It is important to build your LinkedIn network until you have at least 500 connections, because LinkedIn ranks you accordingly.

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Is it complete, with a photograph, and 500-plus connections?

If not, you are at risk of losing out on a wealth of networking and professional opportunities.

Read: 10 LinkedIn tips that can get you hired

The only people who are using LinkedIn effectively in South Africa at the moment are recruiters - the white space exists in becoming a thought leader in your field or to get more sales for your business.

If you are interested in doing business in the rest of Africa, LinkedIn is a very useful tool to be using as LinkedIn adoption and usage is higher in most African countries than it is in South Africa.

I was at a conference in New York last year where the chief executive of LinkedIn spoke, and I sat there with my eyes out on stalks because I saw the future, and the future is LinkedIn.

“Delegates often ask why they should connect with people they don’t know on LinkedIn.

The purpose of LinkedIn is to expand your professional peer-to-peer network, so if it looks like someone has taken their profile seriously and is a peer of yours, then I would recommend you connect to them.

It is important to build your network until you have at least 500 connections.

And the reason you should have 500 connections is that LinkedIn ranks you accordingly.

Say, for example, someone was looking for a networking specialist. If I had 400 connections and someone else had 600 connections, then that person would come up before me in the search results because that’s how LinkedIn ranks you. And that’s why getting to 500 connections is a very important benchmark.

According to the latest LinkedIn South Africa statistics, membership increased by 38 percent in 2013.

There were more men than women on LinkedIn and the industry with the highest membership was financial/corporate.

The statistics also reveal that a LinkedIn profile puts you in impressive professional company:

Of the South African members, 15 percent are business owners, 10 percent are company directors; and 38 percent are in senior leadership positions.

LinkedIn is going to become a very powerful social networking tool and those who realise this sooner rather than later are going to be ahead of the pack.

* This article is based on a presentation that Helen Nicholson gave to the Wits Alumni, as a Wits Alumnus. Register for a LinkedIn workshop and make this tool work for you at www.thenetworkingcompany.co.za.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.

WEEKEND ARGUS