Why Small Businesses Are Getting LinkedIn Wrong [Wall Street Journal]

Here are tips on how small businesses can use LinkedIn.

Don’t use it for marketing. Smaller companies need to be strategic about where they invest their content-marketing budgets…..By all means, cross-post the occasional article or update to LinkedIn, but focus on it as a source of connections and expertise—not as a way of building an audience or brand awareness.

Tap your network for trips. While large companies may have sales teams in multiple cities, small firms must squeeze the most out of every business trip. Once salespeople book the meetings and events that constitute the primary purpose of a trip, they should use LinkedIn to fill the calendar with more meetings….

Don’t help competitors. It’s great to have collegial relationships with other people in your field. But when connecting on LinkedIn, it pays to be a little cutthroat…. In a small town or industry, some exposure is inevitable, but there’s no reason to make competitors’ work easier for them by accepting their connection requests.

Keep critical activity private. ….So if small-business people don’t want somebody to know they’re looking at their profile, they should open a private browsing window. Conversely, small-business people should be sure to look periodically at who has viewed their profile, because it may provide useful insights into their own business.

Don’t focus on lead generation. …Instead, a small firm should polish and update its page only often enough to attest to its credentials, professionalism and experience.

Sell the business, not yourself. …Small-business executives should include a descriptive summary of their business, leveraging the brand of top clients, like “CFO of Acme Accounting, financial advisers to The Gap and Target.” Likewise, for founders, executives or principals in a small business, a profile needs to tell a story that’s bigger than their own career: It needs to tell the story of the business or brand. An exec can weave the two narratives together by showing the value the company brings to customers and noting the contributions the exec has made to that effort.

Get focused when hiring. …If a small firm knows a couple of people who represent its dream hire, the firm should use their LinkedIn profiles to reverse-engineer a dream applicant: What are the roles and experiences those dream candidates had before they landed in their current positions? The firm can then search for people who hold similar positions, and assemble a candidate pool.

Ask for help. Bidding on a government contract for the first time? Instead of hiring a consultant, ask the LinkedIn network for its collective wisdom. Need a new supply-chain management tool? Skip the costs of commissioning an assessment, and ask LinkedIn pals what they are using. Joining LinkedIn groups can help small-business people broaden the range of expertise they can access. But this approach only works for people who are generous helpers in turn: Users should make sure they check into each of their key groups at least monthly, and try to offer help on questions where they have insight.

Curated from: Why Small Businesses Are Getting LinkedIn Wrong [Wall Street Journal]

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