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With the economy slowing down, now is the best time to fine-tune your LinkedIn or Facebook profile, fleshing out the blank spaces and figuring out how to take advantage of those social networking sites. A few tips:

Check to see whether your profiles are up-to-date. Are there people you know whom you could connect with online? Have you accepted invitations from others?

Become known as a giver, not a taker. To make people want to help you, be the first to help them. Swoop in with a solution, introduction or answer. One way: On LinkedIn, write a “recommendation” for someone.

Are you a strong communicator? Flaunt it. Hiring managers may drop in to evaluate you. Currently, 22% of hiring managers screen candidates via their social-networking profiles, says a recent CareerBuilder poll.

Take time to learn the tools. Facebook offers an online “Getting Started Guide,” and LinkedIn’s Learning Center (www.linkedin.com/) trots out all the site’s features.

Post a photo. “People want to see who they’re dealing with, and it is helpful to match a face with a name on a business card after a busy conference,” points out Sheila Scarborough, who writes about Web 2.0 topics. Use a good, professional headshot.

Update “What are you working on?” frequently. Call attention to projects you’re working on, something you’ve learned recently or an interesting link. In the column of “Network Updates” that appears on your LinkedIn home page, you’ll see a running list of what others are working on. Look for points of commonality.

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Follow up an in-person meeting with a virtual connection. Know how people sometimes send a friendly follow-up e-mail after they’ve swapped business cards? Try sending a request to connect on LinkedIn.

Ask and answer questions.
“This builds your credibility as an expert within your profession,” says Scarborough. “If your answer is chosen as a ‘best answer’ by the one who asked the question, you can show that in your profile.”

Don’t spread yourself too thin. The more sites you try to maintain, the less likely you’ll be a strong contributor to any one of them.

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