A few months back, this blog waxed lyrical about the multiple benefits of joining LinkedIn Groups, citing an impressive range of benefits smaller business operators can literally tap into.
The blog piece examined how LinkedIn Groups could provide highly qualified and lucrative new business leads and free advice on pretty much any business topic you care to name.
But whilst professionals in larger organisations are adopting it in droves, smaller business operators are proving more difficult to persuade.
Adoption at glacial speed
In fact, according to the most recent Sensis eBusiness Report, a paltry 9% of smaller business operators engaging in social networking have a presence on LinkedIn. And that is 9% of the modest 18% engaging in social networking at all!
In other words, less than 2% of all Australian smaller business operators have a presence on LinkedIn.
Whilst this lack of interest is understandable given their well-documented difficulty in keeping up with the break-neck speed of eBusiness developments, their reticence may well be costing them some of the best return on investment the online world can offer them.
And unlike Facebook’s inconsistency in providing benefits across all sectors of business, LinkedIn is a network that, with moderate time investment, can produce significant results across the spectrum of industry.
Beyond resumes in cyberspace
Much of the reticence about engaging in LinkedIn can be put down to a fundamental misunderstanding about what the network actually is or does.
Most of the smaller business operators I’ve quizzed about it see it as a kind of online resume for potential job opportunities. Whilst that is a benefit that is revolutionising the recruitment industry, little is known about the community and communications benefits it provides.
Because in much the same way as Facebook generates conversations on pretty much anything between consumers, there are literally millions of business conversations going on in LinkedIn as you read this.
In fact, by now, any number of LinkedIn members will be discussing this very article and its merits or otherwise.
It’s this conversation which yields a key quartet of benefits to the smaller business operator:
1. Calls for recommendations for suppliers
Right now there will literally be thousands of business people asking their peers for recommendations of suppliers of any product or service you care to name. Providing you are not too heavy-handed, you can put forward your own credentials as a provider of same.
2. Raising your profile among customers
The more you engage in conversations on LinkedIn, the greater the profile you achieve – putting yourself in front of more and more potential customers.
3. Expert advice on business matters
One compelling aspect of LinkedIn is that it is brimming with experts on all kinds of topics who are prepared to give their opinion on any business topic at all, from advice on cashflow to best online promotional tactics.
4. A free and qualified list for your blogs and articles
Providing you do it in the interests of genuine business information, your blog pieces and articles can be promoted to millions for no charge at all.
There are few businesses that couldn’t benefit immediately from these attributes, let alone the recruitment and other communication benefits it provides.
In fact, no serious business professional or operator can really ignore them any longer.
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