While social media is by no means a new phenomenon, small-business owners are increasingly hopping on the bandwagon.
According to recent data from LinkedIn, U.S. small-business owners are using the social networking site more than their foreign counterparts. The company pulled data on small-business professionals from the sites more than 175 million members, and found there are 6,874,850 small-business professionals networking on LinkedIn.
Rounding out the top five countries for LinkedIn use among small-business professionals were the U.K. with 1,059,303 users, India with 1,012,058 users, the Netherlands with 597,010 users and Canada with 579,253 users.
Want to get on LinkedIn, but unsure of where to start? Follow the lead from these three entrepreneurs, who are networking in unique ways to impact their business exposure and growth.
Cecilia Pagkalinawan saves all of her business cards from each event she attends, and immediately connects with those she has met. Doing so while the person is still fresh in her head, and vice versa, has allowed her to maintain connections with those she networks with, and promote her business at the same time.
“LinkedIn has really embraced social media, so you’re not just fueling the executive resume, but also getting a sense of what’s in their heads,” Pagkalinawan said. “Even though most of what you see on my profile is related to fashion and ecommerce, you can also see that I like to travel. You get a sense of that person.”
Pagkalinawan has also used the site to recruit for her business, New York City-based StyleTrek. Having your resume uploaded on the site allows head hunters to see what you have to offer, and also allows her to crowdsource when looking to hire.
“Own your space,” she said. “Be able to share your expertise.”
When 39-year-old Ralph Carlone wanted to start his own management consulting company, he turned to LinkedIn to create a group for those who shared his business interests. He started the “Small Business and Independent Consultant Network” in 2009, which today has grown to more than 5,000 members.
“I wanted to get a group of like-minded people together from a global perspective, in order to help people who were also building their own companies,” Carlone said. “I wanted a talented pool to share their experiences marketing and branding.”
As his business grew, his group on the social networking site did as well. Today, he continues to turn to the professionals he recruited online for resources and entrepreneurial advice.
“It’s like a think tank, where you can drop ideas off and follow the discussion to see how it plays out in real life,” he said. “In the old model, you would go to an event and network there, but this is practicing that in real time, and you can get instant feedback from people.”
The Strategic Networker
Wendy Lewis, president of Wendy Lewis & Company, said LinkedIn is a must for any business professional or entrepreneur in today’s environment.
“If you have a pulse, a job, or hope to have a job, you have to be on Linked,” Lewis said. “And you can tell immediately by profiles if someone is networking.”
Like Pagkalinawan, Lewis said she always connects with those she meets at industry events. She also likes to join as many groups as possible, in addition to facilitating her own group. However, she is selective about who she networks with and where.
“I am very cautious about who we let into the group,” Lewis said. “I am only inviting people to join who are in the industry, and have a like-minded interest in the field.”
Finally, Lewis said she targets specific groups to join in order to get the best responses for her business and career.
“I look for more narrow groups, instead of huge groups with hundreds of thousands of members,” she said. “Otherwise you just get lost, and it dilutes the meaning. It’s better to stay focused on what your real goals are.”