Business Advice

Small business and personal branding: 5 lessons from the past for LinkedIn success today

- June 28, 2024 3 MIN READ


In the days of our grandparents, the essence of small business was deeply intertwined with personal branding. My grandad, for instance, owned a hardware store and an engineering company. Everyone in town knew him, admired his dedication, and trusted his expertise. He built his reputation on hard work, honesty, and a personal touch that made every customer feel valued. His success wasn’t just about the products he sold; it was about the relationships he cultivated and the trust he earned, writes Friska Wirya.

While the landscape has shifted significantly, the core principles of what made businesses like my grandad’s thrive remain as relevant as ever. Modern platforms like LinkedIn offer small business owners a powerful tool to build their personal brand, extend their reach and communicate their point of differentiation, much like my grandad did in his community.

Here are five suggestions on how to translate those timeless values into your LinkedIn strategy:

1. Showcase your expertise with authentic content

  • Yesterday: Back then, expertise was shared through conversations and hands-on demonstrations.
  • Today: You can reflect this by regularly posting insightful articles, how-to videos, and industry updates. Share your knowledge generously and authentically to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.

– Example: “5 Essential Tools Every DIY Enthusiast Needs” or “How I Solved a $33m Engineering Challenge – Lessons Learned.”

2. Highlight customer success stories and testimonials

  • Yesterday: My grandad’s reputation was built on word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.
  • Today: You can leverage this by sharing customer success stories and testimonials. Proactively ask for recommendations for your profile. Create posts which highlight how your product or service has positively impacted others.

– Example: “Meet Jane, a Small Business Owner Who Doubled Her Sales Using Our Software” or a post featuring a video testimonial from a satisfied client.

Engage with your network personally

  • Yesterday: Personal connections were everything in the old days. So was community. My grandad was active in Jakarta’s Chinatown, the 3rd oldest in the world, doing the rounds of both a professional and personal nature to get to know every one.
  • Today: Engage with your LinkedIn network by commenting on posts, congratulating peers on their achievements, and participating in relevant discussions. Show genuine interest in others’ work and celebrate their successes.

– Example: Leave thoughtful comments on your connections’ posts, share relevant content with a personal note, or send messages celebrating milestones and anniversaries.

4. Be Transparent and honest

  • Yesterday: Transparency and honesty were the cornerstones of my grandad’s business ethics.
  • Today: Share both your successes and the challenges you face. Being open about your journey fosters trust and shows that you’re relatable and genuine. The highlights reel is great, but the lowlights reel cultivates relatability.

– Example: “We Faced a Major Setback Last Quarter – Here’s How We Overcame It” or “Behind the Scenes: The Highs and Lows of Running a Small Business.” I shared a post about an aggressively violent online troll a few weeks ago, it is very uncharacteristic of me to share such content. I like to err on the uplifting and positive. The support that came through the comments and DMs from people that I’d never met before was humbling and touching!

Showcase community involvement and values

  • Yesterday: My grandad was deeply involved in his community, which cemented his reputation as a trustworthy and reliable business owner. He was in it for the long haul and the greater good – this shone through his actions.
  • Today: Share your community involvement and the values your business stands for on LinkedIn. This demonstrates that you’re committed to making a positive impact beyond just profits.

– Example: “Proud to Support Local Schools with Our Annual Charity Drive” or “Our Commitment to Sustainability – How We’re Reducing Our Environmental Footprint.”

By integrating these timeless principles into your LinkedIn strategy, you can build a personal brand that resonates with authenticity, trust, and community – much like my grandad did in his time.

The tools may have changed, but the essence of what makes a small business successful remains the same. Embrace the digital age with the wisdom of the past, and you’ll find yourself forging meaningful connections which amplify your business’ success.

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