In today’s online marketplace, content is currency. Love it or hate it, you must create useful, actionable free content if you want to “buy” the time and attention of your ideal prospects online.

Consider LinkedIn, which recently released its list of the “Top Voices of 2016,” along with sharing specific tips on how to get your content noticed on the platform.

And, with more than 3 million unique content creators and writers – using LinkedIn’s built-in publishing platform, trust me when I say even the most seasoned content creators can benefit from the tips below!

Personally, I can say that LinkedIn has been great in growing my network.  I recently crossed 6,000 connections, and can truly feel the power of that network whenever I post content, or engage with others.  One of the reasons I have been able to gain so many connections is due to the incredibly easy way to gain new followers through the mobile app, which I use almost everyday.  In my spare time, I will jump on there and connect with people I find interesting, or who might be beneficial to my network.  So for those who are new to LinkedIn, or who might not have it at all, here are 5 general tips for growing your network, becoming a pro, and using the social network to benefit your business and brand.

Tip 1: Consider Your Audience

Your blogs or other forms of content should always be created with a specific audience in mind.

Is your content targeted at employees in a specific industry? Or is it targeted at C-suite execs? Entry level employees? Freelancers? Women in the workplace? Millennials? Debt Collectors in the healthcare space?

You get the idea – the more specific you can be, the better traction your post will get.

On LinkedIn, as always, the riches are in the niches!

However you organize your thoughts around your topic, make sure it always brings value to your target audience. Your points should always be supported by evidence, data, statistics, examples, personal anecdotes, etc.  These should appeal to your audience’s core desire and/or meet a pressing need.

Tip 2: Become a Headline Hero!

It doesn’t matter how well a post is written if nobody ever reads it.

In fact, you should spend 80 percent of your time on your post’s headline, and 20 percent of your time on the actual content you create.

Headlines are that important!

I cannot state this strongly enough: You need to put the same amount of effort and creativity into show-stopping headlines that you do with the actual content of your posts!

For example, LinkedIn blogs are being read by busy professionals, who are scanning through lots of options on their phone, laptop or tablet.

Will your headline stop their scroll long enough to earn a click?

When it comes to crafting a killer headline, don’t worry about being quippy or cute.

The two most important things are to clearly identify your target audience in the headline and make it clear what the benefit or value that target audience will get by reading your post.

Some quick examples:

  • 5 Key Questions Entrepreneurs Should Always Ask Before Hiring a CPA
  • What Every Business Coach Needs to Know About Finding New Clients on LinkedIn
  • 3 Ways Online Video Helps Debt Collection Agencies Win Business and Increase Customer Retention

If you haven’t the first clue about crafting killer headlines, fear not!

Tip 3: Staying Engaged

The key to successful content on LinkedIn (or anywhere else online) is audience engagement. LinkedIn, for one, makes it easy to both monitor and engage with your audience in real-time on each post you write.

Don’t take that opportunity for granted!

Case in point: “Honorees on the Top LinkedIn Voices list respond to comments on their articles 10 times more than the average member,” according to LinkedIn.

Herein lies the power of content marketing: it’s the key to open the door to actual conversations with your ideal prospects online!

Remember: Once a prospect has consumed some of your content, and has indicated in one fashion or another that he or she likes it, you now have context for a conversation.

You can immediately give an interested reader more content, more resources, more tools and more direction on how to move further into a potential business relationship with you as a result of that one blog post!

Tip 4: Don’t Forget a CTA!

One common mistake I see all the time on LinkedIn is this: A person creates an eye-catching, click-worthy headline, then backs it up with solid content inside his or her LinkedIn post.

But then he or she stops, forgetting to put in a Call To Action (CTA) at the bottom of the post.

If you’re not using a CTA every time you publish a new blog on LinkedIn, you’re making a huge mistake.

Think about it: If someone likes your post enough to read all the way to the end, you have earned the right to invite him or her further into your sales funnel!

An easy way to do this is by adding an appealing CTA at the bottom of each blog post or piece of content you publish.

It might be an invitation to a free webinar you offer, an invite to jump on the phone for a free consultation, a link to a free eBook related to the topic of your post, or something else.

Whatever your CTA is, it must move the person further and deeper into your sales funnel!

And remember – whatever “ask” you make with your CTA should be in direct proportion to the amount of trust you’ve built up to this point.

The more your content helps someone, the bigger your ask can be!

Tip 5: Content=Currency

Even if you’re not a huge fan of blogging, find other ways to create useful content that appeals to your target audience. It could be a Podcast, a free training video, an eBook or countless other forms of content that helps a specific type of audience achieve a specific type of goal.

The key is understanding that, in today’s world, your content is the gateway to new business.

Great content builds the “Know, Like and Trust” element of sales faster than anything outside of a face-to-face, 1-on-1 personal meeting.

Old-school, blatant, in-your-face advertisements that interrupt people with “cold calls” or “cold emails” or “commercials” no longer works.

Worse, these methods turn your audience off before you even have a chance to win them over!

Nobody likes being interrupted with an offer he or she never asked for.

Instead, we love finding and engaging with helpful, relevant and actionable content that helps us solve our biggest problems.

Your job, just like LinkedIn’s “Top Voices” do, is to create and share that content!