By Francesca James, @francescaajames

LinkedIn can be an extremely powerful tool that, if harnessed correctly can help you forge new connections, rebuild existing ones, recruit the best talent and advertise potentially to a global market.

LinkedIn possesses the ability to place your business in front of hundreds of thousands of valuable connections, but just like all of the social media platforms, has to be done right in order to get any return.

Perhaps many of you are like me, and actually know all of the above but are still guilty of setting up a profile on Linkedin that lies dormant for weeks, or even months without so much as a glance. I have to admit, until recently, the only time I ever checked it was when I got a notification through my email.

If I’m being totally honest, until a few months ago, that’s exactly what I did with twitter as well and since reversing my twitter apathy, I have gained so many useful contacts and built great relationships that I have decided that the same effort and chance ought to be given to LinkedIn.

Last week I spoke to Rob Weatherhead, head of Search and Digital Response at MediaCom North. He’s used LinkedIn to approach potential businesses about partnerships and also heavily when recruiting as he says it saves on recruiter fees!

Here are his top tips for getting the most out of linked in:

1.Connect with people: don’t limit your network to those who you work with. Connect with people from within your industry who may be of use in the future.

2.Join groups and engage with people: start discussions, but make them worth it; send messages, but have something to say; post links, but only if they are interesting or useful. Make sure you engage with Linkedin but don’t become a spammer.

3.Think about what you write in your profile description: keywords within your description will be picked up by searches but also by people reading your profile so if you have expertise in a particular are, make sure you mention them.

4.Don’t use your job title as your profile title: job titles can be misleading. Your profile title should be whatever your area of expertise is, such as ‘experienced HR professional’ or ‘product marketing specialist’. This will help people find you when searching for contacts, but also help them instantly understand what you do and whether it is worth connecting.

5.Visit regularly: if you are going to make the most of Linkedin you should truly regard it as an extension of your professional network. Visit on a regular basis so you keep up with discussion forums, changes on peoples profiles, links people share and everything else that is going on.

As mentioned above, LinkedIn is undoubtedly the biggest professional network in the world and a great place to forge connections that can and will reward you & your business if harnessed correctly.

If I Google my name, my LinkedIn profile is on page one, it might be the same for you. Would you really want a potential employer, business partner, investor or supplier to see an abandoned profile? We all know the saying first impressions count, and it looks like LinkedIn is increasingly becoming the first impression.