If you’re like me, you hastily set up a LinkedIn page, accepted invitations to connect, and then left your page to wither. Big mistake. In a recent survey of 835 business owners by Vistage International and The Wall Street Journal, 41 percent of respondents singled out LinkedIn Corp. as “potentially beneficial to their company” — not just to job seekers.

 

To find out just how employees, employers and small businesses can tap this professional networking site, we turned to Nicole Williams, one of LinkedIn’s experts and a small-business owner herself. Williams highlighted several essential tasks for using LinkedIn more robustly to build one’s business.

 

Create a complete personal and company page profile
“To get the full benefit of LinkedIn, you really have to put yourself out there,” Williams says. “Many people underestimate the importance of filling out an entire profile,” either as an individual professional or a business owner. That means it’s essential to list all past experience that may reflect your ability to execute and problem-solve, even if you think it’s irrelevant.

 

While the professional page can be solely about your skills and experience, your company page needs to include a description of your products and services as well. Using both types of pages increases the chance that you or your company will be found in a search. You want to make it as easy as possible for people — whether they’re recruiters, vendors, potential clients or current customers — to find you, says Williams.

 

Much of your ability to be found through searches will rest in the keywords you use in your profile and company pages. To ensure you’re using the right search terms, make sure you include some of the recommended LinkedIn skills that automatically populate when you indicate your professional category. The benefit of using these particular words is that LinkedIn actually changes them based on what’s trending in the industry.

 

Finally, ask for recommendations from clients, employers and vendors. “This can help qualify you in [a field where people] don’t know you,” says Williams.

 

Share ideas, follow companies and join groups

Small companies are usually strapped for resources, and professionals often wear several hats at once. Typically there’s only a small team or not even one full person who handles a specific function, whether it be marketing, human resources or business development.

 

To tap into new ideas, identify and implement best industry practices, or just ask a question — there’s no reason why small-business owners and their employees can’t use the wisdom of the masses. By sharing ideas, following companies and joining groups on LinkedIn, small businesses can level the playing field and get the kind of information they need to compete.