With nearly 350 million LinkedIn users--and two new members joining every second--it's no wonder businesses are flocking towards this rapidly growing social networking site with such enthusiasm and interest. In fact, LinkedIn's reported total user goal is three billion. Unless you want to miss out on a slice of that large marketing pie, it's worth your time and effort to look into launching a LinkedIn account to increase brand awareness and generate leads.

Building a Comprehensive Profile and Company Page

The first thing you need to do is build a LinkedIn profile and comprehensive company page. For starters, an individual profile is ideal as it allows you to familiarize yourself with the various terms, techniques, and functions of the site. Here are a few steps for filling out your profile:

Include a professional image.
Don't skip the headline.
Balance your work history.
Customize your URL.

After using LinkedIn as an individual user, you can begin to delve into the business features by creating a company page. As with your individual profile, there are some specific tips and tricks to mastering your company page:

Craft a compelling summary.
Don't skimp on the image.
Ensure contact info is accurate.

5 LinkedIn Marketing Tips for Generating Leads

Once you have your own individual profile and a company page, you're ready to start generating leads for your business. As with all the major social networks, there are always new strategies developing, but these are currently some of the top LinkedIn lead generation tips:

Target customers and connections.
Utilize sponsored updates.
Invest in quality content.
Link up with your employees.
Join relevant groups.

Making LinkedIn the Focal Point

LinkedIn needs to be a focal point of your social media efforts and overall digital marketing strategy--not an afterthought or alternative. While Facebook and Twitter certainly get more exposure and discussion, the truth is that LinkedIn--at nearly 350 million strong--presents a powerful marketing opportunity.