This article first appeared in Social Media Examiner where I am a regular contributor on the topic of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a powerful professional social network for business people

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network online today with over 160 Million professional users. The average household income of LinkedIn users is over $88,000/year, which outpaces the average income for the readership of the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Business Week! If you are a professional or a business owner, you can't afford to miss out on the opportunity to build relationships with potential customers, clients, partners, and peers on LinkedIn. It's a powerful audience with which you can engage, interact with and influence.

LinkedIn continues to upgrade and enhance the network with new features. If you already have a profile created, it's a great time to revisit and refresh your presence! Or, if you're just wondering how to get started, these 5 simple steps will help you make the most of your time and effort!

1. Complete Your LinkedIn Profile “Box”

When visitors first land on your profile, a box displaying your profile highlights fills the screen. Given the importance of first impressions, the information in your “profile box” should be complete, current and optimized.

This is your best chance to make a good impression. In many cases, someone may read through your entire profile, but most people are going to get the information they need from your profile box.

Stephanie Sammons LinkedIn Profile
Here are the steps to complete your LinkedIn Profile:
  1. Upload a professional image – This is your very best opportunity to make a great first impression and is essential to attracting connections. No professional photo? No credibility.
  2. Create a compelling headline – You only have 120 characters at the top of your profile to describe who you are, who you serve, and how you help. Use brief, descriptive, compelling keywords so that you can be discovered by the right professionals on LinkedIn.  Focus on terms that you target markets are more likely to search for. What language do they use? Make your headline text compelling, but use words that resonate with your market.
  3. List current position and at least two past positions – If you don't list at least two past positions, your profile won't be considered to be “complete”, which can mean missed opportunities to get discovered by prospective clients and customers. Make sure to describe each of your roles in depth, and again use those keywords that will resonate with your target markets! It is also okay to list 2 or 3 positions that describe your current role as I have done in my own profile.
  4. Add your education information – List colleges and the high school you attended in this area. Why? One of the primary search tools within LinkedIn includes the ability to locate people who you attended school with. This is a potential connection point that can open doors for you.
  5. Customize your “Website” listings – Under the Websites section of your LinkedIn profile, you can have up to 3 listed.  Choose the “Other” option when setting up each of these links and describe the links to your brand with relevant terms.  For example, rather than using the terms “my website”, I use “Sammons Digital Media” for this blog.  Not only is this more descriptive but also gives me a better opportunity to rank for the keywords “digital media” in search.
  6. Include a link to your Twitter profile – Add your Twitter handle to your profile. Visitors to your profile can now follow you on Twitter directly from within your profile box! LinkedIn and Twitter are tightly integrated. You can share your tweets as status updates (best practice: add #in to the end of specific tweets rather than choosing to send all tweets to LinkedIn), and you can share LinkedIn status updates as tweets!
  7. Edit your “vanity” url –  An example is  This will enable your LinkedIn profile link to show up in search results under your name on all the major search engines!  It is important to claim those results for your name as they provide a gateway into your personal brand.

Following these 7 tips will ensure that you are putting your best foot forward with a comprehensive snapshot of who you are, what you do, and where people can learn more about you!  Your LinkedIn profile should serve as one of your most valuable, professional digital assets.

2. Use Keywords Within Your Profile Summary Section

The summary section on your LinkedIn profile is where you have the most flexibility to expand upon who you are, who you serve, and how you help your clients. Although this section is not as visible as your “profile box”, it's still important.

LinkedIn Profile Summary Section

You can write your summary in 1st person or 3rd person. If you choose to use the 3rd person, have someone help you write a captivating overview! I chose to write my summary in the 1st person, as if I am talking directly to potential clients, but this is simply a personal preference.

Your summary section should include keywords that describe how you help your clients in language that resonates with them! Try to stay away from industry jargon if possible. Also, don't stuff your summary section with keywords. Simply use effective keyword phrases where they fit.

hint: The “specialties” section of the summary is a great place to list your areas of expertise using descriptive keywords

3. Leverage Your Existing Natural Network

Your existing contacts, or your “natural” network, can provide a rich online networking experience and can help you to quickly ramp up your visibility. This foundation network is key to creating a powerful presence on LinkedIn! To uncover all of your connection opportunities, go to “Add Connections” in your navigation menu which is listed under “Contacts”.

Leverage existing connections to build your LinkedIn presence

Thoroughly Review LinkedIn's Connection Channels

There are four natural connection channels provided by LinkedIn. Make sure to go through all four connection channels in order to make sure you find all potential connections that can be a part of your network. Regardless of how many connections you may already have on the network, it is worth your while to go through this exercise monthly because membership growth continues to be very strong overall!

  1. Send an invitation to connect to existing contacts, though the “Add Connections” feature
  2. Review colleagues from your current and past work experience and send invitations to connect
  3. Find classmates from high school and college to connect with
  4. Review the “People You May Know” list. This is LinkedIn's connection suggestion engine, and it's recently received a major upgrade to make it easier to identify and invite people to connect with you. You can sort by school or company, and you can also view shared connections! Learn more about the People You May Know feature, which will help you discover people that you may not have even thought about connecting with.
LinkedIn makes it easy to find new connections

4. Focus on Timely and Relevant Status Updates

LinkedIn is a professional business network, therefore it is more busy during business hours! You should strive to be visible and valuable during that time. Your status updates should be value-added to your target markets. A best practice is to update your status 2-3 times daily. Also, spread out your updates rather than posting them all at once. A fantastic tool for adding value in your industry is to take advantage of LinkedIn Today. This is a trending “top news” tool available right there inside of the network. You can customize your news updates by industry and easily share relevant stories with your connections. Top news is surfaced by the people, not be an editorial staff! Learn how to use LinkedIn Today to find popular content.

Find interesting content to share with LinkedIn Today:

Share content from LinkedIn Today

5. Join and Participate in Groups

LinkedIn Groups are one of the most active areas of the network. If you're not active in a handful of groups, or in building your own group, you are missing out on opportunities to build influence!

LinkedIn Groups recently got a major upgrade with the new LinkedIn mobile application. You can now participate in group discussion on the go. This is a great way to remain visible and valuable in your target markets. Strive to review and participate in group discussions at least once per week. You can join up to 50 groups, but your time will be best spent focusing on 3-5 at the most. Otherwise it will be difficult to keep up with all of the conversations.

LinkedIn Group Stats


By visiting the “Groups” tab in your navigation menu, you can easily find groups to join, access existing groups that you belong to, review and follow existing discussions that you are a part of, and view “groups you may like” suggestions from LinkedIn. In addition, you can use the network search function to find groups.

Join groups that are relevant to your business and target markets. For example, if you have a local business, look for groups that are organized around where you live or work! Consider joining alumni groups, peer groups, and groups that are organized around professional and personal topics that you are most interested in. Lastly, think about groups where your target markets might be hanging out so that you can find ways to be creatively visible and valuable to them with the resources and insights that you share.

Share relevant, resourceful, rich content with your groups that can help other members. Ask questions and respond to comments! Learn more about effectively participating in LinkedIn Groups.

There are so many features and tools available with LinkedIn. It is essentially a networking treasure chest for any business person, filled with opportunities to deepen existing relationships, meet new professionals, and add value to members of your target markets. In order to take advantage of all of these opportunities, it is important to spend time learning as much as you can. My hope is that these 5 steps will help you maximize value and minimize time as you ramp up your participation in this powerful network.
Could your LinkedIn presence use an overhaul?? Share your thoughts here!