Nearly three years ago, a close friend asked if I'd help him write his LinkedIn profile. I told him I'd be glad to -- if I could find someone to help me navigate the murky LinkedIn waters. We both had a good laugh.

To my knowledge, he never completed his profile, hardly ever uses LinkedIn except to add a contact now and then, and never joined any groups. He has been successful in his career efforts because he is incredibly well networked through non-digital avenues.

Am I much better with my LinkedIn efforts? A little, I suppose. But to be honest, this social-media system, around since 2003 and one of the oldest, still baffles me. And I know I'm not alone, because nearly LinkedIn networking meeting with a speaker that I've attended has been standing room only.

Since 2008, I have attended as many networking group meetings as humanly possible where there have been LinkedIn speakers. Each speaker focused on a different area:

How much time should I spend on LinkedIn everyday (you really wouldn't want to know -- no more than 1.5 hours)

Creating the perfect profile

Deciding how many and which groups to join

Using a question approach in groups to elicit lots of great answers while creating interest about yourself

Ad nauseam.

Within a year, my note pads were overflowing with tips and techniques written up down and sideways, and I honestly have used a lot of the practical suggestions to move forward. Among clients and colleagues I started speaking the LinkedIn language although hardly in an acceptable fashion. But I was assured that I knew what I was talking about. Hot air travels a long distance.

Within a few months, my contacts grew to more than 150, which I learned only this week is shamefully low --200 to 1,000 is more acceptable. I have learned to accept just about all invitations to ensure that the LinkedIn Gestapo doesn't knock me off the system. As I learned from an earlier speaker, people who decline invitations will probably be banned from using the system, because the idea is to build more contacts.

Now fast forward to last summer and again to summer 2013, when I had the good fortune of hearing "the LinkedIn Lady" at the networking group Mondays@7.

The LinkedIn Lady -- aka Carol McManus -- became a social media strategist after 26 years as a senior vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker in New Jersey. After leaving Coldwell, she set out to learn about and conquer LinkedIn. And she has.

Her 2012 presentation, which demonstrated more about LinkedIn on line, focused on building one's network, joining more rather than fewer groups and making an effort to visit as many of those groups as possible. This year's presentation, which was initially stalled by an Internet glitch, actually turned out even better than last year.

Carol reinforced that LinkedIn is really a numbers game. She told us that as we build our networks and accept invitations, we should think about those we think we can really help. She asked that we think about our affinity to contacts, because affinity is critical to linking people.

When a person at our meeting complained about LinkedIn's latest distraction, endorsements, Carol spoke positively, not negatively about endorsements. She suggested that we organize the best endorsements by industry, because a potential employer or contractor will probably see those as strong references.

After hammering into us that there should be no unfinished profiles, the last area Carol focused on was our professional headlines and summaries in the profile section. Both, she explained, can make the critical difference in an employer's eyes.

For the headline, we have only 120 characters --letters not words -- to creatively explain what we do, who we want to do it for and why should anyone care.

The summary, which should be written in the first person, at the end should really focus on our credentials, our unique selling points and experience, filled with the key words that emphasize how we'll help the reader's organization.

While Carol mentioned other key points in her presentation, I really felt the ones I highlighted gave me the most practical information for really using the system and making my LinkedIn experience the most positive ever.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: