Considering that it’s designed specifically for business and boasts networking as a top priority, it makes sense for every professional to take a serious look at LinkedIn as a rich platform for business development.

Many of us are familiar with the basic benefits of LinkedIn. It’s an exceptional source of information on other companies and prospects, and creates endless opportunities to forge new relationships. Used to heighten client acquisition and retention, it offers both the opportunity to network with existing clients and ample opportunity to further expand your network by connecting with your clients’ connections. Think expansion of your business: cultivate your network by leveraging company pages and groups. And, think expansion of your mind – gain business-building ideas by hearing from others in your industry.

Now that we’ve scratched the surface of the broad range of benefits LinkedIn offers us as professionals, let’s get to the point – how to really, and truly, use LinkedIn to generate business. Here are a few simple strategies to get you off to a great start.

Present Well

First impressions matter. Make the most of your profile and company page. You can stand on your soapbox and tell the world what you do. Or, you can really speak to each and every individual by describing exactly what you can do for them. After all, isn’t that what most people like to hear?

Get Real

Along the same lines of a good first impression, how about dropping that generic default message? Yes, they’re handy. Effortless, in fact. But haven’t we all seen, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” enough times already? With that lack of effort, one can’t help but wonder, do you really? Relying on generic messages simply does not indicate just how much you’d like to connect, nor does it make you unique, interesting, or engaged. Send a custom connection request and get real.

Expand Your Reach with Premium Tools

And now, backed by your strong profile and genuine attempts at personal engagement, it’s time to expand your reach. If you’re serious about generating business, you likely have a short list of targets and probably a long list, too. Premium target shooting requires premium tools. And you’ll find them in the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions suite. Take a look at Sponsored Updates (basically native advertising on LinkedIn), the LinkedIn Lead Accelerator (which allows you to engage visitors to your website), and Sponsored InMail (which sends targeted emails to prospects).

Ready to reach out? Good, because it’s pretty stimulating to think of the reach you have with LinkedIn. Let’s face it – used well, you can cast a wide net. Start with ensuring your net is strong and supportive, then cast it directly into your target pool.