As a small business owner in the federal contracting sphere, you know the importance of networking and fostering relationships with agency officials, potential teaming partners, employees and peers. Fortunately, in this digital age, our networking prospects aren’t limited by geography as social media has made connecting with others as simple as a few clicks. While there are many great social platforms to use, LinkedIn stands out as a platform that helps forge these connections and open the door for new contracting possibilities. With several key federal agencies maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn, it’s certainly an important place to be if you’re pursuing government contracting opportunities.
Whether you’re just setting up your profile or looking for new opportunities to connect with peers and prospects, here are three top LinkedIn tips for your consideration.
Build an Individual Profile AND a Business Profile
If agency representatives or potential teaming partners search for the name of your business, you’ll want them to land on an official business profile that gives a concise, comprehensive overview of your business and capabilities. Likewise, if people search for your name, you’ll want them to see a professional overview that showcases your role in the company, experience and qualifications. Having one or the other instead of both can confuse prospects, making it hard for them to find the information that they need.
One of the fundamental differences between business pages and personal pages is the way in which they connect; personal pages allow you to connect to other personal pages, while business pages have followers rather than connections. Personal pages and business pages can’t connect with a business page—they can only follow it. This is an important distinction because it influences the way potential prospects interact with you on the platform. Your personal page establishes you as the business owner and leader, making it easy for federal decision makers, peers and potential teaming partners to personally connect with you and begin conversations. On the other hand, your business profile gives a more in-depth look at your business and is a platform for you to highlight your company capabilities and share important news and updates.
In short, without a personal profile it’s hard to put a face, and therefore a point of contact, to your company. Without a business page, it’s hard for you to generate awareness of your business and its role in the federal contracting space. It’s best to avoid this chicken-or-egg situation and set up both a personal and business page for maximum exposure.
Join LinkedIn Groups to Network and Increase Your Customer Reach
Here’s another great reason to have a personal profile in addition to a business page: personal profiles can join groups! There are several federal contracting-focused groups on LinkedIn that allow members to network with agency decision makers, share ideas, explore teaming arrangements and post and/or inquire about contracting opportunities. The largest group, Federal Government Contractor Network (TFCN), has nearly 29,000 members! Are you a member of an organization that helps connect small businesses to federal contracting opportunities? If so, chances are they have a members-only LinkedIn Group that can also help you network nationwide. National Contract Management Association (NCMA), Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum (SECAF), The American Small Business Coalition, and The Coalition for Government Procurement are among some of the popular organizations that have LinkedIn groups geared toward helping members make meaningful online connections.
In addition, you may want to join the 28,000 people who follow the Small Business Administration’s LinkedIn page. It offers free information to small businesses on how to expand and grow with access to educational tools, access to capital, and marketing opportunities with the federal government.
While we’re on the subject of networking, it’s important to note another way small business owners can use LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups to grow: attracting employees. LinkedIn is one of the world’s largest professional networks, so it’s likely there are some great candidates waiting to be discovered. You can even use your business’ LinkedIn page to advertise open positions. For more information and tips on how to recruit employees using LinkedIn, check out this article here.
Customize the Content
As the keeper of your professional image and your business’ image, you will want to customize the content you feature on your pages to be relevant to your respective audiences, even if those audiences overlap. This is especially true if your connections from your personal page also follow your business page—they won’t want to see the same content twice! Customizing your content might take a bit of extra work, but it conveys that you’re invested in growing your business and being an active member in your industry. Here are some basic content suggestions for personal and business pages:
Personal: Original thought leadership and opinion pieces relevant to your industry, industry news, outstanding content written by your peers
Business: Major company news and announcements, networking/conference events hosted by your company, hiring notices, awards and recognitions
And remember: Over 50% of LinkedIn traffic is mobile. Be sure to keep your content concise, easily digestible and interesting for maximum engagement.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of LinkedIn
As a small business owner in the federal contracting space, LinkedIn is a tool you should never underestimate! As needs change and new contracts develop, your products and services could suddenly be in high demand. Having an active personal and business presence on LinkedIn helps you put your best foot forward and increases your chances of getting noticed by agency decision makers and teaming partners. With a bit of time and work on the platform, you open the door to new opportunities and relationships that can help shape your success in the future.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the founder and president of Government Business Solutions, a firm based in Miami, dedicated to providing services ranging from program management solutions to implementation.Lourdes also serves as an Advisor on Government Contracts to American Express. She participates in breakout sessions and panel discussions nation-wide at the American Express Government Contracting events. She helps small business owners, just like herself, access impactful resources and gain the tools needed to become successful in the government contracting arena.