Between 2011 and 2017, LinkedIn’s user base grew from 140 million to 500 million. Fast forward to today, the company boasts 645 million global users including over 150 million in the U.S. alone and is adding two new professionals to the user base every second.

What predominately used to be known for its résumé job searching capabilities has now evolved into a full-blown platform for marketing including content sharing and establishing a network of connections. In fact, 94 percent of B2B marketers on social media use LinkedIn to publish content.

Most recently, the company has unveiled new tools targeted to help users fill their project gaps by identifying service providers or freelancers who are fit for the job.

“If you are looking for someone to help you with your marketing strategy, simply search for ‘marketing,’ and filter by service provider. From there, you’ll see a list of providers that have shared that they are ‘open for business’ and fit your search criteria,” explained engineering manager Gaurav Vijayvargiya in an official blog post.

Doing so will trigger a list of results of individuals who are open business who you can message regardless if you are connected already or not. You’ll be able to browse any mutual connections you share, services they specialize in, and get a snapshot of their prior experience.

Below are some screenshots of what you can expect to see:

It may seem like common sense, but in the digital era don’t overlook the importance of taking the extra step to personalize your communication. Demonstrate you’ve done your homework and cite something specific from their background that particularly struck you. Spell out why the opportunity lines up and point to credentials that will encourage them to take action.

Under the same umbrella of adding value, LinkedIn has found that 91 percent of marketing executives view the platform as the best place to find high-quality content. With this stat in mind, a good practice to develop is to use your profile to showcase case studies and post relevant articles, stats, and insights that pertain to your business. This will not only serve as an informal sales pitch that can be browsed through at a potential client’s leisure, but keep your profile active and engaging for those already in your network.

In a separate platform update, LinkedIn is also simplifying and reducing the amount of time spent to get recommendations and referrals from both your network and the larger LinkedIn community.

“Similar to how referrals can get you in the door for a job opportunity, our research says that 51 percent of business leaders that hired a freelancer found them through a recommendation; and 36 percent of them found the provider through social media,” said Vijayvargiya.

Here’s the four-step breakdown for how it all works:

  1. On your mobile device, click the share box to create a post, and then click on “Find an Expert.”
  2. Fill out information about the type of provider you are looking for. It’s important to include project details and expectations, so that you get the most relevant recommendations. This section will automatically fill out a draft post for you to share.
  3. Be sure to review your post and ensure everything looks good before publishing. You’ll notice we’ve gone ahead and added in some relevant hashtags to help your post get discovered.
  4. Share your post. You can choose who can see your post – whether you only want recommendations from your network, or if you want to share more publicly. Once you hit share, the audience you selected will now be able to see your post and either comment directly on the post tagging folks who might be able to help, or message you to share their recommendations privately.

Whether you’re looking for your next star copywriter, a job coach to help you navigate your next opportunity, or someone tech-savvy to help you revamp and rebrand your website – with these updates, LinkedIn will reduce the hassle and headaches as you develop your business.

By Erica Perry [Social Media Week]