o1. Start by adding anyone and everyone that you already know; whether they’re acquaintances, past colleagues, or the Starbucks barista that aspires to be the next Meg Whitman. Whoever has the gold makes the rules. Apply this methodology to your number of your LinkedIn connections and you too may end up with the perfect client in your 2nd or 3rd level contacts.

o2. Determine how you want to use LinkedIn. If you are looking for a new job and want to land that prime McKinsey interview then work on building up your references. If you’re a prodigy you probably won’t have to beg for references. For the rest of us you can take a colleague out for coffee and offer to write them a reference in exchange. If your primary goal for LinkedIn is to generate leads then position your profile in a way that doesn’t scare off potential clients. Put yourself on the other side of the fence; would you want to do business with someone who has “Cut Throat Sales Tyrant” on their tagline? Neither would I.

o3. Tweak your LinkedIn profile settings. Click on the Accounts & Settings link. Activate the OpenLink Network and ensure that My Public Profile displays your full information. Take Step 2 into consideration and craft your settings around whatever you want to get out of LinkedIn.

o4. Build up your elite clientele. After adding people that you already know you can start adding perfect strangers. Many people advise you to add as many 500+ LinkedIn gurus as possible for the sheer viral effect but I would rather add key industry leaders in my niche and tap into their small network than take the shot gun approach. Quality over quantity folks (after you get past the 30 contact milestone of course).Sometimes it is difficult to get your contacts to forward a referral for you, especially if you want to add someone who is in your 3rd level of contacts. I ended up upgrading to professional and using the InMail feature. You might be able to land lunch with just the right person potentially resulting in a huge account. The $200/yr. price tag doesn’t look so bad after all. You can also search for the individuals e-mail address via Google and make a few guesses if you have to. Add the user to your network and when it asks how you know the individual click “Other” and paste their e-mail address. I have had people e-mail me back asking how I know them. This is the perfect opportunity to strike up the initial conversation which will typically lead to a beautiful business relationship.

o5. Sync your LinkedIn account with Outlook. What many people don’t realize is that once a contact accepts your invitation, you have access to their e-mail address. Go figure! The free LinkedIn toolbar automatically syncs you r Outlook contact information with your LinkedIn account. It will also notify you if one of your colleagues changes jobs on you and leaves you sad and alone.

o6. Maintain your profile and contact requests! We’re all busy people running around like little chickens with our heads chopped off but networking has to be on purpose. Many contacts in my network never update their information. It can be for a variety of reasons but for the most part it is sheer laziness. Keeping your information updated and responding to network requests is a good indication that you’re an organized business professional. If you don’t want to add somebody for whatever reason then decline their request. Some executives won’t add you unless they have physically met with you in person. To each their own I suppose.

o7. Market yourself. It is the information age and we all want to have our information accessible 24x7x365. Everything is digital and if you’re still networking through a Rolodex you need to update your life. Place your LinkedIn profile’s URL on your business cards, in your blog, on your e-mail signature, and for thrill factor you can even tattoo it on your forehead. Other LinkedIn Nazi’s suggest search engine optimization techniques but I find that word of mouth and good ‘ol grassroots marketing does just fine.

o8. Use some common sense. Some LinkedIn users add everybody they can get their grubby little paws on. I’m all for a good amount of contacts but where do you draw the line? Some profiles come across as either severely unprofessional or borderline spam. You don’t want to be one of those guys. Guy Kawasaki only has 223 connections and I’m guessing he could easily be one of those “500+ contact guys”, but he isn’t, and unless you’re ridiculously famous then you shouldn’t be either.

o9. Take advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer. Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. With the Answer’s section in LinkedIn you can easily ask anybody in your network a question and you’ll typically receive great answers. LinkedIn is a great place to post jobs as well. When employees use LinkedIn it gives an employer the option to check references as well as other people in the company that can chime in on the employee’s work ethic. I guess LinkedIn isn’t all smoke and mirrors after all.

1o. Enjoy yourself. So many people view networking as a chore or obligation. Yes, it is an obligation if you want to build a solid framework leading to great business relationships and accounts but it can be fun at the same time. After a few solid hours of productivity I’ll browse LinkedIn for a while and respond to requests and messages. Quit stressing about it, drink your Starbucks, and let LinkedIn seep into your veins.

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