When 80 percent of people reportedly don't know how to use LinkedIn properly, a New Year's resolution is born.
The professional social network, which has more than 100 million users worldwide, added a number of new features to its portfolio in 2011. Your challenge: keeping up with LinkedIn to best position yourself professionally this year.
"LinkedIn is not just a place to find a job. It is a tool to help build your professional network, as well as a way to find business opportunities for whatever job you are currently doing," says Eve Mayer Orsburn, author of The Social Media Business Equation and CEO of Social Media Delivered."[It] provides a way to find the people you want to do business with and connect to them virtually when you may not have had the chance to meet them in person."
Here are five tips from two LinkedIn experts to set you on the path to success in 2012.
1. Focus on Your Profile
One common mistake LinkedIn users make is not having a clear focus in their profile, says Lewis Howes, author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success on Linkedin. To ensure your profile has the maximum impact on others, you need to explicitly detail who you are as a professional within the "Summary" section.
To do this, Howes recommends reviewing your profile and making sure the following items are included in your summary: who you are as a professional, who you can help and how you can help them.
Another common profile mistake: not fully completing it.
"This sends a bad message to anyone investigating you for a potential partnership or job," Orsburn says. "If you don't follow through on completing your own profile, what other things will you fail to finish? Take the time to fill in as many of the fields as you can, and always include a picture.
[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's LinkedIn Bible.]
2. Make "LinkedIn Today" Part of Your Routine
Last year, LinkedIn launched a new product called "LinkedIn Today"—a social news service that aggregates the top headlines and stories related to your industry and based on what your connections share. LinkedIn Today, Howes says, is a feature you should pay more attention to in 2012.
You can find LinkedIn Today under the News tab at the top of your LinkedIn homepage or by visiting www.linkedin.com/today. The industries you see listed are what LinkedIn guesses you're interested in based on information in your profile, but they can be easily customized.
Howes notes, too, that while LinkedIn Today a good resource for keeping up on news—especially news that your contacts deem important—it can be a valuable tool for promoting your content if you have a blog. Howes recommends adding LinkedIn's "Share" button to your blog posts to increase the chances of being featured on LinkedIn Today.
3. Brand Yourself an Expert With "Answers"
One of the most valuable and underused features on LinkedIn is "Answers," Howes says. This part of the site is a forum where users can propose questions, seek advice and ask for opinions.
"So many users are asking questions about their most painful points in their career or businesses," he says. "If you're an expert in a topic, then you should be answering more questions in order to pick up more clients and grow your business," he says.
"Answers" is also a good way to contact others who are interested in the same topics as you, says Orsburn. If you're looking for a job in the IT industry, for example, search through questions tagged with that category to find one that would showcase your abilities and knowledge in that area.
4. Refresh Your Profile, Even if You're Not Job Hunting
Just because you're not currently looking for a job doesn't mean your LinkedIn profile should lie dormant. Keeping your profile updated, Howes says, is essential for maintaining an accurate personal brand, as well as the potential for new business opportunities.
"If someone wants to do business with you, they are most likely going to do some research about you on the Web," Howes says. "It's important you have everything up to date and portray your profile the way you want it to look. This means keeping it updated, adding new recommendations and advanced applications to enhance your profile."
Howes also recommends paying particular attention to the keywords you use in your profile, so you rank higher in searches for your areas of expertise.
5. Make New Connections in 2012
The more quality people you are connected to, the more opportunities that could come your way. This year, focus on growing your network and connecting with new people, Howes says.
"Businesses grow based on your relationships, so you want to keep expanding and growing connections in your immediate and expanded network," he says.
But be careful when requesting new connections, though. Do your homework on who they are, their past positions and their interests; find common ground; and be sure to craft a personal note requesting to add them to your network, using the information above.
Orsburn recommends spending 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn to see where your efforts take you. "Start participating in groups and discussions, and start finding new connections to make," she says. "The payoff will be better business connections in 2012."
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com