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Capturing the leads with the latest networking tips. LinkedIn gives you a fantastic opportunity to connect with important people in your field. If you’re not using it to network, you’re missing out. Can you grow your business without the benefit of networking? Absolutely. But the path is steeper with rougher terrain. Why not make it easier on yourself by leveraging the tools found at one of the most popular sites in the social media channel?

No one expected LinkedIn to become the huge success it is today. Back in 2003, when it launched, fewer than 5,000 people joined during the first month. That’s a far cry from the site’s current user base of more than 275 million users. It’s also important to highlight that the site is a major traffic funnel to websites. To that end, it’s far more effective at directing users than Facebook and Twitter.

Given the advantages of using the site to connect with people in your niche, it’s important that you use the right approach. We’ll give you 4 LinkedIn networking tips below that will help you to increase your network. Whether you’re reaching out to key influencers in your industry or collecting leads, the following LinkedIn networking tips are sure to prove useful.

1 – Start A Conversation Before Sending An Invitation

Let’s say you find someone who could help really help you to generate leads. He or she has a huge network that includes a lot of folks who might need whatever you’re selling. That individual would make an ideal connection. Might as well invite him, right?

You’re better off reaching out to him and starting a conversation first. Don’t immediately try to persuade him to become a connection. Use LinkedIn’s “InMail” feature to send a private message to him.

2 – Apply Basic Search Engine Optimization To Your Profile

Your profile needs to include your most important keyword terms. Including them increases the likelihood that it will appear when folks search for the terms on LinkedIn and Google.

Start with your primary and secondary keywords. If you’re a small business accountant, you should probably have the terms, “small business accounting,” “tax returns,” and “tax deductions” somewhere on your profile. Don’t go overboard, though.

Next, upload a picture of yourself. A picture paves the road to make a connection. The folks who view your profile will feel more at ease with you if they know what you look like. A professional photo builds trust. You’d be more likely to trust someone you met online if you could see their picture, right? That’s how most people feel.

Lastly, get endorsements. They signal to others that you’re an expert who knows your stuff. LinkedIn makes it very easy for people to endorse each other. When someone gives you an endorsement, add it to your profile.

3 – Hone In On The Users You Want To Engage

You don’t want to waste time networking with everyone. You need to focus. Identify the type of person who is most likely to be able to help you. That person might be a mid-level manager, a chief technology officer, or a small business consultant. The important thing is that you refine your targeting to identify him or her.

Once you have defined your ideal prospect, you can use the search feature on LinkedIn to locate him or her.

4 – LinkedIn Groups: Get Involved In The Community For More LinkedIn Networking Tips

LinkedIn Groups bring together users who have similar interests and goals. The groups are designed to facilitate discussion and networking. It’s common for members of a group to introduce each other to people in their respective networks who are external to the group.

When you join a group, you’ll be able to network with users in your industry. Rather than reaching out to people one by one, you’ll quickly become a part of a community. You’ll have a chance to connect with key individuals in your niche and demonstrate your competence and proficiency.

Your overall marketing strategy should include networking time on LinkedIn. The social media site offers a number of tools that make it easy for you to connect with the people you need to engage. Use the LinkedIn networking tips above to start building your network and connecting with key influencers in your niche.

For more LinkedIn tips, check out our slideshow for “How To Use LinkedIn Like A Boss”.