LinkedIn is the most obvious of the big social networks for businesses. But how can your employees and your company take advantage of this network?

Perhaps the single most important aspect of LinkedIn is your connections. "Well, duh, Matt!" chimes in my co-worker from the adjoining cubicle. Then he asks why I talk aloud while I type. Joking aside, having a great number of connections might seem like an exercise in vanity, but the true value of LinkedIn is who your connections are CONNECTED TO. Hence the title of this blog.

Think about it this way, the people you are already connecting with are likely your past and present co-workers, friends, and perhaps a handful of clients and prospects. This is all well and good, but will having these connections likely land you any business? The golden opportunity is finding out who these people are connected to and whether their "second-degree connections" are potential leads or thought-leaders that you would like to connect with, as well.

How can you get introduced to these second-degree connections? 
The answer is pretty easy: just ask your first-degree connections. Give a call to your old alumni buddy and ask them to introduce you or whether they feel okay about you name dropping them when sending a connection request. You can even use LinkedIn's "Introductions" feature to have a mutual connection provide an in-network intro. Just check the "People you might know" section of LinkedIn, see who you have in common and make a plan for how you can get introduced.

Another great feature to utilize the "second degree" of LinkedIn is finding potential leads in LinkedIn groups. Instead of needing an email address to connect, sharing a common group on LinkedIn will allow you to request connection by specifying the group you share. Join industry groups of people you wish to connect with AND those of ones where you are an expert. Word to the wise, don't just join groups to make connections and not participate in conversation, as it will still feel like a callous introduction. Take part in discussions, and use your interactions within the groups to spur new opportunities.

Every company should consider a team LinkedIn strategy, where the value of the network lies in each individual's participation, and not solely on the shoulders of a social media coordinator. Assuming that every one of your connections has 50+ connections puts you within a degree to thousands of new conversations, friendships and business opportunities.