Having a strong LinkedIn profile is essential to being found by other LinkedIn members and employers, but your job on the site isn't complete unless you're communicating with your connections and the LinkedIn community as a whole.
I tell my LinkedIn workshop attendees that I spend approximately an hour a day (it's probably more) on LinkedIn. Their faces register surprise, and I'm sure some of them wonder if I have a life.
But networking is about communication. If you're going to use LinkedIn to its full potential as a networking tool, you need to communicate with your connections.
Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1. Direct Messages
The most obvious way to communicate with your connections is to message them directly. Awhile back, LinkedIn changed the way we message our connections. Now, our messages are more like running chats than back-and-forth email threads.
It took me a while to get used to the new messaging system, but I've come around. It's nice to have access to the histories of conversations between myself and my connections.
In addition, the messaging client follows you around the site. You can read and send messages no matter what page you're on — an obvious sign that LinkedIn wants you to communicate with your connections.
2. Post Updates Often
Another great way to communicate with your connections is by is posting updates. How many you post is up to you, but I suggest at least one a day. Some people tell me they don't even have time to update once a week, but it's important you make time and post updates often.
You'll notice that LinkedIn has given its members the ability to create and post video updates. It's a nice feature, but few people are using it. This could be an option to consider in order to make your updates stand out.
3. Like Your Connections' Updates
Another way to communicate with your connections is to "like" their updates. You may also want to get a little more creative by commenting on the update, which can generate valuable discussion.
4. Don't Hide Yourself When You Visit Your Connections' Profiles
Some people adjust their privacy settings so that they only show up as "Anonymous LinkedIn User" or "Someone from the Entertainment Industry" when they visit other people's profiles. Not me! I visit my connections' profiles — with full disclosure — many times a day. My connections will visit my profile many times as well.
When people visit my profile under the veil of secrecy, I do nothing. When people drop in announced, however, I'll show my appreciation by writing to them, "Thanks for visiting my profile." This will also lead to a discussion.
5. Endorse Your Connections
You've probably read many opinions from people on the topic of endorsements. Add me to the list of people who prefer both receiving and writing thoughtful recommendations to simply clicking the "Endorse" button.
In fairness, endorsements do have a greater purpose than showing appreciation for someone's skills and expertise: They are a way to touch base with connections.
6. Participate in Discussions Regularly
This is a great way to share ideas with established and potential connections. I have gained many new connections by actively participating in discussions on LinkedIn.
Believe it or not, I don't find groups to be the best places for discussions. Instead, it's better to start them via updates you post from your profile to LinkedIn's news feed.
7. Be a Curator
If your connections blog, take the effort to read their posts and comment on their writing. This is an effective way to create synergy in the blogging community, and also a great way to get material for your daily updates. The majority of my updates are posted to share links to blogs I've read and commented on already.
Take It a Step Further
An online connection will not become a fully thriving relationship until you've communicated with your connection in a more personal way. While LinkedIn offers many powerful ways to communicate with your network, there will come a time when you need to move off the website in order to take your networking relationships to the next level. When that time comes, try these communication methods:
8. Send an Email
Email doesn't require a lot of effort, but it's an important step in developing a more personal relationship with a connection. You should have access to the email addresses of all your first-degree connections on LinkedIn, so use that information when you're ready.
9. Call Your Connections
This is a daunting step to many, but it's a necessary one.
That said, don't just call your connection out of the blue. Email them first to let them know you'd like to call. Write the reason for your call; if it's your first call, you'll probably want to talk about who you are and what your professional goals are. You don't want to put your connection in an awkward situation or catch them off guard, so be clear about the purpose of your call.
10. Meet Your Connections Over Coffee
Finally comes the face-to-face meeting at a place that is convenient for both of you. If your connection lives in a distant location, you may suggest getting together when you'll be in their city or town.
When you meet in person with a connection, that person becomes a bona fide member of your personal professional network. This is the ultimate way to communicate with a LinkedIn connection. It may not happen often, particularly if a connection lives far from you, but when such meetings do occur, they present great possibilities.
Having a great LinkedIn profile is only the start. To really make the most of the site, you must communicate with your connections. It's your activity on LinkedIn that makes the difference between standing still in your career and realizing professional success.
A version of this post originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.