Q: I get so tired of hearing about Twitter. Can't I just run my business and not worry about social media? And if I do need to think about it , which site is the best for growing my business? That is all I care about. -- Zoe
A: I get where you are coming from, sister. When it comes to small business, is there anything getting more attention these days than social media? Everyone is atwitter about Twitter and you can't seem to go five minutes without hearing something about Facebook. But, while most folks seem to have a LinkedIn profile, that site never seems to get the press that its two more popular social media cousins get.
The fact is, for many entrepreneurs, there are few spots online that offer more, or can do more for their business and careers, than LinkedIn. I think a main reason that it seems to get shortchanged is because many people don't realize just how powerful it is, how much you can do with it.
Here then, are some little known ways to get a lot more out of LinkedIn:
1. Tap into the groups tool: I bet that you probably are a member of a few LinkedIn groups, and probably even get group update notices via email.
The groups function of LinkedIn is so much more powerful than that. How powerful, you ask? Not long ago I heard about a woman who started her first business. She decided to get involved with a LinkedIn entrepreneurs group, but unlike most of us, she jumped in -- posting and sharing, meeting and greeting.
Six months later, when she decided that she needed a board of advisors, she turned to her LinkedIn group, asking for volunteers. More than 50 highly qualified, experienced entrepreneurs offered to sit on her advisory board -- for free.
2. Use "advanced search" to really search: Of course you can use the search tool on LinkedIn and find someone you are looking for, but what if you don't know who exactly you are looking for? That's where "advanced search" comes in. Jackpot.
Using advanced search, you can really drill down and expand your network by searching key words, professions, industries, businesses, groups etc. If you are looking for people with a specific job title, use advanced search for that title, or a company name, school, zip code, etc.
Example: Say you want to find people who have done marketing for Dell, but you don't know who exactly. By searching the terms "Dell" and "Marketing," you will get a list of people both inside and outside your network. Then search your shared connections to those people, and off you go.
And here is another great advanced search trick: You can save the search results for later use. To the far right of your search result is a link that says "save this search."
3. Get found: Why be on LinkedIn if not to expand your network, right? But that's a two-way street. Yes, you want to be able to find new contacts, but equally, you want people to be able to find you.
Here's how: Think of your LinkedIn profile as your website, meaning, fill it with key terms and key phrases - SEO-friendly phrases. That way, when someone does her own "advanced search" using key phrases, your profile will more likely populate her search results.
Our Dell marketing alum might also list -- in addition to the words "marketing" and "public relations" -- words like PR, media, media relations specialist, publicist, IT marketing, and advertising. As with a website, the more you sprinkle specific SEO phrases around, the higher the likelihood that you will end up in an appropriate search result.
If you are unsure what keywords to use, there is no need to guess. Check out the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It will tell you what terms people use to search.
4. Go big: If you install the apps linked in this sentence, anytime you tweet or update your Facebook status, your LinkedIn profile will automatically update with those posts. It looks to the world like you are very linked in that way.
5. Discover important events: LinkedIn has a great feature that allows you to easily discover important industry events.
So no, Twitter with its (to me) frustrating 140-character limit is far from the only social media game in town.