Job seekers are using LinkedIn every day to post resumes, search for jobs, and connect with recruiters. But if you’ve already got your own business – i.e., your own job – why should you get involved with another social network?

LinkedIn is a powerful way to connect you with new leads without the high cost of traditional advertising. An optimized LinkedIn profile offers an entire world of opportunity for growing your network and getting lots of free exposure for your business.

Establish Authority in Your Business Category

LinkedIn is an incredible opportunity to get your name out into the community whether on a local scale or when casting a wider net. This is especially true if you are the face of your company, and people know to look you up in connection with it. Remember that LinkedIn is more than a static resume, but rather an interactive business card which includes photos, portfolios, work samples, audio and video files. First, you’ll need to start with a personal profile – yes, the same kind that all those job seekers use. Except instead of trying to impress hiring managers, you’re using your background and expertise to establish your authority among prospective customers.

Once you’ve set up your personal profile with your professional background and headshot (no selfies or photos with your cat!), you can start setting up your company page. Having both of these will generate increased exposure across your LinkedIn network. Did you know that when someone follows your business page, your business logo gets attached to their profile? And thus they are publicly endorsing your company among their own connections.

Consider LinkedIn just one more “embassy” where you can represent your business on the web. Don’t forget to put a backlink on your company page, your “home base,” to take advantage of the extra eyes. It will also improve your Google ranking (Google sees LinkedIn as a high value, authoritative website).

Network with People in Your Industry

You’ll be amazed at the commonalities you can find between yourself and new acquaintances through LinkedIn. Just as an example, I recently discovered that a new business acquaintance used to work at the same company as a close mutual friend just by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. Having this instant connection helped make continuing to interact with and get to know this person much easier and more natural.

That’s just one of the many different coincidences and discoveries that can be found through LinkedIn. Maybe you and someone that you just met at a networking event are both active in raising money for women’s shelters, have some colleagues in common that you didn’t know about before, or studied abroad in the same country in college. The possibilities are endless, and synchronicity is much more common than you might think. Plus it could lead to more clients and business collaborations for both of you in the future.

Generate Warm Leads

Similar to finding new allies in your industry, LinkedIn can introduce you to new ways of generating clients. Get involved with LinkedIn groups that can connect you with people to whom you can offer something. Not only is this a way to network with people who do the same thing you do, it may also give you access to people who need your services.

For example, if you run a PR firm, and someone in one of your groups asks about improving a business’ reputation, you might be able to give them some resources via a blog that you’ve posted on your company page. If you do business consulting and someone is complaining about operations issues in their company, you could possibly offer some solutions. While plastering profiles and groups with advertisements for your biz isn’t the way to go (and will annoy people), offering some real value can get you positive attention.

Once you have proven to the network that you are a knowledgeable asset, you will have some possible “warm” leads that may already be interested in working with you.

Another Way to Put Your Best Face Forward

Above all, not taking advantage of such a great, free resource is just leaving money on the table. Because of LinkedIn’s good Google reputation, your personal profile and company page will be one of the first things that comes up if someone Googles your name. That means positivity and professionalism on LinkedIn can really make a good impression on people who are considering buying your products or working with you.