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Before walking into a business meeting, a lot of people head to the Internet to do a quick Google search about the people who will be in the room. Almost instantly, you get an impression of them and, by default, the company they represent.

That's where part of the power of LinkedIn comes into play. It is almost always one of the top search results when you look up someone's name, making it a great opportunity for a company to put a stronger foot forward.

These days, brands are so much more than products, logos and office space. They live on Facebook and YouTube, chat with fans on Twitter and are often built around a strong leadership team with whom customers build a relationship over time.

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With the growth of social media and video content on corporate sites, your senior leadership team takes on a bigger role in building your corporate brand.

While brands are good at putting a lot of time and effort into developing their online corporate presence, they are not putting the time in at all to focus on their most important asset – their people – to ensure clear, consistent branding on social networks.

If you take a minute to look up the senior leadership teams at a few organizations in which you're interested, it's almost certain you'll come across profiles that under-represent the people or the brand.

To gain a perspective on just how valuable LinkedIn can be, consider that it has 161 million members. More than two million companies have LinkedIn brand pages, executives from all of the Fortune 500 companies are represented on the network and 82 of the Fortune 100 use its hiring solutions to look for talent.

Membership continues to grow rapidly worldwide and the network is increasingly attracting the attention of advertisers looking to reach its affluent membership.

Raising your team's LinkedIn profiles in line with industry best practices is an in-depth process, but the rewards are definitely worthwhile. It can be a great way to generate new leads and opportunities, showcase the strength of your team and share news and updates with contacts.

Check out the LinkedIn blog for more info and, to get started, follow these steps:

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Alignment

Everyone needs to know why LinkedIn is important, what it can do for them and what steps are involved in creating consistent profiles that represent the brand well.

Audit

Go through the profiles of the whole team, or have them do it themselves. Note what's missing and what needs to be changed.

Interviews

Most people find it difficult to talk about themselves, but it really pays off to spend some time to pull out key traits, notable achievements and what someone wants to be known for.

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Optimize

Using information from the audit and the interviews, create a full profile with a customized biography in the "summary" section, with a detailed work history of relevant positions, a few recommendations, links to company websites and messages that connects the team members to the brand.

Engage

With updated profiles complete, encourage everyone to get out and engage with the many features of LinkedIn. Make new connections, share interesting articles and join in groups and discussions to share expertise.

Remember that LinkedIn is a personal network so be careful not to overstep, but generally people are happy to receive help with their profiles and will be willing to do what's needed to represent the brand consistently and well.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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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

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