LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with people and companies that can use your services or help influence your business. With 500 million users in more than 200 countries, using LinkedIn is a great way to build your sphere of influence, research a potential client and position yourself as an industry authority.

Here are some ideas on how to use LinkedIn to grow your business:

Become a credible, authoritative source of industry information. Don’t tell people that you know a lot about your industry — show them by sharing original articles, helpful graphics, and links to interesting, relevant topics that help readers solve problems. Post at least once a week.

Create a compelling profile. Post something smart and useful and a reader will likely visit your LinkedIn profile as a next step toward connecting or contacting you. Make sure your summary and profile descriptions show how you solve problems. To grab attention, use keywords that people in need of your services will use in a search. Study your competition and brand yourself so you stand out from others.

Ask for testimonials. Don’t be afraid to ask customers and business partners on LinkedIn to recommend you. A rule of thumb is to have one recommendation for every 50 connections you’ve made on your personal network. Recommendations require your approval before they post to your profile, so don’t be afraid to ask for slight modifications from the recommender if needed.

Be active. Search LinkedIn’s question and answer sections and respond to questions that highlight your expertise. Join a LinkedIn real estate group and add value by participating. Keep these forums educational; ask for the business by contacting the participant directly.

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