In the past ten months my activities on LinkedIn have resulted in a new client, a speaking opportunity, a job offer, and introduced me to other marketing professionals that ultimately led to the formation of a local marketing association. Along the way I’ve learned some best practices that I’ve implemented into my LinkedIn Profile activities – Here are five of the best tips to help you get the most out of LinkedIn:

1. Complete your profile to 100%. LinkedIn provides you a gauge indicating how complete your profile is; in order to get up to 100% you need to have a picture, headline, website, short bio, work history, and a recommendation (I’ll come back to this). You can take things to the next level by also using LinkedIn Apps for integrating things like your blog, twitter feed, presentations, and much more. The more complete and robust your profile the better. In many cases you can also over-ride default profile settings to help differentiate yourself. For instance, when listing your website choose “other” and it will allow you to actually provide a short description as opposed to using the default “My Website” link. Search engines also index LinkedIn profiles so it will help your name show up in search results.

2. Get a recommendation. The most looked at items on a LinkedIn profile are your status updates and recommendations, so it’s important to make sure you’re updating LinkedIn regularly and that you have some connections who have provided you a recommendation. I know, it’s tough to ask for a recommendation so give one to somebody else first. They will be prompted to return the favor and most will. Also, don’t be afraid to just be forthright and ask; you miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take.

3. Add people to your network by using email addresses, advanced search, or joining groups. The easiest place to start is just uploading your email contacts and LinkedIn will tell you if they are also on LinkedIn. Once you’re connected to somebody you can get their help in introducing you to people in their network. You can also use the built in LinkedIn search function for finding people in your local area or profession that you know and request to get linked. If you’re self conscious about not having many connections to start with there are groups on LinkedIn such as TopLinked where people will connect with practically anyone.

4. Join groups regarding your profession or interests. The TopLinked group was mentioned above and it is just one example of the thousands of groups on LinkedIn that you can join relating to your topic of interest. From Accountants to Zoologists, there is a group for everyone. Once you join a group you can easily add other people from that group as connections. There are also many local groups – Just do a search for your city and see what turns up. If there isn’t a group for your interest then start one! Groups are an excellent way to meet others, exchange ideas, share information, and elevate your profile.

5. Regularly participate in groups, post to discussions, answer questions, and update your status. If you’ve spent the time to complete your profile, add connections, and join groups then don’t lose momentum. The reason for most of my success this year with LinkedIn is because of my participation in local groups by sharing articles, starting discussions, answering questions, making introductions, and trying to have a regular presence. In addition, by consistently updating your status or headline you will show up in the news stream of your connections. You get out what you put in.

Bonus Tip: Since you’ve read this far you should also note that LinkedIn now allows for organizations to set up company profiles where you can list your services and other information. It’s a great adjunct to your website and a great way to promote your company without forcing people to leave LinkedIn. In addition, it’s great for search engine results because LinkedIn profiles are indexed very well by the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo!