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LinkedIn started out as a novelty in the social media world. Instead of offering users another way to talk to friends or post pictures of their weekend shenanigans, it gave people a way to tout their professional accomplishments and to make connections that could advance their careers. If used properly, they could even find their next job with the site.

Now the site has 414 million members, and businesses are taking notice of its potential for reaching new customers. If you aren’t already, here are a few reasons why you should be on LinkedIn:

Establish Your Authority

Whether you want to promote yourself as an individual or as a brand, LinkedIn allows you the opportunity to establish your authority by touting your credentials.

You can list your full resume on LinkedIn, including your job titles, the companies where you worked, dates of your employment, and your responsibilities. You can include awards you’ve won, special recognitions and certificates that you’ve received and additional training that you have taken. You can also include publications and presentations you’ve given.

Former bosses and co-workers can provide testimonials or endorse you for certain skills, showing others that you aren’t just tooting your own horn. If you are a business, you can create a company profile. Your “resume” can include your specialties, the size of your company, and more.

You would include a synopsis of this information on your website, but you wouldn’t include the information in as much detail. LinkedIn allows you to list all your credentials so that you can show others why you are an authority and why they should trust you.

Find a New Job or Employee

Many jobs are now posted to LinkedIn before they are posted to anywhere else — if they are posted to anywhere else at all. You can find jobs on LinkedIn by looking at company profiles or joining industry groups where they might be posted.

If you upgrade to a LinkedIn Premium account, you can highlight your resume so that you stand out to hiring managers. The Premium account also provides an analysis of your profile to let you know how you compare to other candidates, and the account gives you permission to contact hiring managers. Sometimes, simply having your profile on LinkedIn can help you get a job since hiring managers will browse through profiles when they need to fill a position.

As a company, you can use LinkedIn to post your job openings and find the best candidates. You’ll gain access to a wide pool of qualified candidates, and you’ll have more options for assessing their credentials. You’ll be able to contact their connections, look at their testimonials, and verify their job history. The site will also give you more exposure for your job posting — after all, you have a field of potentially 4.4 million applicants.

Network

LinkedIn is one of the best places to network with like-minded individuals. Unlike other social media sites, the purpose of the site is to talk business, so you don’t have to worry about people messaging you to try to “get to know you.” The messages you receive will be about career topics.

Another great way to network is to join groups that are focused on topics in your industry. There are so many groups on LinkedIn that you are sure to find several that appeal to your career interests. As a business, you can network in or out of groups in order to build relationships with potential customers. LinkedIn is especially great for networking with other businesses, whether you are a B2B brand or you are looking for business partnerships.

Best Practices

If you are going to get the most out of LinkedIn, you need to follow a few best practices. Whether you are an individual or a business, you need to fill out a complete profile. LinkedIn will show you what is missing from your profile and give a percentage of how much is done. Make sure that you fill out every last scrap of information and your profile is 100 percent complete.

Get testimonials and endorsements from a variety of your contacts to establish your credentials. Try to get the best referrals that you can. Obviously, a referral from the CEO of a company will have more weight than a referral from a fellow volunteer. Post semi-regularly, but don’t overdo it. Keep your sales talk to a minimum or else people will ignore you as a spammer.

Share interesting and informative posts and articles to continue to offer value to your connections. They’ll be more likely to engage with you and to keep you as a connection. Occasionally, show off your authority by sharing a quality post that you wrote or an accomplishment that you have achieved.

LinkedIn can be a valuable tool. Make sure you are on the site, and follow these tips to get the most benefits from it.