These days, LinkedIn isn’t just an online professional networking platform. The social network also offers small business owners a prime opportunity to grow their business and expand their reach. And like other social media platforms, you can do much of this for free.

Intrigued? Here are eight tips to start using LinkedIn for your small business.

1. Create your personal LinkedIn profile.

It might seem odd to start your LinkedIn journey with a personal profile when you’re planning to use the platform to promote your small business. But your personal profile is where the majority of your LinkedIn activity happens. 

If you don’t have a personal profile set up yet, you can create one now. It might feel like you’re putting together a resume, but you want to be strategic about how you build your profile. Think about creating your profile as a business owner, rather than someone who’s looking for a job.

In addition to adding your position as owner of your company in the Work Experience section, you’ll want to highlight what you do in your profile’s headline (the tagline that shows up under your profile picture). In your About or summary section, shine the light on who you are and the story behind your business. 

2. Complete your LinkedIn company page.

Once you complete your profile, set up a company page next. Think of your company page as your business’s home page on LinkedIn. This is where you can build trust and credibility by sharing the story of your business and increase the potential for your page to show up in search results on both LinkedIn and Google.

You’ll be able to add your logo and a cover image to your page, so be sure to use colors and images that are consistent with your brand. Search engine optimization is also important. For example, in the About Us section, weave in relevant SEO keywords as you’re sharing details about your business. 

Once you’ve set up your company page, don’t forget to go back to your personal profile to link your new page in your Work Experience section. You’ll also want to post regular company updates on your page (but as you’ll see below, much of the magic of LinkedIn’s organic reach happens through your personal profile).

3. Grow your connections.

“Connections” are LinkedIn’s equivalent of Facebook’s “friends” and Instagram’s “followers.” LinkedIn makes it easy to begin connecting: Simply sync your email address book to find people you know on LinkedIn. Sending a connection request can be as quick as clicking “Connect” on their profile. Increase your chances of people joining your network by adding a short personalized message to your request.  

Your connections are a key factor in expanding your business’s reach on LinkedIn. Everyone you connect with is a first-degree connection, but the magic happens with your second-degree connections. Second-degree connections are people you share a mutual connection with. For example, let’s say you’re connected with your accountant, John, on LinkedIn. Sunita is also connected with John, making her a second-degree connection for you. 

Whenever John engages with your profile publicly (for example, by liking or commenting on one of your posts), LinkedIn will show John’s reaction or comment (and therefore your post) to some of John’s connections like Sunita, even though you aren’t connected to Sunita—yet. This is how second-degree connections help expand your reach in the LinkedIn world.  

4. Post regularly on your personal profile.

The more often you post, the more you increase your chances of your second-degree connections seeing one of your posts in their feeds.

And it’s not just about regularly publishing posts, either. The content of your posts also matters. Your connections must like or comment on your posts to expand your reach. The more engaging, informative or useful your posts are, the more likely people will interact with your content. 

When brainstorming content ideas, think about potential customers’ pain points and ways your business helps them solve these pain points. Then write your posts with this in mind, without being salesy or promotional. For example, you can post mini case studies to highlight how a product helped a customer, or share a list of helpful tips for solving a specific problem.

5. Engage with others.

The LinkedIn algorithm favors users who actively participate on the platform. To increase your reach, you should engage with others not only in the comments section of your own posts, but by liking or commenting on other people’s posts, too. You can also comment on posts as your company page, which will help make your Page more visible to potential customers.

Think of this engagement as nurturing your network. Just like in real life, building relationships on your LinkedIn network happens through interacting with your connections. On LinkedIn, this happens through the conversations in the comments. 

One word of caution: The posts you like or comment on may show up on the feeds of your connections. To avoid cluttering your connections’ feeds, avoid going on a “liking” spree. Only like posts you’d want to share with others. And comment only when you have something useful to add to the conversation—which has the added benefit of showcasing your expertise.

6. Scope out the competition.

LinkedIn offers business owners a treasure trove of information for competitive analysis—much of it for free. Start by making a list of your top competitors, both local and national, and search for their company pages. 

These pages can provide information such as company size and recent job postings. You can also review their posts and updates for a peek into their marketing strategies and messaging. Analyze the profiles of their employees to see the skills they’re hiring for and the job titles they’re using. 

Industry groups on LinkedIn can also be helpful for competitive research. Find groups that are relevant to your business and read or join in on conversations in these groups to gain insight into industry thought leadership. 

7. Explore LinkedIn ads. 

Like other social networking platforms, LinkedIn lets you create and run ad campaigns to promote your business. You can take advantage of this by running ads from your company page.

When setting up ads on LinkedIn, you’ll have a number of options. A sponsored content ad, for example, will show up directly in the feeds of your target audience. They look like regular posts but have a “promoted” label. Text ads are another option that displays simple ads on the sidebar of users’ profile pages.

You can select specific targeting criteria for your ads such as job titles and other audience attributes. Once you’ve set up your ads, you’ll be able to track data about their performance using the LinkedIn Campaign Manager. You can view overall impressions, clicks and audience interactions for all of your ad content. 

8. Use LinkedIn for hiring.

LinkedIn was originally launched with a job search and recruitment focus, and it continues to function as a great tool for business owners to find new employees. There are also ways to build your employer brand on LinkedIn to help you attract new talent, whether you pay to post job listings or use free tactics.

Once you’ve set up a company page, you’ll be able to post your job listings for a fee. LinkedIn uses pay-per-click pricing for job postings, so you’ll only pay for actual user clicks to your job listing. Be sure to spread the reach of your job posts by sharing them in Company Page updates, and through your personal profile posts as well. And if your employees are on LinkedIn, ask them to share the post with their connections too. 

LinkedIn can also help you build your company’s reputation and make your business more attractive to top talent. Share updates that give a glimpse into your business’s culture and work environment. Use your page to spotlight your employees: share their interests, skills and hobbies. Let potential clients and prospective job applicants alike see how you treat your staff.

LinkedIn has become a game-changing tool for many small business owners. With its powerful networking capabilities, vast pool of professional talent and wealth of industry insights, it’s a must-use platform for growing your brand, expanding your reach and staying in step with the competition.

Next steps: Interested in more marketing tips to help your small business get ahead? Sign up for the Small Biz Ahead newsletter today.