I get asked all the time, when I speak to business groups about social media, to explain the benefits for business professionals. The heavyweight, Facebook, trumps in terms of numbers, with a populace of 900 million members. Coming in a close second is the sleek and intelligent LinkedIn. Quiet and unassuming, LinkedIn's 300 million professionals span more than 200 countries and territories, creating the largest professional network in the world. Facebook may win when it comes to the latest gossip, true life confessions, and game requests, but LinkedIn rises victorious as the champion of business professionals. Here's how to maximize the power of LinkedIn as a business tool:

Of All the Fish in the Sea

  • LinkedIn: One of the greatest advantages of LinkedIn is the wide array of candidates who are active on the site; recruiters have a far easier time searching for candidates. LinkedIn's advanced search option allows recruiters to search by company, title, qualifications, and key words. And the candidates' information, résumés, and qualifications can be reviewed before any contact is made. The overarching advantage is clear: Save time and interview the right people.
  • Facebook: 900 million unorganized, miscellaneous users. Have fun sorting that out.

A Better Side of You

  • LinkedIn: A LinkedIn profile carries more weight than a Facebook profile. LinkedIn's clean and organized format highlights qualifications and areas of expertise. With the simple hover of a mouse, a snapshot of the candidate pops up, and the most pertinent information can be quickly gleaned. In fact, according to LinkedIn, "Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn."
  • Facebook: Qualifications are not easily identified, and a person's profile may have more about what he ate for lunch last week and less about his work history.

More Is Not Necessarily Better

  • LinkedIn: Founder Reid Hoffman states, "It is better to be the best-connected than the most-connected." Managing connections is key to exploiting the riches of LinkedIn. Choosing connections that both improve knowledge of the industry and allow contact with a variety of companies and executives will create a social following. Get involved with groups that center on similar interests to find valuable information and additional relationships.
  • Facebook: A business can prosper from a well-run company page that has hundreds or even thousands of followers, which in turn is a valuable consumer base. We will call this one a tie.

Social-Media Office

  • LinkedIn: Social media isn't going anywhere. Not any time soon, anyway. The upkeep of a LinkedIn profile is as important as any other office to-do. Check the profile regularly, reach out, and participate in group discussions. An active presence will catch the eye of (the right) interested followers.
  • Facebook: A great place to go for someone who wants to forget why she went there in the first place and find herself wondering what she meant to do, 30 minutes later.

Match: LinkedIn

In the end, all social-media outlets have their virtues, but LinkedIn remains unmatched when it comes to the professional world. Whether it is used to boost a personal professional image or the Web presence of a business, LinkedIn is a well-crafted outlet for information and sharing. Use it to highlight strengths, and watch the benefits pour in.

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