In the growing social media family, LinkedIn is kind of like the bookish older sibling — it stays in to do homework while Facebook and Twitter are out having all the fun. The site’s professional nature makes it easy to forget that LinkedIn is, in fact, a social site. That’s largely by design: LinkedIn is strictly business. That means no baby pictures or status updates about your neighbor’s barking dog. The site is for professional networking, first and foremost; the personal stuff can (or should be) checked at the door.
Because of its relative niche, LinkedIn is sometimes overlooked by small businesses. Owners aren’t planning their next career move — they’re too busy planning the next decade (and beyond, we hope) for their business. So it came as something of an attention-grabber when news website Business Insider published a chart showing a massive spike in traffic sent its way by LinkedIn — or rather, not so much a spike as a straight line skyward in March and April. A LinkedIn exec told Business Insider that the increase is largely attributable to recent rollouts of a variety of news-related features.
The Business Insider data isn’t necessarily typical; it is a news site, after all, so it stands to benefit directly from LinkedIn’s social news features more so than other types of businesses. But it’s a good reminder for all businesses that LinkedIn is about more than just posting your resume online, and could be a clear indicator of the site’s growing power as an online traffic cop. LinkedIn has been steadily adding features and applications that go well beyond hiring and hunting for jobs.
LinkedIn has been paying more attention to small businesses of late, too, launching an online video campaign in February aimed at fostering usage. It also recently posted Ten Ways for Small Businesses to Use LinkedIn, guest-authored by Guy Kawasaki. In short: LinkedIn is absolutely about more than posting a resume or finding a job, and it should be part of your business’ social media plans — no matter whether those plans are major or minor.
A few words of advice: Whether you’ve been on LinkedIn since its early days or are just now exploring the site, don’t start barking out links and promotional messages like a carnival worker. Instead, you need to build relationships. Add value; don’t simply take it. In doing so, the opportunities to promote your business — online and offline — will surface naturally and deliver better results.
Certainly, your profile should include your URL(s) and other pertinent information. Create a company listing for your business if one doesn’t already exist. Join groups relevant to your business or broader industry. Answer questions when you can apply your skills and experience. Consider taking the relatively new news features out for a spin — share articles related to your industry, or ones that you simply find interesting, in the same manner that you might on other social sites.
The Intuit Small Business Blog’s Gil Zeimer recently wrote up his top tips for leveraging LinkedIn for your small business. It’s recommended reading, particularly if your business has been more attuned to Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or another branch of social media’s vast family tree.