Six months ago when we conducted our annual  social media survey, one of the most surprising results was the disproportionately high level of response from our small business LinkedIn community. At the time, I discounted this response somewhat, chalking it up to a data anomaly caused by the small sample size.

However, over the last few months we have seen anecdotal information which supports the data’s indication that LinkedIn usage is on the rise among the small business community.

This growing trend, fueled in part by a growing level of Internet sophistication among small business owners, coupled with dramatic changes to the LinkedIn interface, may very well make LinkedIn the “hottest” social platform for small business owners.

Why?

LinkedIn is all business. There are no conversations about lunch or cats. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but they belong in the playful world of Facebook, not the all-business community of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is about credentials. While everyone can be an”expert” on Twitter, the resume section of LinkedIn gives you a chance to showcase what you have done. The recommendations allow you to showcase what other’s think about you.

LinkedIn is informative. When LinkedIn severed the automatic feed from Twitter in July, the status feed became infinitely more useful. Suddenly it is easier than ever to really see what is happening in the professional lives of  my connections. I can see who they are connected to, who made a recent job change or won an award. Since a relatively small number of people on LinkedIn take the time to create their own unique status updates, those which do stand out in the stream.

LinkedIn is searchable. While this can change at any time, today Google and Bing index LinkedIn content. If you add relevant relevant keywords to both your company and personal pages, it gives you another chance to increase the chance customers will find you when they search for companies who do what you do.

You company LinkedIn page  usually ranks in the top 10 search results for your business’ name. This is simply another chance to “own” your company’s top search results.

 LinkedIn helps you stay in touch. With more than 35 years in the workforce, I have worked with a lot of people over the years, including coworkers, clients, and vendors. With LinkedIn, it’s easy to stay connected. While I don’t know the intimate details of their personal life (that’s what Facebook is for), I do know that my former boss is now VP at a new company. LinkedIn makes it easy to reach out and talk about business opportunities.

LinkedIn doesn’t take much time. Unlike the more interactive Twitter or Facebook, I can jump in and out of LinkedIn in just a few minutes each day. I can check out recent updates, make a quick comment or two, share a status update and continue on with the rest of my day.

Is that enough? You be the judge. This is a listing of the top referring sites to our company website over the last  three months, since LinkedIn severed the connection with Twitter. Clearly LinkedIn is an important part of our traffic building strategy.  But beyond just generating traffic, because even Stumble does that, LinkedIn drives good traffic.

What we have seen over the last few months is that visitors from LinkedIn are more likely to download white papers, take surveys, and look at multiple pages when they visit. In other words, LinkedIn drives prospects.

As a small business LinkedIn  is our hot new traffic source.