All too often when I talk to business people about using social media the conversation focuses on Facebook and Twitter. When I recommend that they begin their foray into social media with LinkedIn, I generally get the ‘dude, you’re brining me down’ look.

Facebook and Twitter may be where your friends are, but the people who can give you a job, or buy your stuff, are all on LinkedIn.

Whether or not it’s the place where you spend the majority of your social media time, if you’re in business, want to be in business, or just want to stay in business, then I recommend you head on over to LinkedIn and start networking.

Why? Well for starters there are more than 135 million people and 7 million companies on LinkedIn. And they’re not on there to talk about what they had for lunch or share a funny cat video with you, they’re looking to do business.

So what is the unique capability of LinkedIn? What makes it different from the contact management software you are already using like Outlook or Act? Or more importantly, from other social networking sites?

LinkedIn is to people what Google is to information

Search engines are great for searching for information, but people aren’t information. Google yourself. Are the results a full or even adequate representation of your professional life? Probably not. Compare those search results with the detail you can include in your LinkedIn profile and you’ll find there is no comparison. More importantly, you control the information that appears on LinkedIn so you can ensure that it is accurate, complete and that your privacy is respected. It doesn’t quite work that way with Google.

LinkedIn is the contact manager that manages itself

Contact management software works great, except that you have to maintain it, and let’s face it, you don’t. You really meant to when you got started and diligently entered all those business cards you collect exactly once. Admit it, you have friends in your contact manager with title’s and email from four jobs ago and others that you have no idea where they work now or what their new email address is. Collecting thousands of contacts is not a competitive advantage unless the data is kept up-to-date and ready to use when you need it.

LinkedIn is a 2.0 like of old boys club that anyone can join

Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for communicating messages and keeping in touch, but they can’t answer the questions you need to run your business. Questions as simple as “Who do I know who knows and can recommend somebody that…” The answers to these type of questions are actionable and of value to you and your business. You simply can’t answer this type of question, nor obtain this type of information with any other social media service. Why? Because LinkedIn is purposely built to collect, correlate and connect the information needed to answer professional questions related to the people you know and the people they know.The bottom line is, no matter how well you think you know people, you don’t know them as well as they know themselves, nor do you know who they might know.

There are millions of other applications for LinkedIn, however, finding and connecting with the people you need to make your business a success is what it does best.

What about you? How and why do you use LinkedIn?