LinkedIn is the top social network for hiring, according to a recent study. You should take as much care with your LinkedIn profile as you would your resume. This series of three posts will show you how to use LinkedIn for networking, professional development and personal branding. But first, here are some tips to enhance your profile.

Start by going to Profile –> Edit Profile on your LinkedIn home page. On the right, there is a blue bar showing profile completeness that suggests how to reach 100%. Start by following their suggestions until your profile is 100% complete.

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Upload a professional photo, ideally the same photo you use for Twitter, Facebook (unless you prefer something more informal for that platform), your blog or website and any other online communities you frequent. Using the same photo will help establish consistency in your online presence — a personal branding plus, if you’re into that type of thing.

Your Professional Headline — the tagline underneath your name — is by default your title in your Current Position, but you can change this to anything that better reflects what you do and that will be better understood by others. Remember the power of keywords — this field is indexed by LinkedIn search. Use those same keywords throughout your profile.

Websites – List your websites (yours or your company’s) and your blogs. You can customize the descriptor by selecting Other.

Twitter – Add your Twitter account URL and username to the Twitter field. You can also display updates to your Twitter account (your tweets) on your profile page. However, don’t assume your LinkedIn connections are the appropriate audience for sharing all your Twitter updates in your LinkedIn status. Your tweets may be perceived as noise if you tweet frequently. Also, many people tweet not only about their profession or industry, but also about their personal interests – the Tour de France, local news and recipes. Is LinkedIn the appropriate platform to share those tweets? Be selective and add #in only to tweets that are appropriate to share with your LinkedIn connections. Many third-party Twitter applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite also give you the option of marking individual tweets for LinkedIn or Facebook.

If you have a blog, use one of the Applications (WordPress or Blog Link) to import your blog’s feed into your profile.

Edit Public Profile –> Your Public Profile URL to create an URL (website address) that displays your full name — great for Google indexing — instead of the ugly-looking default address. This more concise URL will be easier to use on business cards and other networking sites. Also, make sure that Full View is selected for your profile.

Add a Summary and Specialties. This is your marketing copy; make it compelling. These are searchable areas so take full advantage of keywords.

Look over each editable area (especially Education and Current/Past Positions) and make sure they are complete. This is the resume portion of your profile. Former colleagues will be able to find you easier if you include past positions.

Interests give a glimpse of the whole person. Your interests may differentiate you or help create a bond to someone with similar interests. Just be smart about what you include.

Add any credentials and awards to Honors and Awards. Don’t forget anything you received due to your volunteer activities.

Ask for Recommendations. Don’t be shy. Do it when someone’s memory is fresh. Include a personal note with your request.

You can rearrange the sections of your profile by selecting the symbol at the top left of each section and dragging the section above or below other sections. Decide which parts of your profile you want to accentuate and drag those sections to a higher position. For example, if you are looking for a job, you may wish to move your Recommendations further up, especially if you have a lot of good recent ones.

Next time I’ll look at the Settings page and some tips on using LinkedIn to share your expertise.

Update: Part 2 and Part 3