With over 500 million users, LinkedIn is the 19th most visited website in the UK and an obvious target for B2B social media marketing. What makes it just as important as social media top dog Facebook, however, is that it’s one of the best places for targeting small businesses.

Most small business owners fit into the 25-54 age group, which is the most represented age bracket on LinkedIn, comprising 63% of all users.

We looked into how many LinkedIn users are associated with a company of fewer than 50 employees in the UK and broke them into two groups: small businesses owners, directors and CXOs, and then employees and line managers. Over 2,900,000 LinkedIn members in the UK are linked to small businesses and about a quarter (approximately 730,000) came under the first category.

We acknowledge that 2,900,000 is nowhere near the entire UK small business population: in 2016 there were 5.4 million SMEs in the UK employing around 15.7 million people. That being said a sample size of 2,900,000 LinkedIn users in the small business category is large enough to make basic assumptions about the sector as a whole and the calculations we’ve made below are therefore approximate.

We then went even deeper and have broken down these 2,900,000 members by sector to find out exactly which businesses are on LinkedIn and which aren’t.

SMEs on LinkedIn by sector

SectorOwners, Directors, CXOsTotal LinkedIn Users
High tech130,000450,000
Consumer Goods100,000340,000
IT services61,000200,000


We made three key observations:

1. The number of SMEs using LinkedIn are growing daily

In 2013 just over 100,000 LinkedIn users in the UK were linked to SMEs. In June 2017 it was 2,700,000 and it has since grown to 2,900,000. If you want to reach SMEs – LinkedIn is the place to be.

2. SME owners are out in force on LinkedIn

Our initial observation that roughly a quarter of the LinkedIn small businesses population is made up of heads of businesses, a relatively high percentage, is true across the board when you break it down by sector.

For example, those approaching high tech small businesses have nearly 130,000 users who identify themselves as heads of businesses they can target, out of the 450,000 LinkedIn members who work in the industry.

3. If you want to talk to small business owners, use LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn recommends that you look for relevant groups in order to identify your target users. Groups are an excellent resource for users to put their questions into a forum, share ideas and discuss issues affecting their businesses.

To find groups containing your target audience there’s a group directory that allows you to search for relevant ones, but it’s by no means perfect and doesn’t have accurate filters on multiple keywords or regions.

Rather than just typing in your keywords – “small businesses + “UK” for example – and hoping for the best, you need to put on your deerstalker and tweed and do your research. We’ve devised a time-saving way to do an efficient sweep of your target sector that will save you hours of aimless browsing:

  1. Find one good, relevant group with a decent percentage of the population for your sector (using our table above as a guide if you’re targeting small businesses)
  2. Identify five active conversation threads, preferably covering a topic relevant to your products and services
  3. Find 10-20 participants in those conversations
  4. Look at those users’ newsfeeds and subscribed groups and join them where appropriate.

Doing this helps you to identify which groups the active users in your sector frequently read and contribute to, enabling you to build a base of relevant, well-subscribed forums

This post was initially published in March 2013 but has been completely revamped and updated.