Is networking important to the success of your business?

If it is, then LinkedIn is a key business tool for you. However, don’t think that a sparsely completed LinkedIn profile will somehow bring you lots of business – it won’t!

To get the most benefit out of LinkedIn as a business networking tool, it requires some thought and a little effort. If you are willing to do that, it becomes much more than an electronic version of a business card folder or Rolodex. It can effectively become a key channel for your marketing and business development activities.

Whether you are new to LinkedIn or have been using it comfortably for some time, it’s worth just taking a step back occasionally to think about how to get the most out of it. To that end, I’ve come up with three basic golden rules for getting the best from LinkedIn. They should come as no surprise to anyone who takes networking seriously.

Golden Rule #1 – Put your best foot forward

LinkedIn is really about people. The starting point for any significant presence on LinkedIn is your own personal profile. As such, it’s essential that you put yourself in the best light possible, are clear about what you do, what you offer and what you want, and come across as you would wish colleagues and customers to see you. Without a solid, professional and engaging profile, everything else you do within LinkedIn will suffer.

Golden Rule #2 – Treat others as you wish to be treated

Surprisingly enough, as I said above, LinkedIn really is about people. So if you want to get the most out of LinkedIn, you are really going to be trying to get the most out of other people. Your reputation and behaviour are just as important in the virtual world as they are face to face. That means not only being polite and not pushy, but offering help to others. Information and referrals are the currency of networking – give, and you shall receive.

Golden Rule #3 – Get involved

Last but not least, because LinkedIn is indeed all about people, you will get the most out LinkedIn by building relationships over time. To do this, you have to engage with others and then do it again, and then do it again. A single email or content posting won’t have much impact on those who can influence and help your business goals. For example, this means taking part in groups, commenting on and responding to others’ requests or ideas, and regularly providing ideas or resources that are genuinely useful and not disingenuous advertising.

So that’s it: three simple rules to guide you as you navigate some of the details of using LinkedIn’s many powerful features. If you take these to heart, you will find that LinkedIn becomes an invaluable part of your overall networking, job-seeking or marketing and business development activities. And you will find that LinkedIn’s value for you keeps growing over time, as others learn, and are constantly reminded, that you are a helpful and engaged professional.

Are there more golden rules you’d like to add? I’d love to hear from you!

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