By Donna Serdula

Your LinkedIn profile is optimized and your network is growing . . . now what? Most people optimize their profile and then disappear off LinkedIn. They forget that LinkedIn is more than just a place to house your profile and accomplishments.

Here are ten tips to help you leverage LinkedIn.

A-B-C . . . Always Be Connecting

By connecting with people on LinkedIn, you are able to keep in touch with them. Consider it drip-feed marketing. When connected, that person is subscribed to your LinkedIn activity and updates. Each time you update your profile or send out a status update or get recommended or publish a long-form post, they have the potential to see it and be reminded of you.

When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you aren’t just connecting to solely them — you are connecting to his network and his network’s network. If either that person or someone within his network searches LinkedIn for someone like you, your profile has a higher likelihood of appearing in the search results because of the network you share.

Connect and Stay in Touch

When starting out on LinkedIn, most people don’t put enough focus on connecting and growing a strong network. LinkedIn’s People You May Know page is a great way to get connection recommendations.

Here’s how to get to LinkedIn’s People You May Know page:

  1. Open your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Hover your mouse pointer over My Network in LinkedIn’s main toolbar at the top of the page and click People You May Know.
    LinkedIn presents you with a page of connection recommendations.

By extrapolating relationships through email matches and shared information on LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn often provides eerily correct recommendations. Often, the people in the People You May Know page are actually people you had forgotten about, but with LinkedIn’s prompting, you can reconnect and reestablish a fruitful relationship.

Another way to reconnect and reestablish professional friendships is through LinkedIn’s Connections page. This page shows your list of first-degree connections, but it also shows a list of people with suggested reasons to reconnect.

Here’s how to get there:

  1. Open your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Hover your mouse pointer over My Network in LinkedIn’s main toolbar at the top of the page and click Connections.
    At the top of the page, LinkedIn shows you a grid of people who are celebrating:

    • Birthdays
    • Work anniversaries
    • New positions

To make it even easier for you, LinkedIn provides a one-click button to wish the person a happy birthday or say congrats.

Now you have no excuses not to stay in touch with people in your network.

Gather Business Intelligence

LinkedIn is a treasure trove of information on people and companies. This is information that you can easily access with just a few simple searches.

Interviewing at a company and want to learn more about them? Check them out on LinkedIn. Their LinkedIn Company page not only summarizes who they are and what they do, but also you get to see a listing of current employees.

One of the key benefits of LinkedIn is that it turns invisible relationships visible. Looking at the list of employees on a LinkedIn company page, you can see how you are connected to them: first-degree, second-degree, third-degree, or through a group. If you find an employee who’s a second-degree connection, visit that person’s profile to see the mutual connection you have in common. If it’s someone you are on familiar terms, reach out and ask for an introduction. If the employee has provided contact information, use your shared connection’s name as an ice breaker.

LinkedIn does not just offer company research. Profiles are brimming with great information, too, even if the person hasn’t optimized his or her profile.

Get the News

The newsfeed on LinkedIn’s home page is a veritable newspaper, filled with articles and items that have been cultivated and curated by your network. These people with whom you are connected have handpicked the articles, written the posts, and shared news that moves them. This stream of information is brimming with possibilities and opportunities. Scroll through your newsfeed, not just looking at the information being shared, but also at who’s sharing it.

Think of your LinkedIn’s home page newsfeed as an online networking party where that tiny little status update is the virtual embodiment of a person standing in the middle of the room, looking for someone to talk to. How do you want to respond to this person? If you simply want to smile and nod, click the Like button. If you want to engage and start a conversation, click the Comment button and type something pithy. If you want to trumpet this person and give her a bigger audience, click the Share button.

Get Social Proof and Credibility

LinkedIn offers something that resumes and recommendation letters can’t: social proof. The LinkedIn profile is totally public and visible for all to see. The public nature of the LinkedIn profile acts as an honesty incentive. Who’s going to lie when their teammates and colleagues are able to click and see what they are touting?

In addition, recommendations and endorsements add balance to your accomplishments and successes. It’s not just you saying you’re great; other people can chime in and say it, too. And remember, those people endorsing and recommending you — it’s done upfront with their names and faces right next to the endorsement and recommendation. They, too, are incentivized to tell the truth with their public images on the line.

Get Past the Gatekeeper

If you have ever been in sales and had to cold-call potential customers, you know about the Gatekeeper. That’s the person hired to keep salespeople and other annoyances away from decision-makers. You call and call but never can get through to the person because the Gatekeeper is keeping you at bay.

LinkedIn offers a great way to get past the Gatekeeper. InMails, OpenLink messages, and group messaging allow you to directly communicate with a person you can’t get through to over the phone.

Rub Elbows in Groups

LinkedIn Groups are subject-focused forums where like-minded individuals join for discussion and networking purposes. Join groups within your business niche to rub elbows with your target audience. When you join a strong, focused group with serious members, it’s a place to learn, develop, inspire, and help others.

If you don’t have time to join a group for discussion and interaction, join LinkedIn Groups because they extend your network. By joining a group, those members are added to your network. By having these members in your network, they are able to find you if they are doing a keyword-based search and your search results are enhanced for keyword searches you perform. Joining groups is the easiest way to grow your network and see a real impact in search results.

Find Assistance

Are you looking for a marketing consultant to help grow your business? Perhaps you need a financial advisor or an insurance agent? Maybe you need to hire an office manager? Whatever you are looking for, LinkedIn is a searchable database of professionals who are connected to you.

Search LinkedIn, and the search result listings that are returned are real people within your network. The number after their names tells you how closely connected you are to the people who fit your search criteria. First-degree connections are people directly connected to you. Second-degree connections are people who share with you a mutual connection. Third-degree connections are people who know a mutual connection you share. If the icon next to their name reads Group, this person shares a LinkedIn Group in common with you.

Clicking the result gives you a profile that provides everything you need to decide if you want to reach out to learn more.

Showcase Thought Leadership

The problem with blogging is not just coming up with content, it’s also finding an audience to read your articles. You can go to WordPress.com and easily create your own website and start blogging, but it takes time to develop an audience.

The beautiful part of using LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform is that when you begin to write long-form posts, you already have a built-in audience — your LinkedIn network! All those people you’ve connected to over the years are potential readers of your work. Because you have a built-in audience, you can really concentrate on coming up with good topics and content. Your posts are housed on your profile for readers of your profile to see.

Profiles that contain long-form posts showcase thought leadership. Expertise is rare, and by taking the time to create a long-form post, you are differentiating yourself and your profile. Remember:

Blogging = Thought Leadership = Differentiation = Opportunity

Network in Your Pajamas

Networking is not nearly as complicated as it seems. Networking at its most basic level is two things: being friendly and being helpful. That’s why so many people fail. They start networking only when they need something.

Networking used to take place in person or over the phone, one to one. LinkedIn changed the playing field, giving you the ability to network at 3 a.m. in your pajamas.