You created your personal LinkedIn account a while ago, but since then, it’s just been sitting there — gathering Internet dust.

Ideally, you’d like to leverage this platform to help bring in new clients and to establish yourself as an expert, but the question is--how do you go about doing that?

It’s time to start using LinkedIn differently. Here’s how you can transform your LinkedIn account into a referral-generating machine.

Why You Should Actively Use Your LinkedIn Account

Let’s look at the ‘why’ behind using LinkedIn before we jump into the ‘how.’

For any entrepreneur, LinkedIn is a place to build up your authority, network with connections, and to find new opportunities. The statistics prove it:

Think about it: This is a platform where professionals are gathering—why wouldn’t you want to participate there?

Once you have your profile fully completed and optimized, there are several things you can start doing to help you get the most out of this social network.

Grow Your Network

If you haven’t already connected with your email contacts, do that first. Then, use the ‘People You May Know’ tool to start growing your connections.

How to do it: Try to connect with at least 10 new people each week, and send a personalized message each time you reach out to a new connection, reminding them of who you are and what you do. This will not only help build up name and face recognition for your personal brand, but it keeps you top-of-mind with potential clients.

Get Recommendations

Recommendations for the different professional roles you’ve held are social proof for your personal brand. They are also testimonials for your business.

Reach out to relevant connections and ask them to write a brief recommendation for you with a personalized message.

How to do it: In your message, remind your contact of the great results you produced while working together or bring up a major project you helped complete. These positive results will then be fresh in your connection’s mind when he or she goes to write your recommendation.

Author Content

Publishing content directly on the LinkedIn platform that centers around your area of expertise will help educate and inform your connections—thus increasing your authority on the topic. Plus, each time you publish a post, your entire network of connections will be notified.

How to do it: Your posts should be at least 500 words and provide value to the reader by educating the reader on a specific area of your specialized expertise. At the end of your post, include an ‘About the Author’ section so readers get a short bio on you as well as a link to your website and social media outlets.

Bonus: LinkedIn authorship is a great place to syndicate your existing blog content. Repackage posts that you’ve already published on your blog for LinkedIn, and you can reach an entirely different audience without coming up with a brand new post.

Participate in Groups

Participating in active groups that are relevant to your business gets your content in front of new audiences. Start out by joining a few local and national groups, and then seek out more niche groups where your target audience might participate.

How to do it: Look for groups labeled ‘Very Active’ and be sure to participate in conversations there while promoting your own content. Weighing in on questions that are posed in these groups is another way for you to build up your ethos as an expert in your field. Over time, group participants will begin to see you as a go-to source for information.

Just remember: This is still a social media platform—you need to be social.

The Bottom Line

Using your personal LinkedIn account more effectively can open doors to exciting new opportunities. Be consistent, and dedicate a few minutes each week to growing your presence there. You might be surprised at the doors it opens for you.

What results have you seen from LinkedIn marketing?