3. Brand Yourself an Expert With "Answers"
One of the most valuable and underused features on LinkedIn is "Answers," Howes says. This part of the site is a forum where users can propose questions, seek advice and ask for opinions.
"So many users are asking questions about their most painful points in their career or businesses," he says. "If you're an expert in a topic, then you should be answering more questions in order to pick up more clients and grow your business," he says.
"Answers" is also a good way to contact others who are interested in the same topics as you, says Orsburn. If you're looking for a job in the IT industry, for example, search through questions tagged with that category to find one that would showcase your abilities and knowledge in that area.
4. Refresh Your Profile, Even if You're Not Job Hunting
Just because you're not currently looking for a job doesn't mean your LinkedIn profile should lie dormant. Keeping your profile updated, Howes says, is essential for maintaining an accurate personal brand, as well as the potential for new business opportunities.
"If someone wants to do business with you, they are most likely going to do some research about you on the Web," Howes says. "It's important you have everything up to date and portray your profile the way you want it to look. This means keeping it updated, adding new recommendations and advanced applications to enhance your profile."
Howes also recommends paying particular attention to the keywords you use in your profile, so you rank higher in searches for your areas of expertise.
5. Make New Connections in 2012
The more quality people you are connected to, the more opportunities that could come your way. This year, focus on growing your network and connecting with new people, Howes says.
"Businesses grow based on your relationships, so you want to keep expanding and growing connections in your immediate and expanded network," he says.
But be careful when requesting new connections, though. Do your homework on who they are, their past positions and their interests; find common ground; and be sure to craft a personal note requesting to add them to your network, using the information above.
Orsburn recommends spending 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn to see where your efforts take you. "Start participating in groups and discussions, and start finding new connections to make," she says. "The payoff will be better business connections in 2012."
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