You've heard LinkedIn is important, but is it actually? And if so, why? We take a deep dive into the networking platform.

Did you know that LinkedIn, the professional social networking platform, has actually been around longer than Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram? But it's more relevant now than ever.

Why? Because it hosts more than 600 million professional profiles, which means nearly an unlimited supply of network connections and job opportunities. From seeking a new job to maintaining your personal brand, using LinkedIn is an important part of being a full-fledged professional in any industry these days.

Here are seven important reasons to create a LinkedIn account — or dust off your long-forgotten one.

1. You can tap into its powerful job board

What are the benefits of LinkedIn? You'll find a number of reasons in this list, but let's start at square one: As a job seeker, you can search its robust job board — and even apply to jobs — through the networking platform.

Search jobs by keywords and location. Even if you're not actively seeking new employment, you can set job alerts based on your career interests to regularly receive email updates and stay in the loop.

You can also be sneaky about it. If you're connected with co-workers and managers, turn on your “I'm interested” button, which will let recruiters and potential employers know you're open to hearing about new opportunities. LinkedIn will hide this open invitation from folks at your current company.

With LinkedIn's premium account, you can access even more information about job openings. Send direct messages to recruiters and hiring managers, see how you compare to other applicants via insights, and even gain instant access to salary insights. While LinkedIn Premium is free for the first month, it's not absolutely necessary if you don't want to splurge on the $29.99 monthly fee.

2. You can build your brand

Just like companies build their brands, it's important for you to build your professional brand online. How do you stand out from others in your industry? What makes you marketable? Why should someone pay you six figures?

Personal websites are great for this, but they often come with extra costs — and hours and hours of building and finessing. LinkedIn is a simple way to put your name on the professional map. Upload a professional profile picture and write a powerful LinkedIn summary that emphasizes your strengths and showcases your personality. When recruiters, employers, co-workers, and managers peruse your profile, they should be able to gain a strong understanding of who you are and what skills you bring to the table.

3. It can help rank your name on Google

Chances are, if you apply to a job, one of the first things an employer or human resources manager will do is Google your name. Even emailing a new client could result in a Google sweep of your name.

If you've never Google'd yourself, now's the time. What pops up on the first page of results?

Here's another benefit of LinkedIn: Ranking on Google's first page can be difficult, but LinkedIn is a well-known and powerful network — and Google's into it. Because of that, it's typically easier to get your LinkedIn page to rank on Google versus your homemade website or online portfolio. If your LinkedIn profile is the first thing a prospective employer will see, then maybe it's time to get one ... or edit your existing one to stand out among the crowd. 

Related: Why You Should Google Yourself to Monitor Your Online Personal Brand

4. It maintains your rolodex of contacts

Remember that awesome young professional you met at that conference three years ago? Or that friend of a friend who was interested in freelancing for your company?

Honestly, probably not.

Rather than stuffing their business cards in your desk drawer or adding their email addresses to your outdated address book, add these folks to your professional network on LinkedIn when you meet them. Keep them in your connections so one day you can reconnect when the time's right.

5. You can research companies and its employees

Sure, if you're applying for jobs you can access openings from other job boards; there are plenty of those out there. However, LinkedIn offers other perks.

These days, many companies maintain their own LinkedIn pages where they'll update company information, share company news and insight, and showcase current employees. If the company knows what it's doing, you should get a good, solid feel for its culture and its people to make sure it's a fit for you before diving into the interview process or accepting a job.

6. It can help you tap into industry news

Like other social networking sites, LinkedIn aggregates a timeline when you log in. There, you'll find news updates from your connections, your groups, and your company. It's both fun and wise to keep tabs on industry trends and reports. 

7. Network, network, network!

Can we emphasize this enough? LinkedIn is such an important networking tool for professionals.

Even if you're an introvert and hate networking events, you can still foster meaningful LinkedIn connections. Through LinkedIn, you can build a relationship with mutual connections, folks in your field, and even your greatest role models. 

In conclusion

If you were wondering how many benefits to LinkedIn there could actually be, then hopefully this list convinced you it's one of your most powerful professional tools. With it, you can build and maintain your network, search for jobs, and build your professional reputation. Plus it's free. So why wait?

Is your LinkedIn in need of a makeover … or don't know where to start with your profile? TopResume offers LinkedIn makeover services that'll help you build your brand, attract recruiters, and grow your network.

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