The good folks at The Group Research company www.the-group.net have been monitoring the use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and corporate blogs by FTSE100 companies at intervals of six months. Their latest research shows some big increases in the number of companies using social media since December 2010.
It is often commented that law firms have been slow to take up social media and whilst there are a few exceptions, where these tools have been embraced, let’s face it the majority either don’t bother, do it badly or do it in a totally uncontrolled, un-marshalled manner.
Well here is the proof that your clients are doing it, so join in or get left behind. This is a club you need to join and entry is simple:
1. Educate your lawyers.
2. Publish a best practice policy.
3. Encourage Social Media use
The missing stat here is that for LinkedIn, probably because a) it is difficult to obtain stats and b) it is more akin to personal networking than corporate brand promotion.
Having said that it has always been my opinion that LinkedIn offers the greatest potential for law firms to exploit. Brand Promotion, personal expertise, knowledge sharing and general CRM practices are all out there ready to be taken advantage of.
Here is the excellent LinkedIn for Lawyers chapter of TheKnowList Thought Leadership paper on Social Media in law firms. The full paper is available at http://www.theknowlist.com/thought-leadership/
LinkedIn for Lawyers
Whilst the functionality of the LinkedIn website is relatively intuitive, many of the really useful functions are hidden away in menus. This guide attempts to highlight the ways to optimise your LinkedIn presence and look at some real world applications that should be relevant to law firms.
1 Why LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 80 million members and growing rapidly. LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.
LinkedIn is a “social networking” site that will prove to be of significant benefit to business executives and professionals in building contextual and collaborative networks. The phenomenon that is social networking can be dismissed or embraced but only ignored at your peril. There are many social networking tools and services, hundreds in fact but arguably the most popular business focused tool is LinkedIn. Essentially a networking site for professional people, it is rich in features some of which are ideally suited to professional services for marketing, business development, client collaboration, brand promotion and even sourcing new work.
This guide is not trying to be the definitive text book on LinkedIn and its multitude of features, instead we cover the key components we think will be useful to professionals such as lawyers.
Attracting proper public exposure helps potential clients find you.
Attract new business
Collaborate with clients
2 The LinkedIn Profile
Enables clients and prospects to connect with you
Represents your career accomplishments and expertise
Promotes your professional identity online
Profiles come in two forms People profiles and Company Profiles. Your personal profile if completed fully can be an extremely effective marketing and networking tool. Ideally you will maintain a rich profile that displays your specific areas of expertise, prominent cases and matters handled, etc. This helps prospective clients searching for lawyers with a specific background & expertise find you in search results.
Connect with past clients, colleagues, etc. Ensuring that your LinkedIn network truly represents your “real-world” relationships helps your exposure, and makes you more likely to appear in search results. In addition, LinkedIn profiles rise to the top of Google search results, letting you control the first impression people get when searching for you online, making it easy for potential clients to find you.
As one might expect, your name, Position and geographical location are captured in your profile. Below we highlight the sometimes underused elements of the profile and how they can be put to maximum effect.
Whilst photos are not compulsory and many of us are not particularly photogenic (such as the author of this guide) the photo can be highly effective, especially with mobile applications on the iPhone or Blackberry. The ability to put a face to a name can be a very effective marketing tool, especially at conferences or gatherings.
This defaults to your job title but could be more informative. A headline is your chance to make a personal statement about who you are, what you believe, and what you have to offer. It’s a ‘first impression’ opportunity to grab a reader’s attention.
The ‘post an update’ feature allows you to publish a short statement about what you are doing or possibly a link to an interesting article you may have read (or written).
Your profile allows you to publish 3 recent positions held. Your LinkedIn profile should be just a taste of what you’ve done, not your full CV. Ideally you want to give people a brief snapshot of your key competencies and experience. One approach is to bullet point your 3 key responsibilities and 3 key achievements.
Where and what you studied provides an insight into your professional expertise, and may open up valuable connections to alumni or others with similar backgrounds.
