I train lawyers in how to exploit social media to generate ROI. This fact tends to illicit sympathy at parties and receptions, though in truth I quite like it. With most tasks lawyers start sceptical, then get competitive – just occasionally I worry their interest has been over-ignited (it’s important to do some actual lawyering in the course of the day!).
Some lawyers intuitively ‘get’ social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but one common line from lawyers is that they don’t see the point of tweets and updates, but they ‘do’ LinkedIn. ‘It’s more appropriate for a professional,’ they invariably insist.
So be it – let’s take those lawyers at their word. Let’s look at LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the original social network for professionals and with more than 400 million members it’s an incredibly useful tool for reaching out to others and letting them know who you are and what you can do for them.
Using LinkedIn to build a brand reputation can generate leads and cement reputation, and for individuals it’s an invaluable tool to be heard in a sea of online voices, as well as a prime opportunity to make key connections.
And yet, disappointingly, when lawyers say they ‘do’ LinkedIn, for the most part they limit themselves to a profile that lists jobs and education, and accepting requests to ‘connect’. They likely check out other lawyers they are going to meet or have just encountered.
If you want to make the most of your time on LinkedIn – and see real ROI – here are my top tips on how to make it work for you.
LinkedIn might have been created specifically for business professionals to help boost their business but that doesn’t mean that it’s a free licence to go in with the hard sell in every conversation you have and everything you post. Use LinkedIn to make connections that follow through into meetings ‘in real life’ and save the sales pitch for when you’re face to face. If you’re using LinkedIn like a cold caller then you’ll end up on people’s block lists and you’ll do nothing to establish a positive reputation.
LinkedIn is the perfect forum for thought leadership and thought leadership is the perfect way to establish a strong reputation for expertise and experience. Choose a topic or part of a practice area and write a series of articles on it that offers something to others – perhaps your unique view on a current issue or the answer to a pressing question you know many have. Commit to posting quality content on LinkedIn at regular intervals so that you (or your firm) become known as a reliable knowledge source.
Have a strong profile
A poor LinkedIn profile that is half hearted and never updated can do more harm than good. Is your photo professional and appropriate, does your profile concisely explain who you are and why you’re there, have you provided links and filled in all the information that you can? Other users need to be able to put you, or your business, in context in terms of what you do and what that might offer them.
LinkedIn groups offer a simple way to get your voice heard and start building a profile above all other similar users on the network. Choose groups that might be populated by potential clients or users specific to your area of expertise. Share your knowledge, opinions and insights and your brand credibility will soon start to grow.
LinkedIn has adapted a lot in recent years, incorporating features that have worked well on other platforms, such as the news feed and the ability to comment on what others are posting. If you’re struggling to get heard or seen then try piggybacking on the reputation of others by identifying influencers and commenting on what they are posting. This should be done carefully – no trolling and don’t comment on every single thing – but the result could be that others begin to see that you also have something to offer.
There’s a certain kind of lawyer – I’m sure you can imagine a few – who sits back happy as the recommendations of their peers stack up, without feeling the need to reciprocate – even when prompted by LinkedIn (‘What does Harry Potter know about magic law?’, or similar).
It’s always worth paying that praise back – people notice, and they are as pleased as you are to get an alert saying they’ve been endorsed. You see, as with so much else that’s ‘online’, the good manners and etiquette are not so very different to ‘real’ life.
Melissa Davis is the managing director of MD Communications, the international legal PR agency. She is also co-chair of the IBA Law Firm Management Committee Business Development Working Group and a member of the ABA Transnational Legal Practice Committee.