Use LinkedIn to find customers, not just jobs

LinkedIn launched, officially, in May 2003. A month later, the network had 4,500 members.

Third quarter last year (2016, if your calendar is slow), LI had 467 million members worldwide; in the United States, LinkedIn membership approximated 135 million. Overall, about 106 million members visit the site each month - a great many potential contacts looking these days nearly as often for products and services as jobs.

Microsoft spent $26.2 billion to purchase the company in June, apparently planning to profit from LinkedIn ties with Outlook and Office, Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365, and, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, by allowing members to use Word to facilitate profile and resume updates, and connect with the Windows action center.

For Michael Yublosky, however, a LinkedIn specialist in Buffalo Grove, the promise for many small businesses is in LinkedIn's marketing and sales potential. LI remains a key source of talent and jobs, Yublosky says, but although LI "is still a job search network, I am very optimistic that, for people who understand marketing and business, who understand the tools and how to leverage connections, LinkedIn's immense resources offer a great opportunity for small businesses.

"Will LinkedIn work as a marketing tool? Absolutely, if you market on LinkedIn."

We're going to talk marketing, because more small businesses typically need a marketing boost than they need new employees.

Yublosky is one of those advisers who recognizes that marketing basics haven't changed much. "It's a step-by-step process," he says. "Who do you target market? What makes you (your product or service) unique?"

And, perhaps most importantly, "How will prospects find you on LinkedIn?"

The last point is the clincher, because LI has some unique marketing tools:

• Your LinkedIn profile is key. Members search most often by individual names or by key words. Either way, they'll find your profile, the LinkedIn home page material that includes your summary of skills, pertinent experience and education.

• "Figure out the key words people use in their search," Yublosky says, adding, for example, that people searching for the type of LI assistance he provides generally will type "LinkedIn tutor" into their search requests, although "website forensics" is a popular Yublosky-finding phrase, too.

Logically, then, if blue widgets are what your business produces and sells, blue widgets should appear in your LI profile.

• Write and post articles on LinkedIn. Depending a bit on what you're selling, your articles might be about your vision of the industry's future, industry service trends, or effective B2b or B2c activities.

• Join LinkedIn groups. "The ones you run, not just the ones you belong to, are better options," Yublosky says. The value of group membership is access to people with like interests.

• Filter your LinkedIn searches. Yublosky points out that filters allow you to narrow your search function by industry and location, much as they do, he says, in the Yelp process.

• Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at

© 2016 Kendall Communications Inc.

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