A very important part of your profile as it allows others to find and connect with you based on key words searches. This area should be used to promote your specific expertise, career accomplishments and anything else that you wish to be known for.
Recommendations are one of the most underutilised features of LinkedIn. When you write a recommendation for someone, you are expressly highlighting how that person created value for you. Of course the reverse is true when recommendations are made about you. A good recommendation is a quick way for a potential client to see your strength as a professional.
The best recommendations are brief and specific about what the person did and how they impacted your firm, matter or project and are a powerful way to raise the visibility of your skills and relationships.
You have the option to add 3 websites with either set categories like “My Company” or “My Blog,” or you can create your own caption.
There are two key opportunities here, firstly these entries are indexed by Google therefore enhancing your firm’s chance of being found and secondly, LinkedIn allows you to use a tag line to represent your URL (e.g. The definitive guide for Legal Technology – a tag for www.theknowlist.com)
Two little used but potentially very useful areas can be added to the profile using the add sections feature. Both are searchable and therefore help your clients or potential clients to find you when searching by expertise.
This enables you to add the languages you are competent in and the level of fluency you enjoy.
This enables you to promote any books or articles you have published.
This feature is particularly useful to summarise the key skills that are a subset of your main role. Eg a Corporate Lawyer may wish to list M&A, Tax, etc.
3 Finding others and getting connected
The foundation of your LinkedIn experience is your connections — the list of people who acknowledge that they know you. In order to begin building your network online, you need to ask those people who know you to connect to you by issuing invitations.
Adding LinkedIn connections
Adding LinkedIn connections is very straightforward. There are a number of options of varying use depending on who you are trying to target. The ‘Add Connections’ option is currently at the top right of the screen alongside your name.
Search then add
You can search for a person, group or company by name in the “Search People” field at the top right of the screen. Useful if you know the name or company that you are trying to connect with.
Add Connections – See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn
This facility searches your existing contact database (in Hotmail or Googlemail for example) and sets up invitations for you to send out. In addition you can upload your contacts from Outlook although this requires saving your Outlook contacts to a .csv file first (easy enough or ask IT to do it.)
Add Connections – Colleagues
This facility enables you to target people who also work or have worked for your current and previous workplaces as defined in your profile.
Add Connections – Classmates
This facility enables you to target people who attended the same education establishment as stated in your profile. The option to filter by year is also available.
Add Connections – People you may know
This facility is essentially LinkedIn searching its entire database for close matches to key words in your profile and potential links with other connections you already have.
4 Growing your network
You can directly communicate with people who are connections (“1st degree”), but you can see certain information about people who are in your network’s network (“2nd degree”) and your network’s network’s network (“3rd degree”).
Your 1st degree contacts are your Connections—in LinkedIn terms, your self approved ties. You are able to communicate with these at will.
When you want to communicate with a person connected to a 2nd or 3rd degree connection you must request an introduction from your 1st degree contact, who forwards your communication.
The LinkedIn Network
Outside your 3rd degree network is the LinkedIn network, but you can only see it or communicate with it if you have an upgraded membership. You only see a basic description of a persons title and company type but no name or contact info. As a “Business” member, however, you can send “InMails” contacting people from the LinkedIn network to whom youre not connected.
Confine communication to selected users
Address hot topics
Keep information secure only to group members
LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to find and join communities of professionals based on common interest, experience, and goals. Within LinkedIn groups you are able to view and participate in discussions, view jobs being posted within the group, and to communicate with members of the group by sending them direct messages.
LinkedIn groups are broken into categories such as Networking, Professional, Alumni, and Corporate. You must be a member of LinkedIn in order to join any of the LinkedIn Groups. You can search groups by going to the LinkedIn Groups Directory
To find and join relevant groups go to the groups directory and enter a keyword eg ‘legal’. You then have to apply to join a group, some of which have automatic acceptance others require review of application by the group owner.
