In today’s market, one of the most important social media tools you can sign up for right now is LinkedIn; it’s a tool you cannot afford to ignore. LinkedIn lets you post your work experience in a familiar resume format, connect with and manage your professional contacts, and promote your skill sets in real time. LinkedIn isn’t just for looking for the next job, it’s also about branding yourself with potential future employers and your professional peers within your industry. Interactive features allow your contacts to also post recommendations that can be seen by anyone who views your profile.

I’ve been on LinkedIn for a couple of years now.  I use the site as a new Rolodex, or a way to manage my professional contacts, but there is always so much more I could be doing. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Update your photo.  Your picture should be recent, professional, and recognizable. An extra tip from Contributor Ken Krogue: Make the photo black and white—since the majority of the photos are in color, the black and white choice will help to set you apart from the crowd.
  2. Craft a killer headline.  These are the most important 120 characters on your profile and should include your most important keywords and a short version of your branding story or elevator speech.
  3. Revisit your Summary.  Think of a tone and style akin to having a cup of coffee with the people who visit your profile. Your description should make them want to pursue a lasting business relationship with you. Would you want to know the person you see in your description, or do you sound entirely self-focused? Now’s the time to give it a bit of thought.
  4. Update your status. You should be regularly reading interesting online content that is relevant to your career. When you find something that you like, post it to your profile, adding a few words to provide your own context. Doing this not only keeps you informed, but also makes you appear up-to-date and relevant.
  5. Join and participate in a group. Which aspect of your business are you most passionate about? Chances are, there’s a lively discussion happening right now in one of LinkedIn’s groups on that topic. This is important because it gives you an opportunity to connect with other people in the nonprofit sector.Best thing is, being part of a group allows you to bypass LinkedIn’s standard requirement to be connected to someone in order to reach out to them. If you and another professional are part of the same group, you can communicate without limitations.
  6. Connect with all of your current clients. Just a brief note of contact and thanks will suffice. They are hands down your very best source of referrals, so be sure to keep the contact points sufficiently frequent and fresh.

Join as many groups as you can, off course keeping in mind your area of development. Search Groups of Marketing, Advertising, Networking and so on. Good Luck!