The rules of engagement on LinkedIn are fairly clear: first and foremost, you should only connect with people you actually know. Yet millions of people are broadening their networks by connecting to people with whom they’ve never even had a discussion.

How do you then destroy that impression that you are on LinkedIn just to “bug” contacts? How then do you enhance your LinkedIn connections so that you don’t look like a stranger who’s just trying to mooch information and connections from others? Here are some suggestions.

Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time

It can be a bit awkward to send a LinkedIn connection request or InMail to a former colleague, classmate or client seemingly out of the blue. But you should do it anyway. Here are two reasons why: First, social media is still a new enough communication channel that people aren’t shocked to be contacted by an old friend who has come across their profile. Second, it’s so important to your business to maintain a strong network that it’s worth a bit of potential awkwardness.

That said, you can lessen the potential weirdness of the situation by writing a great “get back in touch” message. Here are the three elements of such a message: 1) Explain how you “rediscovered” the person, 2) Find something relevant to talk about by reviewing the person’s LinkedIn profile (to show that you have a genuine interest in the person and are a mutually beneficial networker, and 3) Tell them a bit about what you’re doing and, ideally, suggest a follow-up conversation during which you can talk about your business and offer to help your contact with his or her needs. Just remember that this LinkedIn message is a friendly networking outreach, not the time to make a sales pitch.

Track a contact’s status – and then make a comment

The real key to using any social network is building and nurturing relationships. In order to do this, you need to stay involved with your network. A good way to do this is to watch your contacts’ status.

Your homepage features a timeline that shows you the various updates and activities your LinkedIn connections are engaging in. You should visit your page every day to keep tabs on what your connections are doing. It needn’t take long to do so. Just bring up LinkedIn, scan your timeline for interesting activity, and decide if any of it is worthy of a quick comment.

Be a relevant contributor/source to your “groups”

Make sure your LinkedIn profile fully demonstrates your expertise and experience. And then research groups in your industry and join those that interest you. Add value by contributing frequently and acknowledging others. Remember that it’s about adding value, not marketing yourself. Groups are a good way to create connections, but too many think that participating in a group means constantly dropping links to your own stuff. Be helpful and bring value to your groups. Now that you have established yourself as an expert who values contribution and stimulating dialogue, you are ready to issue invitations to connect to like-minded individuals.