LinkedIn is the place to connect with professional peers, including those that can serve as important referral sources for your business. It's also a great way to reach out to potential clients, collaborators and team members.

It is a common practice for business professionals to use LinkedIn to research prospective vendors as well as new connections made at prospecting meetings, conferences, conventions, and business networking events. Therefore, it is in your best interest to make sure your personal LinkedIn page and your company page are good representations of the brand and professional qualities you want to be known for.

Regularly building the number of people you connect with on both your personal and company pages is an important step in improving your LinkedIn presence. The number of contacts you have says a lot about who you are as a professional. If you have a lot of contacts, it conveys a good reputation, experience, and influence. Likewise, encouraging your LinkedIn connections to endorse your professional skills and write recommendations for you further elevates your LinkedIn quotient.

Another way to take advantage of LinkedIn as a business development and reputation-building tool is to join LinkedIn groups related to the work you do. Participating in group discussions helps establish you as an expert in your field. It will also expand your pool of industry connections and help generate referrals.

Once you have established a good base of contacts, you might consider starting your own LinkedIn group. By providing professional tips and advice as leader of a group, you are expanding your reach to companies and organizations outside of your industry that could benefit from your expertise and, ultimately, contact you about becoming a customer or professional partner.