Are you like all too many small business owners when it comes to LinkedIn?
- You have no LinkedIn profile because you don't think you need to, or you have no time for LinkedIn, or
- You have a minimal LinkedIn profile, with a bit of content in only a few sections, that you slapped together in a rush because you know you need to have a LinkedIn presence, or
- You put some time and thought into it and created a decent LinkedIn profile a while ago, then promptly forgot all about LinkedIn. You pay little to no attention to LinkedIn.
Sure, you may be preoccupied with other social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. But if you’re neglecting LinkedIn to promote your business and brand, you’re missing out on a goldmine of opportunities.
LinkedIn benefits small business owners in two ways:
PASSIVELY drawing potential customers to you
Make your profile a traffic magnet by building it out with lots of keyword-rich content. Once you do so, you won’t have to lift a finger to reap the passive benefits. (More about keywords in a minute.)
PROACTIVELY promoting and marketing your business and you
Stay active on LinkedIn. Use all the features and applications LinkedIn offers to demonstrate your subject matter expertise and stay top-of-mind with potential customers.
A Few Words About LinkedIn Keywords and SEO
When building the content in your profile, you must be ever-mindful of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keyword density. The more of the right keywords your profile contains, the more likely your profile will get more views.
If you’ve done any work on your business marketing campaign, you’ve identified your target audience, researched them, and determined what differentiates your products and/or services from other providers. Your research will have uncovered the right keywords for you to use on LinkedIn.
Always remember that, although LinkedIn is a massive search engine, search bots are not the only ones reading your profile. Real people are reading it, too. The content you create for your profile needs to work for search engines, while resonating with your target audience.
25 Vital LinkedIn Tasks for Small Business Owners [Checklist]
The following checklist represents some of the most important things to get busy with on LinkedIn for your personal account. (You should also create a company page on LinkedIn. This article does not address that second profile.) Since so many small business owners are NOT doing these things, if you do at least some of them, you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
Build Your LinkedIn Profile
The first 6 items here address the information located in the introduction card of your profile, which sits at the top of your profile.
Example of LinkedIn introduction card
1. Add a compelling billboard
The billboard is the column-wide banner at the very top of your profile. Upload the header or banner from your company website (if you have one), or an image with content that supports the value your products/services offer potential customers. This is the place to immediately capture attention when people land on your profile.
2. Pump up your professional headline
Your headline sits directly below your name, so it’s one of the most important SEO spots on your profile. If you’ve done nothing to your headline, the default is the most current job title (chronologically) you’ve added to the Experience section.
In most cases, your current job title probably isn’t the best information to place in your headline. It needs to contain your most important keywords. The ones most searched by people on LinkedIn to find businesses like yours.
For instance, if I had done nothing to my LinkedIn headline, relying on my basic job title in the Experience section, before I optimized the job title itself (more about this later), my headline would be something like:
CEO, Executive Career Brand
Instead, I optimized my headline to read:
Personal Branding w LinkedIn Expert, C-suite Executive Job Search Strategist | Dazzling LinkedIn Profiles, Resumes, Bios
As you can see, the latter version is loaded with keywords, helping to boost my profile views. Plus, it’s more vibrant and interesting than my job title.
3. Complete your “Contact info”
Make it easy for people to get in touch with you, find you on social media, and get to your website. A tip: for the three websites allowed, you can insert any page on your website (sales/landing pages, about page, etc.). Be sure to customize the name for the websites to reflect where you’re sending people.
4. Display the services you offer
Below your headline, you should see a block allowing you to select and display the various services you offer. Select the services that best fit what you do. Similar to your headline, since this block sits high on the web page for your profile, it has particularly good Google juice, or SEO-building power.
5. Customize your LinkedIn URL
Does your LinkedIn URL look something like this?
If so, edit it. Get rid of any extraneous numbers or letters. Try first to secure just your first and last names. If that is not available, try adding in your middle initial. Or, use your full name with a relevant keyword or certification acronym. You may need to play around with this.
If your old LinkedIn URL is in circulation anywhere (like in your email signature), be sure to change it to the new one.
6. Upload a good headshot
LinkedIn suggests that members with profile photos receive up to 21 times more profile views than those without a photo. If that’s not reason enough, your photo can help convey your personality. People will connect better with the content in your profile if it is accompanied by your face.
Use whatever professional-looking photo you’ve been using across other social media, including your company website. If you don’t have a decent headshot, you don’t need to go to a professional photographer. A selfie can work, as long as it is clear and well-composed. Make sure you have a pleasant, welcoming expression on your face. Don’t use a photo that includes you with other people.
