One of the most important tools any entrepreneur has is her network, and it that network can help you to be "more nimble while being less capital intensive." So says Krista Canfield, Career Expert and Spokesperson for the business social network LinkedIn. She'd talking about how to use your contacts to leverage what you have into what you need. "Sometimes you can tap into your network and find answers or resources quickly so you can spend your time working on your business." When you can activate your network, you can achieve more than you could have alone, as Tina Hill showed us just a few weeks ago in 5 Ways to Connect with Customers and Buyers.
LinkedIn is a 6 year old social network intended to help people make better use of their professional networks while allowing you to help people you trust in return. In practice, though, many people aren't using LinkedIn to its full potential, so Krista gave me several tips which I'll share over the next few weeks.
How can your startup business get the most value from LinkedIn? Krista said it depends on your goals. For a lot of small businesses, they get the most utility out of LinkedIn Answers. "Many businesses use Answers as a think tank — a way of asking your network for help about a question or business problem. If you don't' have a network you can make your question public, and everyone can chime in. You can get answers from anyone - over 45MM users — who can help you connect with other professionals."
When you login to LinkedIn and look at your Answers page, you'll see questions from your own network. You can also browse all the different subject areas and see if there are things you can answer yourself. Answering the questions can be a key to generating your own business leads, or to finding new connections.
Krista noted "Always be really transparent and tell people who you are when you respond. For example, if you're a travel agent, and someone asks travel related questions, respond with tips and tools, regardless of whether you are going to get the business." Be generous with advice and answers, as this will improve your reputation. Then people will think of you when they want to specifically use your services.
We'll have more LinkedIn tips in a few weeks. Please share your tips in the comments.