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LinkedIn logos are displayed on computer screens in New York, Jan. 27, 2011. (Jin Lee)
LinkedIn logos are displayed on computer screens in New York, Jan. 27, 2011. (Jin Lee)

MIA PEARSON

Three ways to make the most of LinkedIn Add to ...

Once a very basic system for people to post their employment history and connect with colleagues, LinkedIn has evolved into a powerful social media platform for networking, recruiting, thought leadership and sales.

At 119 million users and growing, LinkedIn provides a great way to find and engage decision- makers in any given industry and can be an invaluable resource to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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Heather Pauls, founder and president of HPCI Consulting, a Calgary-based telecommunications consulting company, actively uses LinkedIn to connect with potential customers on a business-to-business level.

“For small businesses, there is an advantage to investing your time on LinkedIn and building connections with potential clients,” she says. “I’ve tried other avenues to build my profile and the profile of our company, but none have been as effective or affordable as LinkedIn.”

These three easy steps will help get you and your small business on the road to LinkedIn success.

1. Build a strong profile

Start by deciding what you want to use LinkedIn for, because that will determine what your profile looks like and how you use the network.

If you’re embarking on a new venture, it will be important to focus on your previous experience and successes. If you’re launching a new product, sharing as much information as possible will be a priority.

Consider which applications you want to add and use LinkedIn’s profile-building tips to get you as close to 100-per-cent completion as possible.

Differentiating yourself from other people in your industry by creating a well-rounded profile will set you apart.

2. Create a network

Growing your LinkedIn network to reflect your real-world business connections helps strengthen your online reputation.

There are a number of ways to build your network, again depending on what you are hoping to accomplish.

The strategy I use for staying on top of LinkedIn is to connect with people right away.

If someone gives me a business card at a conference or is at a meeting I’m attending, I connect with them as soon as I get back to my computer.

If you do that, chances are that they’ll be more likely to remember you. It gives you a great opportunity for a quick follow-up message.

If you stick to this strategy, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your network grows and the opportunities that can come from these connections in the future.

3. Engage

Once you’re set up and have a network built, get out there and engage.

Joining groups and discussions will give you access to professionals with whom you are not otherwise connected as well as a platform to share your expertise.

Sharing relevant articles and your opinions on them is a great way to show that you’re keeping track of the latest trends in your industry, which is so important these days.

Finally, make use of LinkedIn applications to maximize the value you are getting from the platform. You can ask your contacts questions through polls, share new presentations and invite people to events.

It is important to use all of the different options that LinkedIn offers.

It is no longer just a virtual résumé, but enables professionals to connect and engage. From recommendations to group discussions, it is easy to use LinkedIn to develop business relationships and further the online presence of your company or organization.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Follow on Twitter: @miapearson

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