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How LinkedIn are you?

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Last month, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for £18 billion. It remains to be seen what the wider implications will be but the chances are, with Microsoft behind it, the business networking site is only going to get bigger. The network has enjoyed a stratospheric rise since its launch in 2002. It now boasts 433 million members worldwide, 105 million people visit monthly and there are more than seven million active job listings.

But as a small business owner, how LinkedIn are you? Are you making the most of the site as a cost effective business networking and professional referral tool? Here we outline 10 reasons why you should be doing more on LinkedIn to grow your business:

  1. Generate new business – Gain new customers via online recommendations and word of mouth. A satisfied customer can be a rich source of new business. Tap into this by asking happy clients to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn. This will feature on your LinkedIn profile and broadcast to your entire LinkedIn network.
  2. Increase your industry network – Search LinkedIn’s group directory to find industry networks and associations to join and participate in. This is a great way of finding out about relevant industry events and business networking opportunities that your contacts are attending.
  3. Build your contacts list – Make new contacts and re-connect with business contacts you’ve lost touch with by becoming more active on LinkedIn. Social media is all about building relationships with others through sharing ideas, thoughts and advising others.
  4. Make better connections – LinkedIn’s search facility allows you to make targeted searches enabling you to connect with others in your sector and join industry groups. There are many discussion groups where you can find like-minded professionals who share your passion for your industry and are willing to communicate and potentially share information and resources.
  5. Free marketing opportunity – Marketing can be an expensive business but your LinkedIn profile alone can generate potential new customers and provide a platform to promote your business credentials, service offering, and your contact information. Don’t forget to upload a decent photo of yourself and fill in as much detail on your profile as possible.
  6. Outsource services – Find the right providers to outsource services you’re not an expert on. LinkedIn makes it easy to find (and vet) potential suppliers through your network, you may also have the chance to operate a mutual referral system where you trade services with your connections.
  7. Raise your profile – Increase your personal brand by publishing blog posts on LinkedIn Pulse. This allows you to demonstrate your expertise and boost you and your business’s credibility among your peers.
  8. Recruit top talent – Save a fortune on recruitment agencies by putting the feelers out on your LinkedIn network that you are looking for your next talented team member. You may find you get a larger pool of candidates with experience in your industry.
  9. Keep tabs on what’s happening – Keep up to speed with key developments in your industry from legislative changes to mergers and acquisitions and what the movers and shakers in your industry are up to.
  10. Feel less isolated – Let’s face it, it can be lonely at the top but by networking with your peers in your industry and engaging with like-minded individuals, you can feel less isolated and benefit by learning from others and bouncing ideas off those in the know.

LinkedIn is an effective business tool for keeping you and your business front of mind. With its primary focus on business and fewer status updates than facebook, it’s a quick, cost-effective way to stay in touch with colleagues, business contacts, customers, and suppliers. If you also use Twitter, you can increase the impact of your status updates by syncing your LinkedIn and Twitter account.