I am NOT a LinkedIn expert, but I do have more than 15,000 LinkedIn connections. Do you?

I may have more visibility and notoriety than you do, but we are equal in exposure and linking possibilities. And 98.5 percent of my LinkedIn connections are the result of people wanting to connect with me.

I do not accept everyone. I click on everyone’s profile before connection. Many are impressive. Most are average or less. Some are pathetic.

How’s yours? How many connections do you have? How are you communicating with your connections? How are your connections helping your sales or your career?

Your LinkedIn profile is one more social media image. And you choose exactly what it is. When others search for you on Google, LinkedIn is one of the first links they click on. You have a chance to make a positive business and social impression.

THE GOOD: When I realized the business significance of LinkedIn, I immediately sought professional help. I hired Joe Soto at One Social Media to help me with the keywords, layout and what to include on my profile page. He also recommended what and how to post.

It must be working. In the two years since I hired him, I have added more than 9,000 organic connections. Or should I say, more than 9,000 potential customers. Huge opportunity. At an acquisition cost of ZERO.

REALITY OF LINKEDIN: I receive requests to link, and I also get messages. Some are very nice, some are self-serving, some are insincere, and some are stupid (very stupid). And ALL messages are a reflection of the person sending them. That would be you.

Here are some THINGS about LinkedIn to make you think, rethink, and act:

• Your picture is NOT optional. Show a professional, but approachable, image. Be proud of who you are.

• Have a LinkedIn profile that gives me insight, not just history. Not just what you’ve done, but also who you are. Your profile is your pathway to connection.

• If you’re looking for leads, use the keyword feature (rather than the job title option) in the “advanced search” link to the right of the search box. It’s free, and you’ll find hundreds of people in your industry or in your back yard that you never knew existed.

• If you’re asking me (or people) to join your group, tell me why I should.

• Allocate 30-60 minutes a day to utilize this vital business social media asset.

THE BAD and THE DUMB: Here are some examples of messages and invites I have received on LinkedIn. Hopefully they’ll make you think, rethink, and act.

BAD: Hi Jeffrey, My name is ---- with ----, a leading ---- provider that helps organizations connect with their customers through email, mobile and social networks. I would like to connect about a potential partnership to help Buy Gitomer Inc. increase their interactive marketing ROI.

This is a typical self-serving (and deleted) message. Why not give me a tip, and ask if I’d like more like it?

DUMB: Hi All, As I continue to work on building my network, can I ask that you do me a huge favor and endorse me here on LinkedIn? I would be more than happy to return the favor and endorse you as well. Thank you for your support! Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours? Give me a break. Spare me. Beg someone else.

BAD AND DUMB: I got this in my message box (I get a few like this every week):

(subject line) Your Opinion please. (name withheld) Supplier Business Executive

If you’re hoping for an endorsement or a recommendation on LinkedIn, or anywhere, here’s the two-word mantra: EARN IT!

LinkedIn is the business social media site of today AND tomorrow. Harness its power, do not abuse its options, and you will reap its rewards.