It is growing more and more misleading to refer to LinkedIn as a “social” media platform. Although it is one of the most popular digital marketing platforms, it is far from simply a social tool. LinkedIn is the leading online business-oriented networking service used to connect professionals. Ten years after its launch, LinkedIn reported more than 259 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. So it prompts the question: will you be LinkedIn or Left out?

When actively used, LinkedIn can strengthen and extend the existing network of your trusted contacts. Whether you own a small business, are a top executive at a Fortune 500 company – or fall somewhere in between – LinkedIn can be a powerful tool, when we apply it with purpose.

Those bold, italicized words in that last paragraph? Let’s emphasize them again. Actively used. Purpose. Within these words lies the secret to success on LinkedIn.

Let’s first define your purpose.

“Because my Marketing Director keeps telling me to…” may be the push you needed to read this blog, but here are a few more serious ideas to think about when establishing your purpose:

  • Establishing your expertise through your profile page and shared content, while also sharing the expertise of others within your organization.
  • Seeking out strategic alliances to help build your client base.
  • Developing relationships with people in specific industries.
  • Gaining information about clients, competitors, and industries.
  • Maintaining contact with your real-world connections.
  • Searching for new job opportunities, freelance work, or in reverse, looking for job applicants and referrals for professional freelancers.
  • Reinforcing your personal branding as a professional, a thought leader, or a community member.
  • Connecting your business with other businesses, and in effect your business leadership with other professionals.

Once you establish your purpose for using LinkedIn, it serves as a baseline for your engagement.

In other terms, your purpose leads you to develop a simple strategy to actively use the site. By establishing a routine tied to your purpose, you’ll be able to get on and off the site, while making efficient and effective use of your time.

For instance, joining and creating groups, leveraging your articles and blogs through the publish feature, and sponsoring updates are all great ways to engage with other users, depending on your purpose for using LinkedIn, and with whom you are striving to connect.

You’re here. You’re ready. So start with the basics.

Download this one page document with tips to use while building or enhancing your LinkedIn profile. These ideas transcend across all industries, no matter your profession or title.

For those in professional service industries, the American Bar Association offers some additional items to include in your profile – and why – along with how to build your strategic network on LinkedIn.

Now it’s time to answer the ultimate question: Will you be LinkedIn or Left Out?