Whether you are in the business of networking or sales, looking for your first job or a new job, or searching for your next office superstar, LinkedIn is a powerful tool. The site has 500 million users worldwide, 106 million are monthly active users, and 40 percent of those are on the site daily. There are 1.5 million industry groups having conversations and connecting right now – these are conversations and connections you don’t want to miss out on.

One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to speak to various groups about properly using this platform. Yes, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are fun and creative; but so is LinkedIn, and it provides so many interesting opportunities to connect with professionals. Here are a few basic LinkedIn tips to get you started.

1.) Have an engaging profile

A good profile helps people find you and learn about you. Here are a few basics:

  • Add an engaging, but appropriate background picture.
  • Have a professional headshot that features only you – no awkward crops, zooms or blurriness.
  • Customize your headline to say more than just your current position or company. We recommend choosing two to three words or phrases that describe you as a professional.
  • Fill out your page by adding sections like honors, awards and certificates.

2.) Make those connections – 500, to be exact

Reaching 500+ shows viewers that you have a large network and strong presence. This also allows you to rank higher in the search function. Having more connections also expands your network. LinkedIn’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd connection monikers allow you to see people with whom you have connections in common, so if you are trying to connect with a specific person and see that you have several second connections with them, you can ask one of those people for an introduction and get in front of that person more easily than reaching out on your own. Just make sure you are being authentic and connect only with those who you have a reason to connect with.

3.) Engage

You’re on LinkedIn to connect, engage and tell a story – so, do so! Get involved in conversations, and start your own. Join groups of professionals in your industry. I belong to public relations groups, networking in Nashville groups and social media marketing groups, to name a few. Pose questions, jump in and add a comment to someone else’s post, share a post or announcement from your company. Whatever you do, participate, engage and network authentically and professionally. Doing so will establish your credibility as a professional and instill trust in those who may want to do business with you. I’m looking at you, sales representatives.

These are just a few suggestions to help use LinkedIn effectively. I also recommend setting some time aside each day to familiarize yourself with the platform and see how others are using it and how they set up their profiles. If you are or your organization is interested in learning more and, more specifically, using it more effectively for your industry, email tsmith@mpf.com to schedule a customized training.