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1Be professional

It should go without saying, but it’s easy to find examples of too much personal information on professional profiles. When building out your LinkedIn profile, as well as in all communication via LinkedIn, be professional.

2Complete your profile

LinkedIn provides a handy, little “profile completeness” bar that you can use to gauge how far along you are in fully filling out your profile. Make sure that bar hits 100 percent so that your profile is as complete as it can be. Fill out your work experience, contact information, education, website and social networking links, and include a picture of yourself (a headshot is good, but keep it professional).

3Get a unique LinkedIn URL

After you’ve created a profile on LinkedIn, you’ll notice the URL to your profile will be a string of numbers following www.linkedin.com/profile/ but you can make yourself even easier to find in internal and external searches (such as via Google and other search engines) by claiming a personalized LinkedIn URL (which shows up www.linkedin.com/profile/yourname).

4Get a good photo

It’s worth repeating that you need a picture for your profile. According to David Perry, co-author of Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0 and co-founder of management consulting firm Perry-Martel International (www.perrymartel.com), people like to do business with people they like and who are personable. Having a good picture on your LinkedIn profile will increase your likeability.

5Connect to others

The main reason you’re on LinkedIn is to connect with others, so start searching for contacts to connect with. In a January 2008 tips column, LinkedIn’s Surya Yalamanchili recommended users to import their address books and let LinkedIn do most of the time-consuming work of finding your contacts. Address books can be imported from a variety of email services, including Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and AOL.

6Choose your connection strategy

Is quantity better than quality? On LinkedIn, the answer is a definite “maybe.” Connecting to hundreds or thousands of people makes you look well-connected, but it’s impossible to develop strong relationships via LinkedIn with that many people. It’s easier to build good relationships by focusing on a small number of contacts, but with only a dozen or two contacts on your profile, you might come across as a newbie to potential new contacts. A happy medium between too few and too many contacts is likely best.

7Update your status

Ever stopped by a LinkedIn profile with a status last updated three-quarters of a year ago? It looks like that profile has been abandoned by its owner, doesn’t it? Don’t be that person. Update your status frequently with relevant updates to show your contacts you’re active.

8Request and give recommendations

The recommendations area of any LinkedIn profile is often ignored, but think of it like the list of references you provide with your resume. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to generate new business, references can show existing and future connections what others think are your important skills, personality traits and work experience. Request recommendations from others, and make sure to offer to write recommendations for your contacts, as well.

9Use SEO tactics

Using keywords in your profile for search engine optimization (SEO) can make you easier to find by potential customers and employers. Determine what words people looking for someone with your services might use in a search engine, and then write your profile in a way to include those words.

10Be the expert

Check the “Answers” section of LinkedIn for questions that other professionals have. Answer questions in topics you’re knowledge about and you’ll look like an expert to others. This can drive customers to you via LinkedIn.

11Join groups

LinkedIn groups are another great way to network with your peers and customers. Join relevant groups (such as this one) and participate in discussions. This is another way to show you’re an active LinkedIn member and expert in your field.

12Keep up the effort

Creating a profile on LinkedIn, connecting to a few people and filling out your work experience is only the start in using this powerful professional networking tool. Don’t abandon your profile once it’s up. Getting the most out of LinkedIn means using it regularly. Good luck.