Thomas Merlino - LinkedIn userThis is part of our success story series where LinkedIn users share their best practices on using LinkedIn more effectively to advance their career or business. Today’s user story comes from Thomas Merlino, small business owner at InControl Technical, who discovered how LinkedIn could help his small business grow outside of where he lived.

How I used LinkedIn as a beginner

Never underestimate the power of social networking.  When I first signed up for a LinkedIn account, it was primarily to network with peers in my area.  I am now a small business owner who utilizes LinkedIn as a means to help gain customers outside of our local geographical area.

My business, InControl Technical, was started in February 2007.  My vision was to provide simple and straightforward technical services to the area where I live, work, and play.  I wanted to connect with other professionals and business owners in the local Erie, Pennsylvania area, so I decided to create and administer a group on LinkedIn called LinkedErie.  I, along with some others in the group, promote our individual businesses and discuss everything from politics to the local economy on the LinkedErie discussion board.  It has been a tremendous help to get to know some of my current and potential customers through this group on LinkedIn.

My Aha! moment: How a future client found me on LinkedIn

Soon the time came when I realized another advantageous benefit of social networking and LinkedIn.  While I was working towards building a sizable local customer base and getting our name out there, InControl Technical was contacted by a company out of Greenville, South Carolina.  They found us on the Web by doing a search for “computer repair erie pa” and found my LinkedIn profile that I link to from our Web site.  After viewing my credentials and seeing the recommendations on my LinkedIn profile, the company felt that InControl Technical would be a good fit for their clients in Erie, PA.  The company that contacted us installs and services equipment that is tied in with local servers at various law enforcement agencies.  Based on the recommendations and credentials posted on my LinkedIn profile and the pricing information that is readily available on our Web site, this company felt comfortable trusting us to service their installed server equipment at a reasonable cost.

Since then, we’ve received calls from other companies outside of our immediate area wanting to utilize our services to assist with everything from temporary small projects to dedicated ongoing support for field employees who don’t have access to a corporate information services department.  Without the enormous power and potential of social networking and LinkedIn, I truly believe that the task of expanding outside of invisible geographical walls would be much more difficult to accomplish.

[LinkedIn Tip] Optimize your LinkedIn profile with appropriate keywords to be found easily by clients

I’m sure many of you reading this post may wonder how you can reap similar benefits by optimizing your LinkedIn profile for keywords pertaining to your consultancy (both for freelancers or small businesses). For starters, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date with the latest information on your small business offerings.

For example. Not only is Thomas’ profile summary up-to-date, but he’s also updated the “Specialties” section with a list of keywords related to the technical consulting offered by his small business. You may notice that the keywords he’s added are also localized mentioning Erie, Pennsylvania. This is a great way to come up in search results when prospective clients search for vendors in that particular location. In this particular example Thomas’ profile showed up when the prospective client searched for “computer repair erie pa” and found 14 results, the first of which was Thomas’s profile.

If you’re looking for vendors, don’t stop with basic search. Try advanced people search that allows you to slice and dice across multiple facets including location, industry; even groups that you belong to.

Update your LinkedIn Profile Summary and Specialties now