How small-business owners can use LinkedIn as free advertising to attract customers

How small-business owners can use LinkedIn as free advertising to attract customers
Catarina Rivera has 14,000 followers on LinkedIn and says it's a major driver of business for her.Courtesy of Catarina Rivera
  • The consultants Catarina Rivera and Tania Bhattacharyya use LinkedIn to market their services.
  • They say you should act as a resource for others on the platform to drive organic traffic.
  • Posting consistently and using "creator mode" can help you turn followers into customers.

LinkedIn is no longer just for those looking to climb the traditional career ladder — plenty of small-business owners have found it valuable for growing a brand and connecting with prospective customers.

"All my clients come to me organically, so social media and my newsletter are my marketing channels," Catarina Rivera, a disability public speaker and diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, told Insider.

In the past two years, she's grown her LinkedIn following to over 14,000, and it's now her largest audience for marketing her business.

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Tania Bhattacharyya, the founder of the thought-leadership and brand-messaging consultancy Lumos Marketing, said she'd accessed other valuable marketing leads through LinkedIn, including public-relations and speaking opportunities.

"I didn't have to knock on doors so much because they were just coming to me, and I could then nurture them into whoever they were meant to be in my world," she said.


The good news is if you want to give LinkedIn a go, it doesn't have to be all that hard. Rivera and Bhattacharyya shared with Insider their tips for building business traction on the platform.

Get your profile up to snuff first

Before you start posting up a storm, Rivera and Bhattacharyya said, make sure your profile reflects the work you do.

"Someone's making a very quick decision on whether to follow you or whether to book you from your profile page," Rivera said. "It's helping you convert, just like a web page."

This is true even for business owners who don't plan to engage much on LinkedIn, Bhattacharyya added, given how highly Google ranks LinkedIn profiles on search.

How small-business owners can use LinkedIn as free advertising to attract customers
Tania Bhattacharyya uses "creator mode" to bring people into her "ecosystem."Courtesy of Tania Bhattacharyya

Start by deprioritizing or removing information related to jobs you had before launching your company. For instance, Rivera said she hid some unrelated recommendations to ensure the only ones on her profile were about her disability-awareness and consulting work. You'll also want to update your headline.


"Your first six or seven words are really important for when you show up in search results or when someone sees your comments on someone else's post," Rivera said.

Next, Bhattacharyya recommended turning on "creator mode," which makes a few valuable changes to your profile, including setting the default action on your profile from "connect" to "follow" (which can accelerate follower growth) and allowing you to add five hashtags to the top of your profile to quickly explain your areas of expertise as well as a clickable link directing people to your website.

"That's a great way to bring people from LinkedIn into the ecosystem that you own," Bhattacharyya said.

Creator mode also moves your "featured" section up. Rivera suggested putting proof of your work in this part of your profile.

"I have when I was on ABC News Live, my TEDx talk, some of my posts that went really big," she said.


Finally, update your "about" section to make it very clear what you offer.

"Not a lot of people are going to read the 'about' section, but your ideal client might," Rivera said.

Be a resource, not a salesperson

When posting on LinkedIn, it's easy to always be in sales mode or brag about your latest company win. But Bhattacharyya said you should be a resource for your followers and others, rather than treat LinkedIn like your résumé.

That means sharing helpful, valuable content, whether it's tips related to your area of expertise or opinions that make people think about your work in a different way. For instance, one of Rivera's more popular posts encouraged people to reframe how they thought about hiring talent with disabilities and gave some resources for doing so.

Bhattacharyya added that she liked to end each of her posts with a soft call to action to keep the relationship between her and her followers moving forward.


"Maybe it's a question that you want people to answer in the comments," she said. "If you're in the middle of a launch, maybe you say, 'If this resonates with you, send me a direct message to take the next step.'"

Almost more important than the posts themselves is how you engage with people afterward.

"I think sometimes when people are posting but they're not getting traction, the missing piece is they're not building community," Bhattacharyya said.

Rivera added that she scheduled time after each post to go in and respond thoughtfully to every comment.

Post consistently, not excessively

If this all sounds like it's going to take a lot of time — it doesn't have to. Rivera said she spent four to seven hours a week on LinkedIn and posted only three times each week.


Bhattacharyya, meanwhile, has seen results from her signature "lazy on LinkedIn" strategy, where she encourages clients to post just once a week and spend 30 minutes to one hour engaging after that.

"If you're consistently sharing, you really start to build a community of people who are looking forward to your next post and who begin to hype you up in rooms that you're not even in," she said.

"Pick the number of times that's going to work for you," Rivera added.

For example, she's less likely to follow someone if she lands on their profile and sees they haven't posted in a while.

"It's much better to be consistent twice a week than to try to post every day and create a cycle of stress for yourself," she said.