Small Business Social Media Survival Guide

4 Ways to Make LinkedIn Your Company's Best Friend

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Visitors to Websites tailored more toward business professionals than consumers are increasingly choosing to log in using their existing LinkedIn identities, said social tool provider Gigya on Tuesday.

In fact, whereas only three percent of users to such sites chose to sign in using their LinkedIn identities in a Gigya study last July, that number had increased all the way up to 20 percent by January, the company reported this week in a blog post on the topic.

Gigya helps integrate online businesses with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, including providing the technology that enables what it calls "social sign-on," or the ability to sign in using an existing identity from a social network. Gigya technology is used by more than 280 million users each month across more than 500,000 sites, it says.

While it's still more common to see sites that allow visitors to sign in using their existing Facebook and Twitter identities, LinkedIn began providing similar functionality about a year ago. Now, it looks like users of business-oriented Websites are taking full advantage of that capability.

In January, LinkedIn accounted for 27 percent of the social sign-ons at stock market news site SeekingAlpha, Gigya notes, while the Harvard Business Review saw 20 percent of its social sign-ons come through LinkedIn. The Internet Advertising Bureau, meanwhile, saw 14 percent come in that way, Gigya reported.

Companies Large and Small

Gigya also reports some descriptive data about the users who sign in to business-focused sites via LinkedIn. Of particular note are that finance, high-tech, and medical are the industries most often represented, while sales was the most frequently seen job function.

A full 30 percent of the people signing in via LinkedIn came from companies with 1000 or fewer employees, whereas the greatest proportion--41 percent--came from firms with more than 10000.

A big part of the reason for the growing use of LinkedIn for social sign-ons, Gigya believes, is its recent incorporation of a variety of social tools.

"They've really made some great moves over the past year especially to encourage more communication and collaboration among people using the service," Gigya explains. "LinkedIn users can share content from sites in the same way they can to Twitter or Facebook, and LinkedIn publishes shared content in a prominent feed."

LinkedIn Best Practices

Indeed, now that LinkedIn is enjoying increasing prominence as a sign-in tool among users of business sites, small and medium-sized companies should make sure they're incorporating the professional social network as fully as they can. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Integrate

First and foremost, it's clear from Gigya's data that if you operate a business-oriented Website, you should be sure to offer customers and other visitors a way to sign in using their LinkedIn identity. As a recent Wall Street Journal blog notes, "people do seem to be separating their online professional identities from their personal identities more than they used to, now that the tools are available." Visitors may not want to use their Facebook identity, in other words, when signing into a professionally oriented site.

2. Participate

Make sure your company has a presence on LinkedIn. Given all the new ways to connect through the site, you'd be remiss not to get involved and at least use it to connect with customers and post company news. It's a good idea to synch your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, for example, and blog content can be promoted there as well. You can also search LinkedIn's Groups directory for industry groups to get involved with and use the resulting connections to find service providers, seek mutual referrals and advice, and generally grow your network.

3. Collaborate

A number of services have sprung up to help enterprises collaborate through LinkedIn. Examples include Manymoon and Huddle.

4. Generate

There's nothing like demonstrating your expertise to drum up new business, and two ways you can do that on LinkedIn are through recommendations and through LinkedIn Answers. Ask satisfied customers to write recommendations for your business, for instance, and you can use the site yourself to answer relevant questions. Prospective customers who search on Answers will then have a chance to be impressed by what you have to say.

As people increasingly separate their personal and professional identities, it seems likely that LinkedIn--currently the most prominent professionally oriented social network--will only grow in importance as a business networking tool. Make sure your company makes the most of that trend.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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