Many business owners and professionals have signed up for, but very few take full advantage of the networking site’s ability to help them grow their businesses and succeed professionally.

Here are five underutilized ways that LinkedIn can make you more successful, whether you’re self-employed or have numerous employees…

Use LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search function to find customers and clients—and find a way to get introduced to them. LinkedIn isn’t just a database of 175 million professionals…it also is a powerful search engine that you can use to sort through all those people. Click the “Advanced” button to the right of LinkedIn’s search box to access “Advanced People Search.” Use this tool to search for potential clients and customers who have particular reasons to meet with you and buy from you.

Examples: Enter the college you attended in Advanced People Search’s “School” box, select the industries that your business sells to and generate a list of fellow alums who work in the field you wish to reach. Or skip your school, and instead enter the name of a fraternal organization you belong to or a charity you volunteer with as keywords.

LinkedIn Advanced People Search doesn’t just generate a list of names. With each profile that appears, you also will see who you know who knows this person, to help you arrange an introduction.

Helpful: After you conduct an Advanced People Search, click “Save Search” in the upper-right-hand corner so that you can refer back to this list later. With a standard account, you can save up to three searches.

Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is one of the first ones that people see when they search for people like you. Your LinkedIn profile can be a powerful advertisement for your business—but only if you know how to get it noticed.

People increasingly are using LinkedIn to locate businesses and professionals that provide the services they require, not just to network. But hundreds of profiles might pop up when someone searches for professionals in your field. For your LinkedIn profile to be effective advertising for your business, it must be among the very first on these lists. The secret to achieving that? Mention the services you provide multiple times in your profile. LinkedIn’s search tool prioritizes profiles that include the search terms the most times.

Example: A man who owns a landscaping company might include the words “landscaping,” “mowing,” “grass” and “tree removal” in his description of his current business…then again in his description of each of his prior jobs in the landscaping sector…and again anywhere else he can slip these keywords into his profile without it seeming awkward.

Helpful: Your profile also should include your up-to-date contact information, a headshot (one in which you’re smiling) and a clear explanation of your current and previous skills, positions and responsibilities.

Give your company its own LinkedIn page. Business people aren’t the only ones who should have LinkedIn profiles—businesses now can have profiles of their own. Click “Companies” on LinkedIn, then click the yellow “Add a Company” button to create a separate page for your business.

Having a profile for both yourself and your business increases the odds that someone in need of the services you provide will find you. Your business’s profile should explain what your business does and provide its mission statement, but don’t stop there. You can upload videos, documents and spreadsheets that show what your company does, too.

Also, ask satisfied customers to write brief testimonials about their positive experiences working with your company. Customer testimonials are particularly powerful on LinkedIn because they come from other LinkedIn users. Potential customers can visit these customers’ LinkedIn pages to confirm that the customers really exist—in contrast, phony testimonials from made-up clients are common elsewhere on the Internet.

Use LinkedIn Answers to find prospects in need of your knowledge. If there were a place where people gathered to ask questions related to the things your business does, wouldn’t you go there to answer questions and meet prospective clients? LinkedIn has just such a place—LinkedIn Answers—but few LinkedIn users even know it exists.

Select “Answers” from LinkedIn’s “More” pull-down menu, choose your industry, then answer any questions you can related to your areas of expertise. Don’t explicitly try to sell your business here—that would come off as too pushy. Just answer questions to build relationships with potential clients. Spend a few minutes doing this every morning, if possible.

The LinkedIn users whose questions you answer might not be the only leads you generate—these questions and answers are public and could later be viewed by others interested in your services.

As a bonus, answering questions on LinkedIn Answers can lead to publicity in the media. Some media organizations find experts to interview by seeing who has answered questions on LinkedIn.

Use LinkedIn to find great potential employees when you hire. The trouble with posting job openings on job-hunt Web sites such as is that you hear back only from people who are actively looking for work.

Instead, enter the skills and experience you’re looking for into LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search as keywords to produce a list of candidates, then contact the most appealing of these candidates to see if they’re interested in working for you. This way, you will reach candidates who are willing to consider changing jobs but who have not yet started searching the job listings.

Contacting top performers in your sector is time well-spent, even if they are not interested in the job. These people might contact you when they do enter the job market down the road, or they might know other top performers who could be interested in your job opening.

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