Complete All Other Sections of Your Profile
The following items address the rest of your profile to include branding information, skills, education, and experience.
7. Tell your brand story in the About section
This is the place on LinkedIn to sync your personal brand with your company brand and value to potential customers. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Think of this section as your bio, which allows for storytelling more than the Experience and other resume-like sections. You can do plenty with the 2,000 characters and spaces you’re allowed in this section.
To zero in on your personal brand right at the start of the About section, you can describe why you started your business and what you love about the business and your work.
To continue generating chemistry, you can include things like:
- A few examples of times you went out of your way for customers
- Something about your favorite customers
- A few customer projects in which you outdid yourself
- A quote by you or someone relevant that you admire and why it’s important to you
- A story about one of your employees that stands out
8. Add in all your jobs in the Experience section
Keeping in mind that you want plenty of content throughout your LinkedIn profile, write as much as you can for your current role and each job you’ve had in the past. Of course, include your relevant keywords. Each job in this section gives you 2,000 characters and spaces to work with. If you have more than that for any given job, and the content is really good, you can add a “Project” section.
If you’re worried that your early jobs will reveal your age, a quick Google search on your name will provide people with your age. It’s pretty hard to hide anymore. The idea here is that people who search the companies you’ve worked for (for various reasons) may be led to your profile, thereby boosting your profile views.
You should also add relevant keywords to each of your job titles. LinkedIn allows a total of 100 characters and spaces for each job title.
9. Add the maximum 50 skills in the Skills & Endorsements section
Your skills are typically also the relevant keywords you use in marketing yourself and your business. Therefore, the skills section represents an excellent opportunity to build keyword density and boost SEO. At this writing, the first three skills you list are highlighted, so be sure those are your most important ones.
Example of LinkedIn skills and endorsements section
10. Fully populate every applicable profile section
The more content your profile contains, the more relevant keywords it’s likely to contain, which will draw more traffic to your profile. Luckily, LinkedIn allows for plenty of sections to build content.
Along with the most-used sections like About and Experience, don’t neglect these little-used profile sections, if they apply to you – Languages, Volunteering Experience, Organizations, Honors & Awards, Courses, Patents, Publications, Projects, Certifications.
11. Add videos to your profile
More and more small businesses have embraced video. If you're not using video in your social media marketing, it's time to get on board . . . if only just to keep pace with your competition.
Video marketing expert Andre Palko explains some of the reasons you should add video to your content marketing strategy:
- 93% of marketers landed a new customer thanks to video on social media.
- 63% claim video has the best return on investment in social media.
- Over 50% of shoppers say video helps them decide which product to buy.
At this writing, LinkedIn lets you add videos to the About, Experience, and Education sections. Videos can also be shared in your updates, Pulse articles, and Groups (more about this later).
Placing videos in the About section will have the greatest impact for your profile, since this section sits higher on the web page. Uploading a video is a two-step process, requiring you to first upload it to a platform like YouTube, but it's worth the extra effort.
12. Format the content for optimum visual appeal and ease of reading
Include plenty of white space throughout the narrative sections of your profile. Too much densely-packed content can drive people away. Pauses in content encourage people to read down your entire profile. If you’ve spent all that time fully populating your profile, you want people to actually read it, right?
Break up content and add visual appeal with bullet points to highlight relevant achievements and contributions. Use other special characters to distinguish standout content. You can also break up the About section by using a few sub-headers.
Example of visually formatted LinkedIn About section
13. Proofread any content before you post it to your profile
Grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors will reflect badly on you and your brand, and can turn off potential customers. Don’t create your profile content as you’re posting it to the profile. Create it first in a Word document. Use spell check, but don’t rely entirely on that. Proofread the content well and have a few others proofread it for you, too. Word will also give you a character count, so you can edit down content to fit the various profile sections.
14. Save a copy of your profile content
Once you post your new profile content, save a copy in a Word or PDF document. And remember to save it whenever you’ve made changes. Profiles can and do disappear suddenly.
Build and Engage Your LinkedIn Network While Keeping Your Brand Top-of-Mind
Now that you’ve got your profile content up and passively working for you, it’s time to move on to the proactive aspects of LinkedIn.
15. Consider upgrading to LinkedIn Premium
Free membership is fine, but Premium may work better for you. Benefits of Premium Business include:
- 15 InMail messages – Contact anyone on LinkedIn, even if you’re not connected
- Online video courses – Get the most in-demand business, tech, and creative skills taught by industry experts with LinkedIn Learning
- Who’s viewed your profile – See who’s viewed you in the last 90 days and how they found you
- Unlimited people browsing – View unlimited profiles from search results and suggested profiles – up to 3rd degree
The good thing is, you can try out Premium for free for a month.
