LinkedIn has transformed the way we communicate with coworkers, partners and customers. It has changed the way we find professionals and the companies they work for. Gone are the days of exchanging business cards, scanning them into a local Personal Information Manager (PIM) where the data is only available on that device. And if you wanted to access it remotely, you had to manually sync with another device. Today, we need real-time information, and we want to consume it on every device at any time.

So, you not only want to have a profile, you need to make sure it is representative of all your professional work. Here are some ways to get the most out of LinkedIn.

  1. Update your Profile. Keep your work history as current as possible, even if you just landed your current role. Use a metrics-based bulleted list of what you have achieved, and how your company has benefited from you or your team’s work. Describing your impact to an organization delivers a powerful message to prospective contacts.
  2. Talk about your Memberships. Describe your past and current affiliations with organizations, fraternities, associations, leagues etc. Especially if you had a leadership position.
  3. Publish your Work. If you are a blogger or actively publish pieces of work, import your work in chronological order. LinkedIn has a great Publications feature that I use to keep all my work online. It also helps me keep track of all my publications.
  4. Join Groups. There are a number of great organizations that have LinkedIn groups, especially in IT. Find the most relevant ones, join themand make sure you participate. The power in networking isn’t just about being connected, it’s about information sharing in real-time.
  5. Consume and Share. While I follow a ton of blogs, I’ve found that my LinkedIn connections share a great amount of blogs, articles and videos on a daily basis. I probably spend an hour a day on LinkedIn just consuming content, and if I find something relevant, I always share it. When I do share it, it also goes out to my Twitter followers, so I reach a wider audience.
  6. Use the Calendar Feature. LinkedIn’s mobile app has a Calendar feature, that links to your corporate calendar. Setup is a breeze, and now you can see the profile of the person you are about to meet with, see what they have tweeted, what organizations they have joined etc. I use it every day since I meet with a lot of customers, partners, etc.
  7. Get CardMunch. If you find yourself in the business card exchange game (let’s face it, that’s not going away for a while), try LinkedIn’s CardMunch App.  It takes a picture of a business card, sends it to the cloud, performs optical character recognition (OCR) and then links the card to a LinkedIn profile and let’s you decide whether you want to connect to them or not.
  8. Connect All Your Email Addresses. Make sure both your professional and personal email addresses are associated with your profile so that you can be found in calendar linking and searches. As an example, many use only their personal email address, which makes it hard to find you when trying to link your profile in a calendar entry that only has your professional email address (Incidentally, this happens to me all the time).

The power of LinkedIn isn’t so much about the network or the technology, its about how you use it, what you get out of it, and sharing information with your contacts. This is an extremely powerful platform, and they are just getting started. If you are a professional in the business world, you cannot afford not to be on LinkedIn. For ideas on how to improve your profile, feel free to take a look at my public profile.

And while you’re updating your LinkedIn presence, make sure to connect with Charles Barkley, The IT Guy. He just joined and is looking to make some great connections with some IT gurus.