With over 100 million professional members, LinkedIn is a great way to stay on top of what is happening with the people in your networks, as well as a great source of professionals to grow your networks.

Chances are, many of the professional you already know are using LinkedIn.

Here’s how to use LinkedIn to build and expand your professional network:

1.  Decide why you are using LinkedIn.  Do you just want to connect with people you know? Are you building a referral network?  Do you want to drive people to your website or blog? 

2.  Build out your profile.  Take your purpose and craft your profile to reflect that purpose.  The key is to compel the people you know and the people who are looking for someone like you to reach out and connect.

3.  Connect with the people you know.  Use LinkedIn’s built-in tool to import your connections.

4.  Get testimonials.  Take advantage of LinkedIn’s built-in Recommendations feature to give and receive testimonials.  Third party endorsements carry much more weight than your marketing message alone.

5.  Learn the system inside and out.  Pay special attention to the search engine under the People tab.  This feature allows you to search your extended network for all the resources you need to be successful.  Also, learn about the Groups feature.  There are thousands of special interest groups inside LinkedIn where you can connect with thought leaders, experts, prospective clients and prospective referral sources.

6.  Build your network out strategically.  Each connection you make with someone you know grows your overall reach exponentially.

7.  Leverage your networks.  LinkedIn is a social network and a search engine.  Connected individuals can see and search for the people in each other’s networks.  You can use those connections for business development and for finding your ideal social target market.

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