LinkedInSt. Patrick’s Day is March 17, a day rejoiced by those claiming Irish heritage. It’s certainly celebrated by all citizens as a day of lighthearted fun (think: the Chicago River dyed green). Plus there’s the touch of whimsy represented by the display of iconic rainbows, clovers, pots of gold and red-bearded men wearing shamrock-green suits. I’d say the holiday’s timing is about perfect; out with the dreary winter and in with the fresh breath of spring.

Why not entice the little Leprechaun to share some of his good fortune with your small business? This year, let there be green in your pocket as well as on your shirt (no pinching!) with the help of social networking on LinkedIn. Grab some of the grand prize (new customers!) for yourself in the form of business development when you use LinkedIn’s rich features.

1. Company pages are free digital billboards. They allow you to share descriptive information about your company, your operating philosophy, special certifications and much more. Write this text with SEO in mind. In other words, if you offer IT consulting and network planning/installation, you’ll want to include several phrases within the text to appeal to various ways users may label or define what you do. Terms like “IT outsourcing,” “small business networking,” and others may help others relate to you.

2. Showcase your smarts. Company pages allow you to pump in a feed from your blog. If you regularly write good material related to issues in your industry, trends, problem-solving tips, etc., be sure to merchandise it on your LinkedIn company page as well. You never know just how a prospect might discover your business, so reward them right away with something helpful and interesting.

3. Promote your services or products. LinkedIn company pages allow you to set up categories of services or products and include detailed descriptions. This can define what you do into more granular levels. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Using the IT consulting example above, you might categorize your services into Consulting, Planning, Installation, and Maintenance categories. Within each category you can describe precisely what a new client might expect to receive for his investment.

4. Bonus! Get your business publicly endorsed! After you set up your services or products, customers have the opportunity to log in to their LinkedIn account and add endorsements about your company. Someone can write about how easy it was to do business with you, how you made a complex problem simple to manage, your fair pricing, the courtesy of your employees, and anything else. These endorsements are on your company profile 24/7 meaning they help sell your business with real customer stories even when you’re sleeping!

Other ways LinkedIn company pages help: when employees list your company as their employer, their profiles populate another tab on the company page. Prospects can see who your employees are and get to know them a bit online before they ever send an email or pick up the phone.

How will you know if the 2 hours you spent setting up the page is working? Well, LinkedIn has you covered there, too, with some analytics depicting page views and visitors. More robust reporting should be available through your web site analytics package.