Has the LinkedIn penny dropped for you yet?

Some months back, this blog banged on and on about the benefits of a good LinkedIn presence to smaller business operators.

But whilst it was one of the most re-tweeted and otherwise viralled posts Internet Secrets has enjoyed, there is little evidence that smaller business operators are taking the time to link in and join this powerful business community.

Mirroring the general slowness the sector has demonstrated when it comes to embracing new technology, statistics suggest that less than 3% of smaller business operators have joined the LinkedIn community.

Yet LinkedIn has far greater value to these smaller business operators (SBOs) than employees who use it on a regular basis.

Which might seem odd for a network that’s regarded by many as ‘resumes in cyberspace’, but once the benefits are considered, really rings true.

Here’s some of the benefits SBOs enjoy over employees:

Find an employee

Recruitment agency fees can often be outside the budgets of smaller business. LinkedIn provides an unprecedented way of finding candidates for vacant roles simply by posting a job vacancy or putting a call out to peers for referrals or recommendations for same.

Find out about an employee

Once they identify a candidate, the amount of information professionals are including with their LinkedIn profiles is far deeper than standard resumes. Much of the information provides insights that may not come out of either a resume or interview, so is a significant aid to the selection process.

Get a professional opinion or 200

LinkedIn Groups easily allow people within an industry, profession or interest the ability to connect with others for all kinds of reasons. But its capability of getting an opinion on pretty much any business topic you like is of enormous value to the time poor SBO.

Everything from supplier recommendations to ways of handling difficult business situations can all be put out there for peers to respond to. In this way it’s pretty much a free business advisory service. And which SBO wouldn’t love that?

Keep up with industry news

Keeping up with industry news can be incredibly time consuming. Whilst the provision of even more information can lead to information overload, ensuing commentary about the news can help SBOs understand the impact of news on their industry.

Promote the business

This is one aspect most SBOs haven’t even considered. As pointed out here before, LinkedIn Groups allow you to build a following of radio audience proportion for no charge at all. You can also distribute messages about your business to this audience – again for no charge at all. What’s not to love about that?

Reduce isolation

Running a smaller business can be an isolating experience as employee interaction is rarely open and on an equal footing. LinkedIn allows you to communicate with like-minded SBOs in an unprecedented way, reducing this sense of isolation.

The downside of all this, as usual, is time to learn about and experiment with this new communication channel. But like its fellow technological advances, your failure to properly investigate and invest in it relatively soon may be just the advantage your competitors are waiting for.

Has LinkedIn benefited your small business? Tell us about it below!

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au.


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