With so many social media marketing tools available, it can be difficult to know how to get the most out of each one. Here’s a tutorial on how to use LinkedIn for small businesses.

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, LinkedIn offers the most professional networking capabilities. If Facebook and Twitter are like a cocktail party, LinkedIn is like a professional conference: a platform to meet other professionals in industry, as well as potential clients.

While LinkedIn focuses on the individual, you can use it to leverage exposure to your company. Use these tips to get the most out of your profile, and read on to learn how to promot your company.

Start With Your Profile

It’s key to fill out your profile with as much detail as possible. Include your education and work history, as well as links to your company web site and blog. Add a professional headshot to personalize your profile.

It’s also important to include many opportunities for people to contact you: while they can send a request to link in on your profile, you should also include your email address as another option for contact.

Encourage all of your employees to set up profiles. Connect with as many people as possible. This will include people that you already know, as well as people that you find by browsing your industry.

There are many interesting LinkedIn applications that you can add to enhance your profile, including:

  • Linking your WordPress blog
  • Books you’re reading with Amazon
  • Events
  • Twitter streams
  • Google Presentations
  • Polls

Your profile will show how many people have viewed it, and how many times your profile has appeared in searches. Recomendations from clients are also a great way to enhance your profile. Read this book for more tips on getting started.

What Not to Do: If you tweet from your personal account and the updates aren’t appropriate for a business audience, don’t link your tweets to your profile. Keep your business and personal lives separate.

Adding Your Company’s Page

By adding a page for your company, you can let your employees link to it, and others interested in your business can follow it. On your company page, you can fill out a full description of your offerings, display your employees whose profiles are on LinkedIn and show current job openings. You can also link your Twitter stream for more real-time engagement, as well as media briefs.

Be sure to include your company logo and links, and update your company page at least once a week.

What Not to Do: Do not neglect your company page. It’s better not to have a page than to let it sit stagnant.

Getting Involved in Groups

Another great way to network on LinkedIn is through Groups. Whether you start a group or join one, look for likeminded individuals. Participate meaningfully in conversations and share relevant links. Do not use Groups as your promotional platform, or you will alienate yourself.

Starting a group can be a good way to gather similar people and establish your brand. Decide on a topic that will generate interest, and extend an invitation to to others in your field. Consider keeping it a closed group, meaning that you have to approve members who want to join; otherwise you may get people interested in spamming your group with their links.

What Not to Do: Do not post the same message on many group pages. You will get banned from the group, if not from LinkedIn entirely.

Answer Questions

LinkedIn’s Answer section can help you establish yourself as an expert, especially for service-oriented businesses. Simply browse a category of questions and answer those that you can. Remember to include links to relevant blog posts and websites in your answers, as well as your signature to make it easy for people to contact you. The LinkedIn users who answer the most questions in a category are listed as Top Experts on the main Answers page, which can give you additional exposure.

You can also use Answers to ask questions and get free advice.

What Not to Do: Don’t used Answers to promote your own agenda. Only provide useful answers.