LinkedIn for Small BusinessIf you’ve been around here before then it can’t have escaped your attention that I’m a great believer in the power of LinkedIn, for both networking and relationship building opportunities, as well as for new business development. A recent report commissioned by LinkedIn caught my attention, mostly because it focused on the small to medium-sized business market and how they’re using the platform.

I know what you’re thinking! It’s such a shocker that LinkedIn’s research reveals they come out on the top of the pile. But based on my experience working with clients, especially those in the B2B space, to help leverage the power of LinkedIn for business growth, this report is validating a lot of what we find to be true, so we thought it made sense to cover it here.

The Priming the Economic Engine report claims that LinkedIn is among the most trusted social sources for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), especially when it comes to learning about financial products. That only makes sense. Where else are you going to go for trusted information, especially information that in any way relates to financial products (or business growth), but LinkedIn?

LinkedIn’s research, which surveyed nearly 1,000 SMBs in North America, reports that over two-thirds of them are using social media for financial services and for finding “financial content.” This is mainly for keeping up-to-date on current trends or news, gathering information and intelligence, seeking advice and evaluating decisions. What’s telling is that the study indicates many aren’t finding what they need, suggesting a significant opportunity for all of you financial services providers out there.

The 5 Type Of Finance Content

When it comes to where to go to find information, LinkedIn stood out as the most trusted social source for SMB’s (57%), particularly for “hyper growth” companies (69%), which LinkedIn defines as those that reported significant year over year revenue increases.

It’s not surprising to me to see Google+ in second place, slightly ahead of Facebook and Twitter, with Pinterest not too far behind. It looks like the new kids on the block have had quite an impact in some areas in the relatively short time they’ve been around. More importantly, a takeaway here should be audiences are fragmented, so relying on any one social network as the basis of your integrated marketing/social media strategy is, well, likely a flawed strategy.

How SMBs Are Using LinkedIn to Drive Business

On a broader scale, 81% of SMBs who responded to the LinkedIn survey said that they are current users of social media, a proportion that translates to over 1 million SMBs in this business sector. Another 9% indicated that they plan to use social media in the future meaning, that social is playing an increasingly important role for SMBs. The study also reveals how SMBs are primarily using social media to help drive their businesses:

  • Maintaining a company presence and identity
  • Delivering content and new information
  • Advertising to generate awareness and generate sales
  • Finding new customers
  • Learning and sharing resources

More Growth, More Social Media Spend (or is it vice-versa?)

Interestingly, the study also shows that 73% of the one in six SMB respondents who say they have had “hyper growth” increased their social media spend. This compares to just 42% of companies with no growth who said the same. These same high performing SMBs found social media to be most effective in achieving key marketing goals in these areas:

There’s really no surprise that the results of the study shows a link between social media marketing and increased business. Also, notice that while branding and WOM are important, content marketing is equally as important. Even better – lead gen is a key area of focus. Using social media platforms solely for brand awareness is so 2010. Strategically using social media to drive business – that’s where it gets to the part of the equation that I love.

Additionally, what I like seeing is that studies like this show that many small and mid-sized businesses are starting to realize the importance of integrating social into their marketing efforts, and hopefully also realizing how that can help level the playing field for them. LinkedIn is, and certainly can be, a powerhouse for businesses and a tool that we find is all too often either overlooked completely by small businesses (and plenty of large ones, too), or not used effectively.

The reality is this: people do one of two things when it comes to products or services they want to buy — they go to search engines and they ask their friends for recommendations and opinions. Integrating smart SEO, developing content designed to serve your customers and prospects and using social media to build networks, make friends and share content is how you help customers know that you can be counted on as a trusted resource. It’s just that simple.

No Doubt About It – Small Business Powers the Economy

I started this post with the disclaimer that I’m a LinkedIn fan girl and regardless of the fact that this is a report based on data compiled by LinkedIn, I think it’s not only great information, but valid information. And from a business standpoint, LinkedIn’s strategy is clear. There’s great, and largely untapped value in the small and medium-sized business customer base, which encompasses companies with annual revenues ranging from $1 million to $49.9 million. Just in case you’re not yet convinced, let’s break that down a tiny bit further:

  • SMBs contribute 5.5 trillion in annual revenue
  • SMBs are responsible for 7 out of 10 new jobs
  • Young firms in growth mode are the largest contributors to job growth

Hello small business market. No wonder LinkedIn has its sights set on helping you maximize social networking, using what is not only the largest business social network, but which is likely also one of the most trusted social networks.

If you’re a small or mid-sized business owner who’s not yet integrated LinkedIn into your marketing strategies, especially with regard to social media, perhaps it’s time to start. And if you’re at all involved in finance, which can be defined as so many different things, start paying attention to the kind of information and resources people say they want to find on social networks in general – and deliver it.

If you want some help figuring out what to do, check out The LinkedIn Small Business Resource Center, which was created by LinkedIn to provide small businesses with the tools they need to maximize the platform. Or, you can call me.

The complete report from LinkedIn has been laid out in SlideShare format and is available here.