Three benefits of joining LinkedIn Groups
Engage in Professional Discussions: A great way to get your name out there and to get noticed is to get involved or even start your own discussions within the group. Share your experiences and knowledge, ask questions and respond to other discussions. Sharing your knowledge can help you get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers and can lead to an unexpected opportunity.
Contacting Group Members: Group members are able to send messages directly to other group members. This is a great benefit because members you normally wouldn’t be able to connect with because of member profile settings or member packages, are now available to receive messages.
Job Postings: LinkedIn groups offer a section for jobs, which is separate from the jobs listed on the LinkedIn job board. Recruiters and hiring managers can post jobs for free in groups and it’s a great way for them to target job seekers in specific industries and locations. You may find job postings in LinkedIn groups that are not posted on the major job boards.
Groups Best Practice
Group name. Select a group name that clearly demonstrates the brand, purpose or mission statement.
Group type. Choosing a group type is important because it will affect how it appears in the search.
Summary. Type the mission statement, vision statement or what the group is trying to accomplish. Motivate others to join, participate, and share in regular discussions.
Full description. Inform members by inserting rules for participation, how discussions will be handled, and what the groups unique characteristics are.
Website. The website should include the full URL.
Group admin email. The person who creates the group is in charge of administering all of the groups activities. This can also be delegated to others.
6 LinkedIn Answers
LinkedIn Answers is a relatively new LinkedIn feature, similar to blogging, that permits users to ask and answer questions to their network. A well used Answers area promotes an interactive community that keeps users coming back to participate on the site.
Establish and maintain your personal brand by being a subject matter expert.
Share (give and receive) free advise regarding questions with a diverse professional network.
Meet other professionals with the same interests and experiences.
Discover potential networking contacts.
It can be thought of as an executive discussion group or know how forum and can be broken down to two key areas, ‘Asking Questions’ and ‘Answering Questions’.
The best questions are business-related, specific and require specific expertise to answer.
Before you post the question, think about what kinds of answers you could receive, based on how you’ve stated the question. You can choose to answer a question publicly or privately.
Answers Best Practice
• Ask a simple single concise question.
• If answers become off topic you can close your question earlier.
• Ask questions that will be of value to others.
• Be aware that explicit selling, marketing and self promotion will be flagged by peer monitoring. Don’t use signature tag lines.
• You can clarify your question by appending text.
• At the close of your question select the “best answer” as that adds to that person’s credibility on LinkedIn.
• Personally thank each person that provided valuable answers.
• Asking at least one question a month is a good way to keep your personal brand active.
Demonstrate you are an expert without explicitly selling, marketing or self promotion. A well structured answer can give the reader a compelling reason to view your profile.
LinkedIn Answers can be used as a subtle marketing tool by posting timely legal commentary and showcasing your expertise.
7 Using LinkedIn to maximum effect
There are many ways that you can use LinkedIn and the following is a three class model differentiated by level of activity.
For most lawyers there will be people you have worked with or studied with in the past with whom you’ve lost touch. In addition you might be open to approaches from the press, speaking at conferences or to entertaining qualified contacts by potential clients.
With a well formed profile, you enable opportunities to come to you, and you can easily help your friends and acquaintances find you.
Investment required – 3 hours
Expanding on your profile, the focus here is on inviting people you already know to connect on LinkedIn, You probably have a sizable network of people you’ve met from previous roles, engagements, schools and/or professional groups, and you probably find it is a struggle to keep track of everyone’s contact information. By connecting with people on LinkedIn, you stay connected, even as everyone is moving around in different jobs or changing personal details.
To build your network, you can import contacts from your Outlook address book, and search LinkedIn for your contacts who are already members and invite them to connect.
Investment required – 2-4 hours per week.
This is using LinkedIn to the highest degree of involvement. Expansion of your contacts into new areas is critical and the use of more advanced LinkedIn features such as ‘recommendations’ ‘groups’ and ‘LinkedIn Answers’ can help promote your own expertise and that of your firm and ultimately win new business.
Investment required -10-15 hours per week.