New Year's resolutions are often started, seldom adhered to. Learn now to improve your use of LinkedIn as a cornerstone in your business marketing for long-term benefits. Start by thinking of yourself as a brand: speak clearly in your own voice, and demonstrate in your LinkedIn profile what propels you beyond the competition. Consider some of these resolutions, turn them into actions, and apply them consistently all year.

1. Renovate your LinkedIn profile to better tell why you do what you do. Overcome the inbred fear of talking about yourself; you are a brand so make every word and impression count. Include new developments and changes in your career. Ask recommenders and appropriate skills endorsers to add how you do what you do.

2. Show your value proposition, especially how you can offer more than you receive, in various ways, in multiple places on LinkedIn, so the message rings true and resonates on various levels with casual readers. Make them want to contact you to learn more.

3. Add a picture banner at the top of your LinkedIn profile to give the reader an immediate image of what field of work and industry you are engaged in. It sends a visual message to accompany your brand. Size it 1400 x 425 pixels; use hi-rez. The effort is well worth it, as the reader sees this first.        

4. Only send personalized LinkedIn connection requests. Remind the addressee where you met and tell how you can help him/her; give context and reference points, just like in real life. Engage the person's interest to make them want to respond, rather than a hit-and-run. Never send a boilerplate intro--EVER.

5. When did you last refresh your headshot? Ask friends and colleagues to refer a great professional photographer to make you look every bit as good as the brand you represent. Your photo follows you all over LinkedIn so your face must show you as approachable, professional and pleasant. Utilize the background too: books behind an attorney, for example.

6. Add video, PDFs, podcasts and slide presentations to your LinkedIn personal profile, in both your Summary and Experience sections. They are visually much more appealing and once viewed, you will be more memorable. Think of it like a display ad or TV spot for your brand.

7. Use key words, placed strategically in your Headline, Summary and Experience, so you will be more likely found in searches and get the best from the LinkedIn marketplace. LinkedIn's a huge search engine, you know! Engaging the reader with a robust profile after you have been found in a search will up the ante considerably.

8. Make a habit of using the advanced search function to obtain best results. Manipulate the search variables to gain access to people and companies you did not know were out there. Save your searches when needed; click the option to have LinkedIn periodically auto-update your current searches.

9. Beef up your LinkedIn "company" profile page--your firm, corporation, nonprofit, or association--make it show off your "company" brand, showcase selected products/services. Encourage fans to become new followers on your company profile page and update them with latest news, products, services, events that you want to highlight.

10. Link your blog, website, Skype, Google+, Twitter, etc. to your LinkedIn personal profile--and make it easy to get a hold of you, realizing different media are used by different audiences. Test all links to be sure they work. Repeat your phone number and preferred email address in the "Advice for Contacting You" section of your profile.

11. Expand the Volunteer section on your personal profile; show how you give back to your community as part of your professional identity. Signal if you want to serve on a board or offer pro bono services in your area of expertise. Make a difference among your professional peers.

12. Take advantage of long-form Posts on LinkedIn, and grow your global following with intelligent observations and perceptions everyone can relate to and learn from. There is no formula for frequency; show your thought leadership as often as you have something relevant and useful to offer.

13. Share updates with LinkedIn connections using articles you come across that will benefit them. Share as often as warranted with quality material in order to "blip" on their radar screen and stay top-of-mind. Comment on why you shared it. Kickstart the conversation: ask for input and observations from your readers. Encourage them to share with their connections as well.

14. "Like," "comment" or "share" others' news. Congratulate them on work anniversaries. This will grow the community we have--a virtual learning network of businesspeople on LinkedIn. Enrich the entourage of professionals you rely on for expertise and advice; likewise, they will reciprocate.

15. Cull through your list of LinkedIn connections: de-connect from those for whom you no longer have an affinity, or pare down those you connected to so long ago you don't recall who they are, or what they offer. It's OK--life and relationships change. Having a smaller faction of excellent trusted connections is better than a large untested collection.

16. Reevaluate the LinkedIn groups you belong to. Participate actively in the ones that make the most sense for your specific needs. Like a think tank of peers, similar-minded people in a LinkedIn group share knowledge and offer unique insights. Answer queries, ask for advice, enhance your reputation, meet new colleagues you're not connected to directly.

I wish you a peaceful, healthy, prosperous new year.