For small and medium businesses, success usually has a lot to do with word of mouth marketing and networking. Luckily for small business owners, social media can help tremendously in those arenas. However, that's assuming you're using social media professionally and effectively.

When you become active on any social network, it's always important to have goals in mind, so you know what activities to focus on for your desired results. On LinkedIn, your goals can include:

  • Recruiting new employees
  • Attracting new clients or customers
  • Maintaining relationships with current clients or customers
  • Looking for other businesses to partner with
  • Improving your online reputation as an expert in your field

But regardless of what your specific goals are, there are a lot of things every small business owner should be doing with LinkedIn. Here are a few of them:

Complete your personal profile

You want any social profile to contain as much appropriate information as possible. Your LinkedIn profile should be your online resume, and then some. You should include all information relevant to what you're doing now, professionally. The most important part is filling out the Experience section. Other areas to focus on include your background information and summary, adding your skills and expertise, organizations you're a member of, and any honors or awards you've received. Every detail helps to build credibility for you and your business.

Complete your company page

A lot of small business owners with little or no other employees don't go to the extra effort to build a company page for their business. However, this is a mistake. Even if your small business is a one-man/woman show, setting up a company page offers different benefits than a personal profile. You can add more company information and even add pages for products and services you offer. All of this information helps you appear in search results, so people looking for your type of company can easily find you.

Ask for recommendations and endorsements

Build trust with future prospects by having people you've worked with endorse or recommend you. On your personal profile, connections can endorse you for certain skills or recommend the work you've done with a certain company. On your company page, customers can write recommendations for products or services they've used. An important thing to remember is to only ask for recommendations and endorsements from people actually qualify to write them. It's easy to tell when a recommendation is generic or insincere.

Participate in groups

Participating in LinkedIn groups is a great way to meet new people with common experiences. Small businesses love to support and help each other, so there are a lot of groups focused around small businesses. Join a few of them for your geographic area. You can also join groups that revolve around your industry or type of product or service. Most professional organizations also have groups for members to connect.

Share and promote your presence

While building new relationships on LinkedIn is important, it's more important to connect to your existing network. Make sure your customers, employees, and entire professional network can easily find and connect with you or your business on LinkedIn. You can put the URLs on your business cards or in your email signature. You should also include links to your company page on your company's website and in the 'About' or 'Links' sections of any other social profiles. Not only will this make it easier for your audience on social media to find the page, but these links pointing to the page will help improve it's ranking on search engines.

How has using LinkedIn advanced your small business? We'd love to hear your success story in the comments!