We recently provided an online workshop to the marketing staff at one of our clients on how their lawyers can best use LinkedIn for marketing and business development.
To be sure, because different lawyers have different business development styles, lawyers will tend to gravitate to the social media platform that most appeals to their personal style.
Personally, I like LinkedIn, which is focused more on "hands-on," practical networking - less conversational than Twitter, less casual than Facebook. It's just my preference.
Anyway, here's an outline of the LinkedIn tips and tricks we prepared for the client's attorneys. Lawyers can consider these guidelines and see if LinkedIn works for them.
1. Profile: A solid LinkedIn profile is key. When people search for you on Google, your LinkedIn profile is likely to be one of the top results (assuming you have a profile, which most Web savvy professionals have these days).
Your profile should have a professional photo and a short descriptive title under your name (i.e, something other than simply "Partner" or "Associate", which will be displayed under your Employment section anyway).
Use the "Summary" section to position yourself specifically for the type of business you are seeking, and to demonstrate your expertise and track record in a specific area of the law and/or an industry segment. Where possible, use detail (e.g., "I led M&A teams that successfully advised on over 20 transactions involving client companies with an aggregate market cap of over $100 billion.").
Because Linkedin is a social site, consider using the first person when creating your Summary. As a social site it’s okay to take a more friendly, personal approach.
Note: most local bar rules may require lawyers to steer clear of identifying "specialties" so don't populate the "specialties" field.
LinkedIn allows you to see who has been reading your profile. This option can lead to meetings with some high-value contacts who you may have thought were no longer interested in your services.
When viewing other profiles, if you see one that interests you, but are not yet ready to make contact, use the "Save Profile" tool.
2. Connections: think as broadly as possible - high school, camp, college, graduate school. You never know where people ended up in life. For example, that friend from sleepaway camp many years ago may now be running a hedge fund (I know, because that's what happened to me!).
To reach people that are not first degree connections, there are a few options. If there is some "prior relationship" basis for doing so, you can invite someone to connect. Or you can ask one of your first degree connections for an introduction. Or use InMail to send a "cold call" message. Finally, you can join the group of a person you want to reach and send them a message via the group since members of the same group can send messages to each other even if they are not directly connected.
3. Groups: groups are an excellent medium through which to meet and interact with peers with like-minded interests and/or a shared background. Focus on joining groups that match your specialties and interests, and then get involved by participating in, and then later initiating discussions. Don't spread yourself too thin by joining too many groups.
You can elect to be notified about recent group discussions via email digests.
You might even consider starting your own group as a means of forming a nucleus of connections centered around a common interest, background, specialty, affinity, etc.
Law firms might also consider forming a group for the purpose of jumpstarting discussions concerning an upcoming event like a seminar. Several colleagues and I took this approach to help develop content for a presentation on "Using Social Media as a Business Development Tool" at the last LMA conference in April 2011 - that is, we based the direction of the presentation on the questions posed by the members of our group in advance via a discussion we initiated. This is often referred to as "crowdsourcing" content.
4. Applications - LinkedIn has integrated certain applications that allow users to showcase different types of content in their profiles. Activate those applications which will best help you promote your expertise.
For example, Box.net facilitates display of PDF documents, while Slideshare displays Powerpoint files. Other applications can be used to display recent blog posts. Status updates can be shared on Twitter via an integration.
Finally, consider activating the JD Supra application to share your firm's work product across a broad range of media channels from traditional mainstream to social media outlets.
5. Answers. Use RSS feeds to follow questions in a particular subject area and respond to these questions to develop a track record for expertise. But lawyers need to be careful of giving legal advice, and thereby inadvertently forming a lawyer-client relationship. A disclaimer may be in order in certain circumstances. Confer with the ethics counsel at your firm.
6. Recommendations: A large number of meaningful recommendations can be very helpful in terms of building immediate credibility with people who view your profile. It's good practice to solicit recommendations from connections soon after the successful conclusion of a project when the details of what you accomplished are still fresh in their minds.
Note: lawyers should check local bar rules regarding permissibility of "endorsements"
For firms wishing to learn more about our social media services, please visit our website.