Connections with ClientsMany people struggle with small talk or feel awkward when simply checking in with someone. It gets old to send a note that says, “Hope this finds you well. Just wanted to check in with you. How are you?”

LinkedIn Contacts is trying to help. LinkedIn has added some new features that remove some of the anxiety that comes with staying in touch with professional contacts. It’s a useful marketing tool, especially for small and one-person businesses.

Here are six stress-free ways to stay in touch using LinkedIn.

1. Send congratulations!

If you opt-in, LinkedIn emails you daily updates on your connections that have a new or changed status. It could be a new job, job anniversary, birthday, promotion or appearance in an article.

Before sending hearty congrats, check your contact’s profile to make sure the change is really news. Some marketing experts are recommending that you change your headline every month or so, just to show up in the update list. If your contact has simply changed the wording, you might want to skip the congratulations – or you could comment on the change and ask if that’s working for them.

For true new or changed jobs, in addition to the congratulations, you have an opportunity to learn what they do on a daily basis and what kind of help or resources they may need, so you can keep an eye out for them and see if you can help. Make a note of their responses in their profile under Relationship. (Only you can see this.) Better yet, schedule a reminder to follow up.

2. Add your regular clients to your profile

LinkedIn adds new features all the time. And one of those allowed people to add clients they work with on a steady basis. Posting one you’ve worked with for a long time allows people who get the updates to see the addition.

They might think you have a new job and send you congratulations. But that actually gives you a good excuse to have a conversation. Write back with a note of thanks, explain you were taking advantage of a new feature (in case they don’t know about it) and ask what they’re working on.

3. Connect with contacts on your travels

Traveling for an event, meeting or even to visit family? Before you depart, look to see which contacts live in the area of your destination. Reach out to see if they’d like to meet up. Set the meeting before you leave and ensure you have contact information in case you’re delayed or plans changed.

4. Reconnect with those you haven’t contacted with in a while

Browse your connections for people you haven’t had a conversation with for a long time. In case you have a lot of connections, filter by “Connections Only” to shorten the list. List still too long? Shorten it by filtering by company, tag, location and other fields.

By default, contacts are sorted by “Recent Conversations,” so you’ll have to scroll a bit to find older conversations. (The Page Down button comes in handy here.) LinkedIn bases your last conversation on LinkedIn activity and email — if you’ve connected your Gmail, Yahoo! or Outlook email account to LinkedIn. (See sync your contacts.) Beware of this in case you’ve chatted with a contact on Twitter, Facebook or other social network. Remember to keep notes in the person’s profile.

5. Use reminders

Next time you have a conversation with a connection, note special details, such as plans to speak at a conference, go on a fishing trip with the kids and so on. Put this note in the person’s profile and set a reminder to follow up with the person after the event occurs to ask about it.

6. Share curated content

How many times have you seen a great article and shared it with someone? Why not use LinkedIn to share curated content? You get bonus points if you add commentary. Next time you find an insightful article worth sharing, use LinkedIn’s filters to find people in a related job, industry or location that are likely to benefit from the article and forward it along.

What other ways do you use LinkedIn to connect? How has using LinkedIn Contacts helped you?