission, history and culture), describe its competitive advantage, and build trust in the company,” says Sharma.

2. Post articles: Writing and posting content that address topics relevant to the industry is a great way to create a strong identity for the company and thereby attract the right talent. These posts, which would appear on the company’s profile, will also be notified to its connections on LinkedIn.

According to Sharma, publishing articles and videos is an excellent way to invite engagement on the platform. “Since these articles can be shared by other connections, it can boost a company’s visibility too,” she adds.

3. Ask and answer questions: There is more than one way for companies to ask and answer questions, the most effective being polls. The resultant data can then be used to make improvements to day to day operations. Employees can take initiatives in these activities, updates of which will show up on the newsfeed of connections.

4. Participate/create in LinkedIn groups: Joining industry groups and sharing company material in these groups (such as articles, blog posts etc) can boost a company’s perception among audiences by possibly establish it as a likely expert in the matter. It also offers a great platform to engage with potential customers.

Alternately, one can also create a group for the industry one represents since the likelihood of broad group pages getting traction is more. Pay close attention to the name and logo of the group – since logos have a very small display, it should have minimal text. This can be displayed on members’ profiles.

5. Be liberal with messages and invitations, but DO NOT SPAM: According to Sharma, one’s goal is to create a mutually beneficial professional network and the first step is to form and deepen connections with customers, mentors, employees and peers.
It is advisable to start with people one might know and then build on from there. These could include people in the same industry and leaders in the field. A helpful tip could be to search under “Companies” tab to locate employees working in the same industry.

6. Advertising on LinkedIn: LinkedIn offers different types of ad formats that can be used in creative ways for businesses to receive a demonstrable impact and deliver compelling return on investment.

(1)LinkedIn Sponsored Content enables brands to run native advertising campaigns to amplify their content in a professional context on the LinkedIn feed. “Advertisers can allow relevant content to appear alongside organic content in members’ LinkedIn feeds across desktop, tablet and mobile devices,” says Sharma. “When members click on a native ad, this feature pulls LinkedIn profile data (like job title, company name and contact details) into a form that members can submit with one click,” she adds.

(2) Additionally, Sponsored InMail allows businesses to send personalised messages to people who matter the most to a given business. To drive stronger results, businesses can also use Dynamic Ads to create dynamically personalized ads on LinkedIn. “Dynamic Ads use LinkedIn profile data to personalize ads at scale so one can launch campaigns quickly,” says Sharma.

7. Build awareness with relevant audiences: To compete with more established brands, SMEs need to first build awareness for their brand. They can use a variety of native advertising solutions such as Sponsored InMail and Dynamic Ads to reach the right audience.

8. Upgrading to a paid membership: This can be the gateway to additional contact options and features, among other benefits. There are four categories to choose from – Career, Business, Sales and Hiring. It is advisable to go for a free trial first, however.

9. Connect Twitter and LinkedIn accounts: This feature enables one to post a LinkedIn status message to Twitter and alternately add a tweet into a LinkedIn status, helping one build connections simultaneously.

10. Upskill and learn: Finally, LinkedIn learning solutions platform is a great way to help business upskill and develop their talent. SMEs can use some of the learning modules available to look at the most in-demand skills and upskill their current workforce to ensure they are future-proof.

“Social media has become a necessity for businesses today and has become a major catalyst in transforming the relationship between brands and customers, and has opened the doors to engage with a diverse audience spread across geographies,” says Sharma. “Gaining loyalty, credibility and trust, and building authority will be one of the most important goals for SMEs in 2018,” she adds.

via LinkedIn: Ten ways SMEs can harness LinkedIn to grow their businesses

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