Guest post by Anthony Juliano

Stay top-of-mind, start conversations in 140 characters or less

Wouldn’t you love to have the opportunity to get in front of customers and prospects every day to share your expertise, passion, and ideas? Well thanks to LinkedIn, you do—if you take the time to update your status. Just like your updates on Facebook help you stay in touch with friends, LinkedIn status updates can help you stay connected to your professional contacts in ways that can have a dramatic impact on how you’re perceived—or whether you’re thought of at all.

While it may seem difficult to come up with something to say, there’s actually quite a bit worth talking about. Here are ten ways you can update your status so that your name not only stays in the mind of your audience, but starts conversations with them as well.

  • Mention what you’re working on. One of the best status updates is a simple mention of the most interesting thing you’ll be working on each day. Over time, mentioning different aspects of your work will have a bigger impact on what people know about you than even the most carefully written profile.

  • Share what you’ve read. Building a social media audience isn’t about self-promotion—it’s more a matter of being seen as a resource. That includes being seen as a go-to person when it comes to the latest thinking in your industry. If you’ve read something that’s worth your audience’s attention, tell ‘em about it (and link to it, if possible).

  • Share advice/opinion. You have expertise to share—why not summarize it and share it? Even if you think it’s simplistic, there’s probably someone out there who would benefit from your knowledge. And if your status is more opinion than fact, just be aware of how your audience might react. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging a little debate—as long as you can respond.

  • Share memorable quotations. A great quotation can inspire, educate, and amuse. Share others’ thoughts when they reflect your beliefs, and you’ll help the audience understand not only what you know, but what you value.

  • Ask questions. A question mark is the only punctuation mark that demands feedback. Phrasing your status in the form of a question is a great way to engage your audience, tap into their expertise, and show them you care about their opinion.

  • Mention events you’re part of. Location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla aren’t the only way to tell people where they can find you. Tell your audience what events you’re part of—before, during, and after they occur—and you’ll be better positioned to connect with them not just online, but also face-to-face.

  • Share content from other sites. The 140-character maximum length of a LinkedIn status update is deceiving: it seems limiting, but only if you think of it as the whole conversation. Instead, think of it as a way to generate interest in a longer conversation–content you’ve created elsewhere, that is, like blog posts, photos, and videos.

  • Cross-post tweets. LinkedIn’s 140-character limit on statuses is no coincidence: it’s a direct result of its integration with Twitter. Now, just add “#in” to a tweet, and it can do double-duty as your LinkedIn status (and it’s just as easy to make your LinkedIn status a tweet—just click on the Twitter check box). It’s important to remember, however, that many tweets are not appropriate status updates—especially at-replies that depend upon context to be understood. Make sure that the tweet can stand on its own and is aligned with your goals for being on LinkedIn. Many users have set up automatic integration between LinkedIn and Twitter, and it’s causing confusion and negative impressions among their audiences.

  • Share job opportunities. Is your company hiring? Why not inform those you trust first? And don’t just limit this to jobs with your employer: help your contacts find talent, and help job seekers, by promoting others’ job postings. It’s a great way to be a resource to those in your network.

  • Directly promote your product or service—but only infrequently. Many of us are on LinkedIn because we ultimately want to be thought of first for a certain product or service. With that in mind, it’s okay to use your status update for direct promotion, but only sparingly and with the knowledge that too much promotion will cause you to be seen as an interruption to the conversations others are hoping to participate in via social networking.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of opportunities to use LinkedIn to connect with your audience. Instead of waiting for people to come to your profile, get in front of them by updating your status every day—or at least a few times a week. It may just be the missing link in your networking efforts.

Now it’s time for your ideas: what types of LinkedIn status updates do you use? How have these helped you connect with others?