Think of LinkedIn as the social network for serious-minded individuals. Whereas 20-somethings will go to Facebook or Instagram to check someone out, business professionals will hit LinkedIn to decide whether to connect, meet, hire, work for, partner with, even date someone.

Social media plays a vital role in marketing yourself. How else can you reach thousands of customers and prospects all over the globe without spending a fortune on advertising and PR? LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals looking to network – a virtual rolodex of your professional contacts. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn now has more than 200 million working professionals in more than 200 countries and territories. Essentially, someone joins LinkedIn every second. Although not as trendy as Pinterest or as popular as Facebook, LinkedIn is an important social network for business. It serves as an attractive option because users are twice as confident with the information garnered on LinkedIn profiles than they are on other social media sites.

Use your LinkedIn profile to your advantage—up the “know, like, and trust” factor of your business. Build professional relationships, make friends with customers and prospects, and let people know what’s going on with your business. Send out content that lets prospects get to know your philosophy and offerings. “Social media” is a term that just encompasses new ways of talking to prospects and clients online. Social media marketing does not seem expensive at first glance. The tools are free, so LinkedIn marketing is largely an investment of time. As a small business owner, time is a valuable resource and you likely don’t have the capital to hire a department just to manage your social media outreach.But overall, cultivating your LinkedIn profile is a much more cost-effective strategy than any traditional form of advertising. LinkedIn media marketing continues to build your reputation and bring in leads even when you’re not actively building it out.

One of the most important steps to successfully marketing yourself on LinkedIn is to develop your profile. Keep it professional and appropriate, with the right headshot, interesting headline and informational summary. You can also develop your presence on LinkedIn by expanding your network. Many of your current contacts may already be on LinkedIn—a quick scan through your address book will show up contacts you want to connect with on LinkedIn. A fast way to build your network is to find people you already know. Lastly, joining groups is an excellent way to market yourself and your business on this social media platform. Groups are built around geographical areas, industries, companies, alumni groups, and any other type of social ties. If you are looking to build your network, connect with people in you or your prospects’ industry, using relevant search terms.

No matter how you choose to use LinkedIn, its value as a social media platform is undeniable when it comes to business and on a professional level.