If you or your customers are using a social network for pure business purposes, chances are good that social network is LinkedIn, which boasts more than 150 million business users.
Whether you operate a multilocation business with a well-known name in your industry or work as a lone professional, a LinkedIn company page is an excellent way to show a community of professionals what you can do, and it's an opportunity for free advertising that you shouldn't pass up.
First you must sign up for a LinkedIn account. Don't worry about upgrading to a paid account; you don't need that to start a company page, or even to do most things a business should do on the social network. Choose a password that you're comfortable handing out to employees or contractors if they maintain your company page, or change it if you already have a profile.
After entering the name of the company and your email address, you'll find yourself on the Overview page. To add data to this section, click the Admin Tools button on the right side of the page, and choose Edit. Here, you'll enter your logo, your description, your blog's RSS feed, and, most important, your company specialties. If you really want to narrow the terms down, use the Google AdWords Keyword suggestion tool to find key phrases for your industry.
For an example of a well-built LinkedIn page, take a look at the one for GoodLife Fitness. This page does it right, showing statistics about the size of the company and how many members belong to the club, combined with a short and well-written description. Cutting and pasting your entire 'About Us' section from your website isn't recommended if it's wordy. On LinkedIn, if you can whittle the description down to one paragraph as GoodLife has done, you'll speak to your busy LinkedIn audience. To improve your description even more, learn about buzzwords to avoid on LinkedIn entirely.
To post jobs in the Careers section of your company page, you must have a paid LinkedIn subscription, and then pay for a Gold or Silver career page. Paid subscription fees start at $26 a month. This feature is likely of benefit only to a larger company; a smaller business can get by with listing open jobs on its own site and posting a status update to its LinkedIn page when a new position becomes available.
Consider Products and Services
You can add products and services to your company page under the 'Products & Services' tab, but you should add only your most popular items; you may want to send visitors to your website for a closer look. However, don't ignore this tab entirely (as many companies on LinkedIn do), since it helps prospective clients find and understand your business.
LinkedIn lets you add videos, name a company contact, and insert lots of other details. For example, you could call your service "Sales in Michigan," and assign the responsible salesperson. The contact needs to have a LinkedIn profile to participate, so encourage your employees to sign up if they haven't already.
Once you've entered a product or service, 'Recommend' and 'Share' links appear beneath it. Ask loyal customers on LinkedIn if they won't mind making a recommendation for your company, which will appear along with a link to their profile in the right-hand sidebar of your product or services page.
The 'Share' button lets interested people share your products on LinkedIn, or on Twitter if they have added their Twitter account to LinkedIn.
Check out how footwear manufacturer Wolverine uses its Products tab to showcase its footwear brands, as well as product recommendations.
Ask Employees to Add the Company Page to Their Profiles
Once you've created your company page, ask employees to go back and edit their profiles so that the new company page appears. They can do so by clicking Edit Profile and then clicking Edit beside their position at your company; once they start typing the name of the company, they can choose the company page. The benefit for you is that visitors to their profile will be able to click over to your company's page.
You can add employees responsible for a certain product or service solely from the 'Products & Services' tab. These are the only employees that visitors to your page will be able to view, unless they have your employees in their personal LinkedIn network.
Post Your Own Status Updates
You know how you can import your Twitter feed to post to your personal LinkedIn profile? You can't do that with a company page. Only designated administrators can post on a company page from within LinkedIn. You're also barred from updating a company LinkedIn page with Hootsuite unless you're a Hootsuite Enterprise customer, so small to midsize businesses must log in and post directly to their page each time they want to share an update.
Spread the Word With Groups and Answers
One of the better ways to network on LinkedIn is to join and participate in groups in your field. LinkedIn Groups are probably the most noise-free place on the Internet to have a professional discussion. If you find no groups relevant to your industry, start one.
If you have a question, you could ask it in a group or use LinkedIn Answers to get instant replies from anyone on LinkedIn who wants to help. LinkedIn Answers is probably most handy for IT questions and other queries for which people in your industry may not know the answer. And answering questions helps to establish you as an expert in your field.
The entire LinkedIn setup process should take your company no more than a few minutes to an hour or so, but the payoff in community exposure over the long term is well worth the effort.