16. Build your connections to at least 500
LinkedIn says that members with 500 or more connections land higher in search results for relevant keywords. Some people hesitate to accept invitations to connect with people they don’t know, even though LinkedIn encourages you to do so. Think of it this way, the more people you’re connected to, the more business opportunities are likely to come your way, and the more people who may help you reach your goals.
17. Create a strategy and scripts for invitations to connect
As you’re building up your connections, even if you’ve already passed the all-important 500 mark, get in the habit of regularly reaching out to others to connect. Create different scripts to reach out to people you know, and those you don’t know.
Here are a few ways to increase connections:
- Look at your newsletter subscribers or other customer database(s). See if these people are on LinkedIn.
- Search LinkedIn Company pages for your vendors, past employers, and other businesses you know. Look at the lists of employees and connect with those you know.
- Look for your schools’ alumni.
- Think about all the people you know in your personal and business life. See if they’re on LinkedIn.
18. Link to your LinkedIn profile
Include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature, company website, and anywhere else appropriate. If you’ve built your profile well, it will serve to help people get a better understanding of who you are and how you can help potential customers.
19. Update your Skills and Endorsements section regularly
Along with deleting irrelevant skills and adding new ones, LinkedIn allows you to prioritize them as you please. Get into the habit of revisiting this section to shift things around, as people give endorsements and your business grows and evolves.
20. Post relevant updates regularly
Posting updates is one of the best LinkedIn ways to:
- Stay top-of-mind with all kinds of people
- Demonstrate your subject matter expertise
- Showcase your industry knowledge
- Increase visibility to your profile (and therefore to you)
- Demonstrate that you’re social media savvy
Design a realistic strategy for posting updates. Try to post at least once a week. A few times each week is better. Include hashtags and tag people with each update for better impact.
Social media expert Hannah Morgan recommends your mix of updates be one-quarter of each of the following:
- Industry/occupation news
- Company-specific news
- Promoting you
- Promoting people in your network
She also suggested 25 things to do with updates, including:
- Posting with media (don’t forget to share videos in some updates)
- Mentioning other people
- Tapping your network for advice
- Positioning yourself as a thought leader
- Sharing inspirational materials
21. Respond to other people’s updates
Support your network by sharing, commenting on, and reacting to their updates and Pulse articles. This is a relatively quick way to get great benefit from your time on LinkedIn. In fact, if you don’t have time to share your own updates, this strategy alone will go a long way.
22. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s long-form publishing platform Pulse
Did you know that you can use LinkedIn as a blogging platform? Similar to posting short-form updates, Pulse lets you share long-form posts.
The idea of writing a long article may be too overwhelming. Here’s an easy way to do it: republish an article you’ve already posted somewhere else. If you have a blog on your company website, or have published articles/white papers elsewhere, you can quickly and easily copy and paste them into Pulse articles. Always add hashtags before posting.
Pulse is another LinkedIn place to add video. A relatively quick article could be developed around a video that highlights your subject matter expertise.
23. Update your profile content regularly
This may sound suspiciously like #20 above, but it’s an entirely different action than posting an update. This is about changing the content sitting within your LinkedIn profile itself. Review the content at least once a year. Refresh or update it to align with your changing business focus.
24. Get busy with LinkedIn Groups
Join and participate regularly in LinkedIn Groups. One way to find Groups to join is to look at company profiles of your competitors and see which ones they belong to. Another way is to look at the profiles of your target audience and follow the ones they belong to.
Once you get a feel for your Groups, join ongoing conversations and start your own. As with updates and Pulse articles, you can share videos in Groups.
25. Take advantage of LinkedIn recommendations
Recommendations are endorsements which, I’m sure you know, is some of the most important content a business can possess.
Write recommendations for your customers (when appropriate), team members, vendors, etc. and then ask them to write one for you. If you take the initiative to write one first, they’ll be much more likely to write you a recommendation. You should have at least three recommendations on your profile, but more would be better. If you have testimonials on your website, see if those people will turn them into LinkedIn recommendations.
Founder of Executive Career Brand and a 25+ year solopreneur, Meg Guiseppi is a personal branding, LinkedIn, and executive job search strategist who helps job seekers differentiate their unique value to Land a GREAT-FIT New Gig!™. She offers several ebooks and products to help job seekers and entrepreneurs alike. Her career advice has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc., Fortune, and many other publications. Follow Meg on LinkedIn.