A version of this post was originally published at BlogWorld.

Many large companies have rigid policies prohibiting employees from any business-related social media activity. If that’s your practice, I recommend you reconsider.

The Whale Hunters help  B2B companies accelerate their growth by selling bigger deals to bigger customers. Most of our clients have a complex sale, such as a software solution, a technology, a marketing plan, a training program, a manufactured part of a larger item,  for a few examples. When they are selling into a large company, they find many people  involved in the decision of what to buy and from whom or whether to buy or do it themselves in house.

One or two people will make the final decision but many more will influence that decision. Whoever ultimately decides will only choose a solution or a service provider that is not acceptable to most internal influencers. The price of change is too high; the price of internal conflict is too painful.

These influencers–subject matter experts–will make their recommendation based on their confidence in the capability and likeability of their counterparts at your company. They want to get to know these people. They want to check out the credentials of  your project managers or your trainers or your customer service staff or your IT department or your graphic designers or whomever. They want to know their peers in your company.

Now here’s where social media comes in: they will look for your employees on LinkedIn and will check to see which employees contribute to your company’s blog or Facebook page or LinkedIn discussions. They will want to see a profile, work history, where people went to school, what kind of credentials they have. Especially on LinkedIn, they will explore whether your employees have received recommendations from past or current customers, supervisors, or co-workers. They will be interested to learn whether your employees are thought leaders; for example, do they comment on relevant industry blog posts, do they ask and/or answer questions on LinkedIn, and do they participate in special interest groups online. They’ll look to see how your employees are connected, to them and to others. They may ask to connect with members of your team.

If your employees are invisible online, or if their only presence is a personal presence, you will be at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to other competitors whose employees are visible and active online.

Of course you need policies and procedures, mostly guided by common sense. To start in a small, safe way, find someone (likely in marketing) who knows LinkedIn. Encourage your employees to create a LinkedIn profile. Teach them what a good one looks like and help them get a professional headshot photo. Ask them to request recommendations. Show them how LinkedIn works, how to find groups, and how to participate appropriately. Make your expectations clear, and be explicit about how much time during business hours would be acceptable for professional social media activity. Even a limit of 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn will enable them to become well-connected–and they won’t need to check in daily.

The more your team “connects” with others, the more powerful your company will become in business development opportunities–more sales, bigger deals.