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linked inLinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with over 250 million users worldwide. With the access to your network’s network, and the wealth of tools that LinkedIn has to offer, it can be a powerful resource for growing your small business.

LinkedIn is a social networking website for people in professional occupations. Founded in December 2002 and launched on May 5, 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking.

When it comes to social networks these days, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ certainly get the most attention. While they are brilliant networks for connecting with customers, for many small businesses (especially B2B), LinkedIn shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here are 4 tips to help you get the most out of LinkedIn for your small business:

1. Create a company page that stands out

A company page is essential for any business on LinkedIn. The company page helps people find your business, provides a platform to engage with your customers, presents your product and/or service offerings (with a recommendation feature allowing people to recommend individual products or services), and can be a great tool for lead generation.

When creating your company page, avoid simply replicating your Facebook page or your website. Carefully consider your intended audience on LinkedIn, and carefully craft your page accordingly. For example, your LinkedIn page should be more professional, whereas your Facebook page should be less formal and more personable.

2. Use LinkedIn Groups to network

Joining relevant LinkedIn Groups is a great way to improve your credibility, make new connections, and raise your personal and business’ profiles. You might also consider starting your own group around a topic that is relevant to your industry and/or your customers.

The key is to take the time to engage with a select few groups, ensuring you are making a genuine contribution to discussions and avoiding using them as a sales forum (selling on LinkedIn groups is a big no-no).

3. Encourage your employees to use LinkedIn

Many small business owners are concerned that if their employees have great LinkedIn profiles, they will be targeted by recruiters and snatched up by other organisations. Don’t fret over this, but instead encourage all your employees to have great LinkedIn profiles and to be actively using LinkedIn. Your employees strong, professional profiles will reflect well on your business.

4. Use advanced search options to find people in your target market

If you need to build a list of target prospects, then using LinkedIn’s advanced search can make it very easy! You can search based on the degree of connection, their industry, location, seniority, company, and more. This will enable you to create a list of prospects that meets your target audience’s specific characteristics, saving you time and resources.

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