Leverage LinkedIn and reap the benefits (and visibility) for your organization.

LinkedIn has grown to become one of the largest networks for B2B marketing and business-focused social users, hitting more than 100 million members. The strength of your business can be heavily influenced by how aggressively you market your personal profile as a brand itself. Leverage LinkedIn and reap the benefits (and visibility) for your organization.

Here’s how:

Make LinkedIn about you.
• First thing's first, be sure to fill out all of your profile information including your title, picture, past work experience, education, specialties, summary, Twitter and blog destinations, affiliations and activities. Include all of your interests (such as “career opportunities” or “reference requests”) to give your connections and users searching for you a better idea of how you might be willing to engage on the network.

• Update your status daily. Keep it relevant and post no more than once or twice each day. You can post your company's news, events you're attending, networking opportunities or news in your industry. Be sure to stay professional and keep your personal views on Facebook.

• Ask for recommendations from former bosses or colleagues to enhance your profile and expertise.

• Add connections to increase the likelihood of recruiters coming across your profile when they’re searching for job candidates. Remember, people prefer to do business with people they know.

• Follow your company and other companies that you want to monitor in order to receive the latest updates to your news feed.

Remember, network is a verb.
• When it comes to networking, LinkedIn is more personal than Twitter, but far less engaging than Facebook. You should connect with friends and acquaintances, current or former coworkers and people you've collaborated with on business projects in the past or present.

• Take advantage of LinkedIn's service that provides connection recommendations, and leverage your own professional network by uploading your contact list directly on the site. The more visibility you can generate for yourself, the more awareness you'll bring your company as an end result. Here are two LinkedIn tools that you can use to develop your personal brand and company exposure:

1. LinkedIn groups: Groups serve as hubs for networking and forums for industry-related discussions. Joining and interacting in groups is an important and effective strategy to broadcast your knowledge and expertise while expanding your network to people include you don't have the opportunity to meet in person. (It is not uncommon to connect with users who are members of your groups, even if you've never met them face to face!) Grow your personal brand and increase your exposure by contributing to group discussion topics and commenting on other group members' options.

You can even create your own group, but be sure to keep it in line with your company's proficiency – and don't just push your products and services. Keep the group community focused with a group name that is targeted to your industry, and gain the benefits of interaction for your company down the road. Also, since SEO is key to discoverability, be sure to include relevant keywords in the group name which users with similar interests would be likely to search. LinkedIn Answers.

2. LinkedIn Answers: Answer questions from other LinkedIn users in LinkedIn answers. Similar to Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn has a questions section which is available for users to post professional questions to their network, inviting connections and other users to answer. Answer questions within your target market or industry, expand your reach and be recognized as a helpful source to others in your realm. If you become a trusted source, users might also deem your business trustworthy.

Company Pages:
• If you don't already have a company page set up, take the initiative to create one. Once you establish a company page, your business will be featured in the LinkedIn directory and will be accessible to users searching for companies in similar industries.

• Use your company page as a way to showcase your business. Include links to your products or services, and take advantage of the ability to link to a company blog and Twitter account via your page. In doing so, you can make your company page an information center for company news, announcements or events. That said, it's important to frequently update the content on your site so you can have fresh information to share via your LinkedIn page. (As Brafton has reported, social users want fresh content from businesses!) Brafton's LinkedIn company page.

• Encourage employees to join your company's branded network to communicate with one another and network within the site. This will make your page look desirably active, and it will increase the organization’s exposure.

Carrying out these LinkedIn marketing tips will help you establish yourself and your business among a professional social crowd. While it may be an investment of time and resources to maintain an active presence on LinkedIn, you’ll likely see it pay off. As Brafton has reported, social media marketing is proven to generate leads and sales. LinkedIn, in particular, is cited as the most valuable network for lead generation by more than one-quarter of B2B marketers.

Meagan Parrish is Brafton's Director of Social Media. Her passions include social media and content marketing, SEO, advertising and promotions.