LinkedIn: A Lawyer's New Best Friend Part 1
While there are plenty of books written about social media, I’ve found that most attorneys have little time to invest in such trivial pursuits. I’m sure you’ve rolled your eyes a few times when perusing Facebook or Twitter and reading some of the material on those sites. Many of these negative opinions stem from reality, whereas others come from a disappointing lack of knowledge as to the sites’ benefits.
In order to effectively utilize social media, it’s important to recognize what you want social media to do for you. Are you looking to grow originations, develop a cult-like following, or brand yourself to get speaking engagements? By answering this question first, you can focus on investing your time in the most effective social media forums.
There are literally hundreds of social media channels to choose from. Being selective and focused on the right one will help you get results more quickly. For most attorneys, developing your brand in the business community is most important. In addition, you’re most likely to get results from a social media channel that allows you to be proactive in developing new contacts and ultimately new business. In my experience, the best and fastest way to get results using social media is through LinkedIn.
Over the past 10 years, LinkedIn has become the number one resource for helping brand and generate new business for service-based professionals. In many ways it’s better than Google because it’s a business networking platform rather than a general search platform. The ability to search and target people and organizations is unlimited.
LinkedIn is a fantastic brand-building tool that allows you to literally post your resume online. LinkedIn also helps you leverage your best contacts to make inside connections. Done properly, this can create a massive universe of followers, possible connections, and, most importantly, a cast of personal advocates willing to make quality introductions on your behalf.
Imagine being able to look at your client’s list of friends, vendors and associates prior to asking for a referral. You can search through LinkedIn’s 50 million users to find the best inside connections for you.
While there are hundreds of different tools on LinkedIn, I want to give you the top three keys to effectively using LinkedIn. As with anything that’s worthwhile, it’s imperative that you try to have an open mind and invest a few hours exploring the site to see where the value is for you.
The first key to effectively using LinkedIn is to create a complete profile that best represents your expertise and experience in your field of practice. The second key is to develop your LinkedIn universe by adding the right contacts. The third key is to leverage those contacts and turn them into quality introductions. These three keys should initially take only a few hours to implement, and then as little as an hour a week to start producing results.
The First Key: Writing a LinkedIn Profile That Represents You Beautifully
In order to be effective on LinkedIn, you must have a professionally written and completed profile. Think of your LinkedIn page as your online resume and personal website. If the information online is incorrect, incomplete or poorly written, it might stop someone from reaching out to you.
Imagine you’re looking online for a remodeler for your home. The first site that comes up on Google looks fantastic. You click through to see some of the remodeling work the company has done, and the site says, “Sorry, cannot open this page.” So you try another one. The same message comes up. If you’re like me, you’re done at that point. You just move on to the next search result. This is exactly what happens on LinkedIn without a skillfully written and finished profile.
Here are three tips to ensure your LinkedIn profile makes you look your best to potential clients and strategic partners:
Tip #1: Use a recent professional photograph on your LinkedIn page.
Most people are visual and want to see whom they’re going to be speaking with. As important as content is on a website, you’ve never seen an exceptional one without images to back it up. Use the photo from your website if it’s good, or get a headshot taken right away. It’s not hard to do and it can make all the difference when someone is checking out your profile. This may seem obvious, but don’t post a cutesy picture with your kids, pet, or Halloween costume.
Tip #2: Have a professionally written background/summary.
Since your LinkedIn profile will be someone’s first impression of you, failure to capture the reader’s attention can move the reader quickly away. Personally, I like to see a summary written in the third person. It has the appearance of someone else boasting about your successes and best qualities without seeming egotistical.
If possible, keep your profile to three solid paragraphs. I enjoy reading profiles that read a little like a story. The first paragraph pulls you in. The second gets you familiar with the character. The third wraps things up and motivates you to take action. It might make sense to look up some other attorneys in your practice area to see what they’ve written. This will help you identify the best profile style for you.
Tip #3: Develop a strong list of skills that best represents your expertise.
If you take a few minutes and search some of your colleagues and competitors, you can quickly begin to formulate such a list. For example, an estate planning attorney would want to have the words “wills,” “trusts” and “estate planning” listed among his or her skills, thus enabling people searching for an estate planner to more easily find the attorney.
Once your skills are posted, people in your network will then have the ability to endorse you. Essentially, when you have a skill that someone agrees with, they’ll endorse you for that skill. While this might seem like “fluff,” it’s an important factor that people use to determine who are experts and who are not. For example, if you had to choose between two referred doctors, one who has hundreds of positive endorsements on LinkedIn and one who has none, which would you choose? While this might seem insignificant, in the competitive legal environment everything counts.