By Anna Hensel
LinkedIn may be the ultimate business social networking site, but that doesn't mean you know how to use it.
For starters, many people use LinkedIn to maintain contact only with people in their professional networks. That means the platform doesn't lend itself as easily to creating the kind of viral, widely-shared content that brands can craft on Twitter or Facebook. So stop using it to gin up shares, says Alexandra Samuel, a technology researcher and the author of Work Smarter With Social Media.
She offered up her best advice to small businesses on how to use LinkedIn in a recent Wall Street Journal column. The biggest mistake she sees small businesses make on the social networking site? They use it to try and grow their audience, when they should be using it to try to find new employees or customers.
"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," writes Samuel.
Here are three other mistakes Samuel says you're probably making on LinkedIn:
1. You expect leads to come to you.
Samuel says you might think that by updating your company page daily, you'll get more customer or employment inquiries. But small companies don't have the same brand recognition as Fortune 500 companies. Again, the goal of LinkedIn is to make new connections. Entreat your sales team to use LinkedIn regularly to hunt down new potential clients. Moreover, ensure that all of your employees are connected with one another on LinkedIn so they can more easily share contacts.
2. Employees accept too many requests from peers who work in the same field.
This kind of civility could leave your company open to competitive threats, suggests Samuel. They can see who your customers are or which new hires you might be eyeing. While this may not seem like a big deal, if you're in a small market, you want to keep your connections as confidential as possible, she adds.
3. You spend too much time selling yourself, rather than the business.
Job seekers use LinkedIn to promote personal accomplishments and make themselves more attractive to recruiters. But if you're the founder of an obscure startup that wants to attract top-tier talent, you want to let job seekers know what's so great about your company. Write your LinkedIn profile so it focuses on your business's accomplishments, not just your own. For example, instead of listing your title as "CFO of Acme Accounting," Samuel suggests writing something more descriptive, like "CFO of Acme Accounting, financial advisers to Gap and Target."