LinkedIn  isn't the sexiest of the "big three" social networking platforms (the other two being Twitter and Facebook), and because of this a lot of social media "gurus" don't talk about it much. However, Lewis Howes  is proof that you can build your career--in fact, you can completely reinvent yourself--by using LinkedIn the right way.
I spoke with Lewis the other day and was able to extract some expert power tips on how anyone can build his or her network on LinkedIn. For the full transcript please read LinkedIn Tips from Lewis Howes .
Here are some of the LinkedIn tips Lewis shared with me:
- Take the time to send out personalized invitations to people in your industry to build your network, but don't feel limited to do it all online. "I wanted to connect with people who were just in the sports industry because that's where I wanted to work, so I would just do a people search. In the top right-hand corner, I would just search the words sports, sports professionals, sports media, sports marketing, different keywords for people I wanted to connect with....I sent invitations to people to connect with me, but also to ask them if I could get on the phone with them and ask them some questions about the success they had in their business primarily in the sports industry."
- Leverage the events section to create and promote "real world" gatherings. "I promoted these events via LinkedIn through the Events section, a platform on LinkedIn where you can promote events. Then I would send messages to the groups and to my direct contacts that were within a 50-mile radius of the city where I was throwing the event. I would go around the country, throw events, meet people, shake their hand, connect with them one by one, but at 300 to 500 people at a time, so that's kind of how I took it to the next level."
- Use groups to create high-quality, industry-specific networking groups. "A group is really its own little social networking site. For example, I have a group called the Sports Industry Network. Currently there are over, I think, 32,000 sports professionals from around the world. Someone from basically every sports company you can think of is in the group. It continues to grow organically by about 150 people a day just because people are searching for it and they see their friends who are connected to it. What I can do is send a message once a week to those members. I can create an autoresponder so every time someone joins the group, they automatically get a message from me putting them on my email list, sending them to my website, directing them to a free report or just introducing them to my business. I can also use them to, again, throw events and promote other products or services or anything that is going on."
- Use the Answers section to publicly establish your credibility and privately generate more business. "I've heard different stories from people in my network where they spend about 15 minutes a day, three times a week on LinkedIn just answering questions. They bring in $3,000 to $5,000 in extra commissions each month in more leads because they are just answering questions. But then they'll follow up with a private message. What they'll do is answer the question publicly, and then they'll follow up with a private message saying, 'Hey, I just answered your question, but if you need anything else, here are some additional resources. Feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email anytime.' "
"By doing that, you are basically setting yourself up for additional sales or to get one step further in that relationship where you can close someone or where you can move further in the business relationship per se. By taking those steps and answering those questions, you're answering a question so the entire LinkedIn network can see the answer. But then if you follow up privately to the person who really needs that information, you can usually leverage that and make the most out of that opportunity."
- Add a video to your profile. "There are cool applications like Google Presentations where you can add a video or you can use SlideShare to add a video. Again, with the Events platform, if you want to do local events, regional events, webinars or teleseminars, you can really promote an event extremely well on LinkedIn better than on any other social networking site, in my mind."
- Optimize your profile for LinkedIn search so that you can be found. "[Focus on these] five places: 1) your headline, 2) your current work experience, 3) your past work experience, 4) your summary and 5) your specialties, your keywords need to be throughout there. It's going to help you rank higher on LinkedIn when people are searching for those keywords."
Lewis Howes is the author of two LinkedIn success books, LinkedWorking and LinkedIn Master Strategies. Some of his other products include ShyNetworking (a networking course for introverts), Magnetic Webinars (helping others generate more sales through webinars) and 500 Million Strong (the complete social media training course). He has also been a featured writer on popular sites such as Mashable, ProBlogger, and Social Media Examiner. Lewis is also founder of the Sports Executives Association, a former professional athlete and two-sport All-American. Connect with Lewis at www.lewishowes.com .
Read the entire transcript at LinkedIn Tips from Lewis Howes .
Rich Brooks can be found on LinkedIn  and at all the best restaurants in Portland, Maine.