Whether you’re prospecting fresh clients or looking to forge long-lasting business-to-business relationships, LinkedIn offers a treasure trove of networking opportunity.

If you know what you’re doing.

Just as you can attend a local meet-and-greet and go home without a single meaningful business card, LinkedIn only works to advance your business when coupled with research and effort.

Give your networking prowess a gentle push with these 5 tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn.

Engage before you approach

LinkedIn’s search function is great, and it’s meant to help you map out a list of target contacts. But don’t introduce yourself by just firing off a string of invitations to connect before your targets will recognize your name.

Start by being social. Like, comment and share your targets’ content to build trust and rapport. Engage in conversation before you introduce yourself for a more professional relationship.

Loosen up the purse strings

Don’t be afraid to break out the credit card and upgrade to LinkedIn’s Premium services. InMail allows you to directly contact any LinkedIn member with no connection required, and Sales Navigator provides access to data and tools unavailable to free subscribers.

If you’re serious about unlocking the platform’s true potential, you ought to be willing to invest a few bucks to step up your game. Give LinkedIn Premium a test run and discover the difference yourself.

Send customized connection requests

If you truly value the potential of a future relationship, steer clear of the default connection invitation.

Instead of sending canned text, give the recipient a real reason to want to connect. Be sure to mention where you met or drop the name of mutual contact. Do your best to uncover some sort of common ground to pique their interest in getting to know you.

Take full advantage of groups

Actively participating in LinkedIn groups is one of the most powerful ways to utilize the platform and make real connections with other professionals in your field. Here’s how to tap into this resource:

  1. Join a number of groups related to your industry, job title or geographic location.
  2. Spend a few hours browsing the content/discussions to determine which groups are worth your time.
  3. Cull your group list to focus only on those offering meaningful dialogue.
  4. Engage! Join the conversation and focus on adding real benefit to other users in the group. Start new threads with thought-provoking questions, or share useful, relevant content.
  5. Once your name is known within the group you can use the group affiliation to begin sending private messages or connection requests to members of the group whom you’ve targeted for your network.

Optimize your profile

An incomplete profile is a LinkedIn deal breaker. If you haven’t taken the time to upload a professional photo and fill out your profile like you mean it, start there. Once you’re finished go back through and optimize for LinkedIn search.

Craft your title to feature the terms you’d most like to be searched for. Then go through and do the same for the rest of your profile. Be careful not to “stuff” keywords but rather list out search terms a potential boss or client might look for and try to work them onto your page where relevant.