LinkedIn for Attorneys: Beyond the Basics
For the purpose of this article, I’ll assume that you know what LinkedIn is and have set up a profile and built some sort of network. If you are a beginner and looking to get started, consider reading the excellent LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, by Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields, published by the American Bar Association. If you are looking to go beyond the basics, read on. These tips and suggestions hold true for any service provider or small business owner.
With over 200 million users on LinkedIn, chances are good that almost every business contact you meet has a profile there. When I Google my own name, it is the LinkedIn profile that is second in the results — second only to my own website. It is without question the premier place for professionals to do business on the Internet.
Social Butterfly or Wallflower
Nothing beats face-to-face — whether one-on-one over lunch, or attending a networking event. LinkedIn makes all that in-person time worth its weight in gold. Every contact should be viewed either before or after meeting. If before, you have a chance to identify talking points and common threads. For those that don’t enjoy schmoozing, LinkedIn gives you a chance to do lots of networking in the comfort of your office or home. Both can be molded to fit your personality.
Perfect for the Inflexible Schedule
If you don’t like or don’t have time for writing, public speaking, or networking after work, you can probably spend the next year doing something different on LinkedIn every night. Unlike blog writing or preparing a speech, I accomplish a lot on LinkedIn while watching college basketball or listening to Pandora. You can fire up the laptop while multitasking — perusing possible new contacts and groups.
I’ve provided training courses on using social media for business development in law firms for more than a decade now — starting with MySpace, then Facebook, Second Life, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While Facebook still plays a role for certain law practices, it is LinkedIn that has become a core component of almost every marketing plan.
I’ll focus this article on enhancing time spent on LinkedIn.
How Reliable Is your Network?
There are those that love accumulating connections. Unlike Twitter, where the more followers you have the better, I sometimes look at the quality of a LinkedIn network versus the quantity. If you indiscriminately accept invites, you don’t really know if these are people you can vouch for in some regard.
Which Invitations Do I Accept?
A network suggests some sort of filter or oversight. Don’t let someone drop your name as a “connected” friend without being able to vouch for them in some capacity. Do not accept invitations from people that have no real connection to you. A true network suggests you can stand up for these people. You don’t need to have a professional relationship. It can be on your kids’ soccer field, belonging to the same house of worship, and definitely places you call yourself an alumnus. The same holds true when extending an invite — say where the connection lies.
Is a Premium Account Worth the Money?
Premium accounts range from $19.95 to $74.95 per month. That looks like a hefty amount, and if you are not going to be a frequent LinkedIn user, it is not worth the money. On the flip side, if you have chosen to make it a core element of business development, then it is a pittance and well worth it. While Facebook is still trying to figure out ways to effectively make money, LinkedIn has made sure that paying for enhanced features will pay off for the end user.
I Don’t Have Time to Goof Around on the Site
LinkedIn does a great job emailing you with important data from your network — who viewed your profile, what your contacts are doing, and who switched jobs. The beauty of the data is that the site does the bulk of the work for you — once you’ve properly set things up and put together some contacts.
Who’s Viewed Your Profile?
One of the most dynamic lead generation pages is this one. In many cases, I know exactly who has looked at my profile and when. In others, I may only know the company. Either way, it gives me the chance to potentially get proactive and follow up without ever saying that is what I’m doing. Perhaps an emailed article or educational promotional information will unexpectedly come their way. I won’t say that I saw that they were reading my LinkedIn profile. That sounds creepy. Let it appear serendipitous to the recipient.
Also seeing search keywords and views by industry allow me to tweak my messaging for those that are finding their way to me.
In the practice of law, recommendations can be dangerous. I’m not a big fan of this component, but it has increased in popularity and visibility. There is no great harm in using the feature. However, it is often a two way street and you need to be prepared to do the same for those that recommend you.
Many of the issues that prevent attorneys from engaging in a Google AdWords campaign can be alleviated, circumvented, or overcome by engaging in similar campaigns on LinkedIn. It is a much more defined and finite universe. There is an increased chance that the end user will be a professional seeking a professional versus a consumer price shopping. A smaller universe means lower prices per click. The end result is a more focused, professionally targeted online ad campaign at a much lower cost. LinkedIn provides you with ad summaries and suggestions for improving visibility. With cost controls in place, you can try it with little risk.
Make Sure Your Company Page Is Set Up Properly
Building your network is well and good. But making sure the law firm itself is appropriately represented is important too. Your company page is just as important as your personal profile.
I don’t complete a RFP — request for proposal — on behalf of a lawyer or law firm without running the people and company through LinkedIn. I’m always looking for any edge — and LinkedIn often provides the link to contacts we did not know existed as well as data on the people and companies we are engaging. It is often the personal connection that will help seal the deal more so than something business related. In law firms, we spend lots of money on various customer-relationship-management products, but it is free data from LinkedIn that usually bears real fruit.
Keep your Friends Close and your Enemies Closer
I have some colleagues that I compete for business with in my network. However, I don’t share my contact list because I would also be sharing my client list. There is a fine line between networking and giving away company secrets.
Too Much Information
What do your privacy control settings look like? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve got a problem. I don’t like broadcasting all of my activity — I’m not interested in everyone knowing my business. I don’t want you to know I’ve been on your profile page. I don’t want you to see all of my connections. There are lots of considerations — but in a business where confidentiality is important, there is a difference between networking and offering up too much information.
Selecting the Right Groups
LinkedIn offers up lots of suggestions. I utilize very few of them. I’m not all that interested in being part of groups with similarly situated people. I’m looking for business, not competitors. Look for groups that tie into non-business interests or have the geography or demographic you seek. Picking the right groups will lead you to more prospective clients and opportunities. This is one of the few areas where I find myself doing a lot more legwork — as opposed to looking at the suggestions.
Just like old-fashioned networking, you’ve got to work the room. A dormant LinkedIn account won’t do much for you — although its participation might be helping others. If you are not an active user today, set aside an hour or two to simply peruse your profile page and features. If you are not careful, new business might find its way in the door.