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LinkedIn is today’s top business networking website where business professionals of all kinds migrate in hopes of making new connections and creating new business opportunities. It’s estimated there are now over 200,000 million LinkedIn users, making LinkedIn one of the world’s top social networking websites along with Facebook and Twitter.

Although everyone and their dog has a LinkedIn profile, knowing how to use LinkedIn effectively is no easy task. For many business owners their LinkedIn experience starts and ends with the number of connections they make with most believing bigger numbers will convert into more leads or sales.

Sadly for most people this is not the case, and once LinkedIn users don’t experience the results they are looking for, their enthusiasm wanes. There are countless profiles around the world that sit there with little or no activity because people have given up, thinking LinkedIn just doesn’t work for them (at least when it comes to getting more customers).

Speaking from experience, however, I can tell you that LinkedIn is indeed a very strong promotional tool that when used properly can be a great source of free marketing for your business.

Like anything else in life, getting the results you want takes some time and commitment, so don’t expect too much too quickly. Once you get a better understanding of how LinkedIn works, it will help expose your company to a whole new audience not available anywhere else.

On that note here are 10 important tips to remember that will help generate more interest for your business on LinkedIn:

1. Make Sure Your Profile Is Completed Properly

Before doing anything else make sure your LinkedIn profile is filled out properly. Choosing to not to complete your LinkedIn profile in full is the equivalent of filling out a job application and leaving half of the fields blank. For people to take you seriously, it’s important to treat your LinkedIn profile as an online resume that features your best skills and accomplishments. People must view you as a credible resource for whatever service or product you are selling before they choose to investigate your company further.

2. Include Pictures, Links and Videos In Your Profile

LinkedIn continues to evolve with each passing day and now allows you to add pictures, links or even videos to your profile rather easily. Reading through endless text will bore your visitors in a hurry so anything you can do to spice it up a little is an advantage. If you have pictures of your business available or a portfolio of your work you want people to see, make sure you include this in a place that’s clearly visible. A picture is worth a thousand words is an old but very true saying when it comes to LinkedIn or any other aspect of marketing.

3. Include a Call to Action In Your Profile

Rather than simply listing your business details in your profile try and include something that tells visitors what you want them to do next. Invite them to view your website, join your other social media pages or call you for a free consultation. A call to action creates more of an impulse response with people who may give your profile a look but otherwise won’t react with any sense of urgency. Don’t go overboard with full blown sales pitches but communicate your message in a way that makes visitors want to take the next step.

4. Update Your Status Regularly With Useful Content

Not updating your status on a regular basis is one of the major mistakes most LinkedIn users make and will ensure people forget about you fast. Once you make connections with people, it’s important to make sure you stay in front of your audience so they get to know and recognize your brand. Post information relating to your line of work that others may find helpful, including tips, articles, resources, videos or whatever else. Once people begin to respect you as an authority in your particular subject matter, they are more likely to contact you in the future.

5. Target Your Approach When Making Connections

A lot of people will try and add new connections randomly which is still technically considered a no-no acording to official LinkedIn policy. If you are going to try and make connections with people you haven’t met, try and think logically about what kind of people could benefit from your service. Also try and make connections with people in a similar industry to yours or who offer a complementary service so there is a valid reason for you to make the invite. Collecting a bunch of people who have no interest in you or your business may build up your numbers but won’t help generate buzz for your business. Also remember if your business only serves local customers, you want to try and connect with people in the same area as you.

6. Join Multiple Groups and Actively Participate

There are countless groups on LinkedIn for almost every topic imaginable so join some that interest you and get involved. Posting to group conversations is as important as regular status updates. Not doing so won’t garner you much attention. Remember the goal of a group is to network, meet new people and turn them into acquaintances through meaningful conversations. Groups are a great way to build your list of connections and also to target specific areas of interest that make sense when promoting your business.

7. Optimize Your Profile For Search Results

Many people don’t realize that you can do a search on LinkedIn similar to how you look for information on Google. People don’t just search for someone’s name on LinkedIn, they search for topics or businesses they are interested in as well. Try to include important keywords throughout your profile that other people can use when searching your type of industry. Profiles that are well optimized will show up at the top of many common LinkedIn searches and will bring more targeted traffic to your profile page.

8. Create A LinkedIn Business Page and Make People Aware of it

Yes, LinkedIn has officially jumped on the business page bandwagon, joining the likes of Facebook and Google+. If you haven’t started one yet, do so immediately because promoting a business page can take weeks, if not months. If you have a strong list of LinkedIn contacts already, send them a personal message to follow you on your business page as well (and make sure you are willing to return the favour). Your business page will let you showcase your company in ways your personal profile will not with better options for photos, videos, posting, etc. Don’t neglect your normal profile when building your business page either, the two must work off each other as a cohesive unit for best results.

9. Say Hello to People You Add or Who Add You

Whether people openly admit it or not, they will often add a new connection or accept an invitation to connect with no dialogue or interaction. You won’t be good friends with every contact you have on LinkedIn but at least try to engage some of them in a manner that lets them know you appreciate their interest. If it’s simply sending a personal message saying nice to meet you and thanks for adding me, a personal message goes a long way in building relationships with others. Acknowledging someone as not just another random connection but a real life person lets you stand out in the crowd almost immediately.

10. Get a Professional Photo Taken

You’ve probably heard the saying “image is everything” or perception is reality” a million times. Whether it’s fair or not, having a striking profile picture will make you appear important and more like a big time player in LinkedIn circles everywhere. Professional photos have a huge impact in any aspect of marketing whether it’s websites, magazines, or print ads you get in the mail. If your profile picture is poor or just average, that’s what your first impression will likely be with others. Also don’t ever use personal photos for your LinkedIn profile, make sure you look the part of someone others would want to do business with.

Of course there are more advanced methods of LinkedIn marketing once you get the hang of it and start to see the results you’re after. Remember there is no magic formula in creating the perfect LinkedIn strategy. It is a skill you must practice and develop over time. Work hard, be consistent and your efforts will pay off.