With so much focus on Facebook and Twitter, it’s not surprising that many small business owners are overlooking other social-media tools that can help them build their brand recognition and increase their credibility. Two of the tools that are particularly beneficial for small business are LinkedIn and Quora.
LinkedIn’s network-building capabilities and business-focused online groups deliver a variety of helpful tools and resources, and Quora is increasingly becoming a go-to site for business owners wanting information and advice from peers and industry experts. Both offer substantial opportunities – particularly when they are integrated into a comprehensive social media strategy.
As we continue with our Social Media 101 for Small Business Owners series, we wanted to share the following tips.
With more than 100 million members, LinkedIn has become a very important tool for business owners looking to expand their networks and keep up with the latest within their industry. The following are just a few of the ways in which it’s being used by savvy small business owners to find leads, evaluate vendors or grow their business beyond their area.
• Building Connections
While it’s a good idea to keep in touch with colleagues and peers on LinkedIn, it can be a particularly meaningful gesture to also connect with customers and vendors. Not only does it show that you are accessible online, it demonstrates that you want to establish a lasting relationship.
• Networking with Other Business Owners
By joining one or more of the many groups on LinkedIn for small business owners, you can gain access to other business owners in an area or within your industry. Through these groups, tips and ideas are shared and new opportunities are created.
• Conducting Research
Not sure which accounting program to buy? Want to find out if that hot new email marketing tool would be right for your business? Start a discussion to solicit opinions from others in the know. You’ll probably be amazed at the number of individuals within your community who are more than happy to share their opinions and offer advice.
• Expanding Your Online Presence
Besides being able to create a personal profile on LinkedIn, you can also create a company profile that can contain information such as your logo, locations and even a link to your blog. This is yet another way to increase your online presence and a great way to attract both customers and potential new employees who are searching for specific companies within a certain area or industry.
• Obtaining Recommendations
Happy customers are always the best source for acquiring new customers. Use LinkedIn as a tool to create word-of-mouth referrals by having customers provide recommendations for you. Make sure to write recommendations for those within your network who have helped you, too!
Founded by two former Facebook executives, Quora has been gathering lots of buzz and was recently mentioned by Mashable as one of the top websites to watch in 2011. What exactly is Quora? Deemed a social network for knowledge, it’s an active Q&A site with resources for business owners in all industries. Here’s how it’s being used by business owners.
• Growing a Community
First and foremost, Quora is a great tool for growing your network. It enables you to follow topics that reflect your particular interests, ask and answer questions about these interests and connect with like-minded people.
• Researching Competition
Quora enables you to search for what your competition is doing. Often by simply posting a question, you can obtain relevant information from past or even current employees of companies within your industry.
• Finding Media Opportunities
Increasingly, Quora is being used by journalists as a source for story ideas and also as a research tool. If you have knowledge on a particular subject, you can reach out to reporters directly by answering questions or posing additional questions within a thread that they have started.
• Establishing Expertise
If you have a high degree of expertise, Quora can enable you to build credibility and develop a reputation as a subject-matter expert. Over time, this can lead to members of the community reaching out specifically to you to get your opinions on related topics.
Both LinkedIn and Quora can be utilized in many ways to grow a small business. By being creative, you can discover new opportunities to leverage them to make your business even more successful.