LinkedIn has plenty of potential uses for a small-business owner: lead generation, marketing, and hiring, to name just a few. But your company’s presence on the site is one matter; your individual presence is another.
You’re not climbing the corporate ladder, because you’ve already reached the top rung. It doesn’t make much sense to follow the typical advice given to job seekers who are looking to impress recruiters and employers. So, what the heck should your LinkedIn profile include?
There are two key differences between business owners and other LinkedIn users, says Ronjon Bhattacharya, founder and CEO of LineShed, which creates custom resumes and LinkedIn profiles. First, owners are looking for customers, not jobs. Second, owners often have more diverse — and sometimes unrelated — professional experience than the average corporate employee.
With that in mind, Bhattacharya offers these four tips for small-business owners when creating and managing a LinkedIn profile:
- Tailor the Experience section to your current business. Don’t list past businesses or jobs that have little or nothing to do with your present company. “If you now own a business selling roofing tiles, the number of pizzas you sold in your previous business as a Pizza Hut franchise owner is pretty irrelevant,” Bhattacharya says. Stick with accomplishments and metrics that matter to your current business. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusing — and turning off — prospective clients.
- List only skills and expertise that your company gets paid for. If you own a bakery, leave out the computer-programming languages you picked up in a previous career. “Too many skills can be distracting,” Bhattacharya says. “The general rule is there should be 10 or fewer skills listed. Fewer is better.”
- Make sure you’re found in searches. Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows you to make choices about how much or how little information you want to display to people you’re not already connected with. As a small-business owner on LinkedIn, it’s usually in your best interest to be as open as possible; otherwise, you are limiting your profile’s potential reach. The basic recommendation: Make your profile’s content fully visible in internet searches, not just on LinkedIn. (Go to “Settings” and “Edit your public profile” to do so.) “Ensure all potential clients, not just those three degrees away, understand what you have to offer,” Bhattacharya says.
- Engage as an individual, not just as a business. Remember, LinkedIn is a social site, one that’s quite different from Facebook or Twitter in many respects, but not entirely so. Put yourself out there as the human face of your business. Bhattacharya recommends participating in relevant LinkedIn groups as a starting point. If you can’t find a good one, consider starting your own. “In many small businesses, becoming recognized as an expert can have an extremely high impact on sales and the quality of clients,” he says.