LinkedIn is more than just Facebook in a business suit. It’s an online directory of your professional contacts, a self-updating rolodex, a powerful marketing outlet, a professional search engine, and a searchable depository of industry news and insight. Perhaps most importantly, LinkedIn allows for easy touches that build business and relationships. More and more professional services firms are starting to realize this, which may be why LinkedIn overtook Twitter and Facebook as the most popular social network for B2B marketers in 2012.

Still, many professionals are not using LinkedIn to build meaningful relationships that could become the lifeblood of new business. Some busy professionals simply don’t have the time to constantly sift through the wealth of information their network produces. Others want to engage their LinkedIn network but aren’t sure where to begin. Still others simply forget or fall victim to procrastination.

Sound like you? Don’t worry! The 4 tools below can help you make the most out of LinkedIn without ever breaking a sweat.

Tool #1: Newsle

What is it? Newsle is a free news monitoring tool that allows you to track mentions of yourself, your LinkedIn connections, and other noteworthy individuals within newspapers, blogs, and other online news channels. It constantly crawls the internet for mentions of the individuals you’ve targeted and provides you a link to the full content.

How does it make LinkedIn networking easier? Building relationships doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t always be – about selling. People are more likely to do business with those they like and trust, so a “soft” touch can go a long way. Spend fifteen minutes per week scanning your Newsle feed to see what your network has been up to, and reach out to them where possible. Did Jane get a promotion? Congratulate her! Was Bob quoted in a major magazine? Respond to what he said. Did Jay help develop a new service? Give him a recommendation or pass a referral his way. These small, simple touches establish you as someone worth doing business with and help keep your name top of mind.

Tool #2: GaggleAMP

What is it? GaggleAMP is a tool that helps businesses greatly increase their social media reach by tapping into the sharing capabilities of the firm’s stakeholders. In a nutshell, it allows a firm to automatically share a single message across many different individuals’ LinkedIn profiles (with the owners’ permission, of course), thereby eliminating the need for each employee to log on.

For GaggleAMP to work, your firm’s content marketing champion must first create a “gaggle,” which is a group of social media users who have agreed to share a firm’s messages and content. Then, the gaggle’s owner can create statuses and post updates that are automatically sent to everyone in the gaggle. These users can post the content to their page in a single click without ever logging onto LinkedIn or tapping a single key.

How does it make LinkedIn networking easier? For firms who are serious about content marketing, GaggleAMP is the best way to ensure that employees and other stakeholders are actively promoting new content. I’ve found that the most successful firms are those whose entire team participates in the content marketing efforts. GaggleAMP makes it easier and far more likely that busy professionals will take the time to share content because it delivers it right to them in a click-and-complete format. With GaggleAMP, lack of time, forgetfulness, and confusion about how to use social media are no longer barriers that will prevent stakeholders from sharing your firm’s content with their professional network.

Tool #3: RSS Reader Dashboard

What is it? Though Google Reader will soon be kaput, other RSS readers such as Feedly, The Old Reader, and Scoop.It are still thriving, and they are powerful information tools that can help your firm network better both on LinkedIn and in real life. For those that don’t know, an RSS reader is an online application that crawls websites of interest to you and collects new content published by those websites in one place, making it easier to scan material from across the internet quickly and without any hassle.

At Marketri, we’ve learned to harness the power of RSS readers by creating “dashboards” that aggregate and organize content published by and/or about our clients, prospects, competitors, and our industry.

How does it make LinkedIn networking easier? An RSS dashboard is an exceptional marketing intelligence tool with far-reaching benefits, one of which is its ability to provide plenty of ammunition for engaging on LinkedIn. Try reviewing your dashboard on a weekly basis, looking for interesting content to share as a LinkedIn post or news to directly contact your connections about. Alternatively, you could have administrative staff or your firm’s marketing professional review the dashboard and send firm professionals actionable recommendations of what, when, and how to utilize select pieces of content.

Tool #4: LinkedIn’s Outlook Social Connector

What is it? Outlook Social Connector (OSC) is a free application created by LinkedIn that allows you to seamlessly integrate your LinkedIn network with your Outlook email account. Once installed, OSC allows you to see what your email contacts have been doing on LinkedIn without ever leaving your inbox. At the bottom of every email, you’ll see a feed of recent status updates and profile changes made by the sender/recipient of the message. OSC will also alert you when someone you are emailing is not connected to you on LinkedIn.

How does it make LinkedIn networking easier? OSC helps keep you connected to the people you work and communicate with most, hand-feeding you updates about them as you go about your daily routine. It’s a simple, brilliant way to keep up with all the news surrounding your professional contacts. All you have to do is decide how to use it!