The professional social networking site LinkedIn has a community of more than half a billion people, with new people joining all the time.

It is also the most trusted of all social networks due to its transparency. Unlike other networks, people can’t hide behind a cloak of anonymity and/or lies. The whole purpose of the site is to show who you are and who you know. You start making connections through the companies you have worked at and colleges you have attended. 

Studies have shown that the most successful users are those who list at least one job in their profile and connect with people they know in an active way.

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The Modern Business Card

LinkedIn has become the modern equivalent of a business card, moving real world as well as virtual networking online. In addition to connecting with colleagues and clients, you can also connect with thought leaders in your industry. There are also many chances to connect with human resources personnel and recruiters. Recruiters are the largest industry using LinkedIn regularly, so if you have not created a great profile, and/or are not keeping it up to date, you could be missing out on some golden opportunities. 

Take some time each week to improve your profile and connect with old colleagues and new, and you should soon have a comprehensive database of high-quality connections in your niche or industry. The crucial thing to remember is that you must have a reason to connect with the other person, such as that you already know them, but this gives you access by degrees to other people in their networks who could potentially be a good fit for you.

The Pro level does cost money, but offers even more opportunities to connect with the thought leaders and experts in your niche or industry.

Messages and Notifications

Once you are connected, you can message each other, and you will receive notifications of important information related to the people you have connected with. These might be as simple as a birthday or work anniversary, or as interesting as new content being posted or the person starting a new job. The data LinkedIn provides for free could offer you a range of opportunities without you having to hunt all over for them.

A Great Profile

It all starts with a great profile, which will help you find others, and be found. Being found and getting followers is really what it’s all about. Your profile should be kept up to date and keyworded in such a way that people will see why you are trying to connect with them, and why you in turn are worth connecting with.

Also pay attention to recommendations and endorsements. Be willing to give them, and you will get them in return. This will also give people an incentive to get to know you and trust you, so they will be more willing to approach you with opportunities, collaborations, new jobs and projects, and more.

Great Contributions

Don’t spam. Always think, "How can I help others?" Make introductions, join groups, offer advice and share information. Remember the "social" in social media. It will be a two-way conversation, not just endless marketing.

Be Polite and Professional

In general, LinkedIn is pretty civilized because people are interacting with people they know or want to get to know, and doing all of it out in the open under their own real names. Keep it that way. Say please, thank you, like, comment helpfully, share useful content with your network, and more. Be human and approachable. Don’t get too pushy with promotional material and your own opinions. Make your contributions positive, no matter what might be going on at the posts you comment on or have written yourself. 

Use these ideas to help you connect with the right people on LinkedIn.