LinkedIn has gotten a lot of press recently, between a very successful IPO and surpassing 100 Million members. 1.5 M lawyers are now on LinkedIn. But still some lawyers hesitate. Statistics by themselves don’t justify spending precious time building a LinkedIn presence. The second annual Salary and Social Media Survey, jointly sponsored by the Law Firm Media Professionals and Hellerman Baretz Communications (April 2011), does provide some persuasive reasons. For example, one law firm marketer said:
“LinkedIn has resulted in a number of referral opportunities for a variety of our attorneys, as well as meeting requests to discuss potential client representations.”
This doesn’t often happen quickly, however, so I wanted to summarize some other reasons for including LinkedIn as part of your business development effort:
1. It doesn’t take a lot of time. LinkedIn requires setting up your own special type of profile. With a little guidance from readily available online reasources, you can do this on your own in 60-75 minutes. With someone to help you, it could take 30-45. Once set up, you can spend as much – or as little – time as you want, although spending more time increases chances for success.
2. Become “smarter” about your network. LinkedIn is especially helpful the first time you meet someone or speak on the phone. If you are somewhat low-key like me, LinkedIn is a way to establish a common connection immediately and seem “smart” about people. Just the other day, I noticed that a connection graduated three years before my wife at the same school – in the same sorority no less!
3. Re-connect with old colleagues. Layoffs and turnover continue in corporate America, but your clients remain loyal to you even if they have moved on. LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” feature enables you to find these “Client Alumni” - an invaluable source of referrals and future business. Using this feature, you can reconnect with colleagues from firms you worked for earlier in your career – another valuable referral and networking resource.
4. Increase traffic to your firm web site. LinkedIn provides a free distribution channel. After you finish a new legal alert or other material, post the piece to your firm website. Then you can initiate a LinkedIn “Discussion” (LinkedIn’s equivalent to ListServs) that includes a link to the item. Called “Inbound Links,” these are a key way to increase the ranking of your website in Google search results. LinkedIn provides many other opportunities to post inbound links.
5. Use your marketing dollars wisely. LinkedIn offers many opportunities to make yourself visible at absolutely no cost. First, “Share an Update” about your speaking engagements and CLE lectures to those who can’t attend. The bigger your network, the more people you reach. You can also use the “Events” application to spread the word. These are just two ways –there are many more.
6. Leverage new features that LinkedIn is constantly developing. Just in the last year, LinkedIn introduced “Answers,” where LinkedIn Users post general questions on any topic, including five legal categories. Some of you may know about the option to have a firm profile in addition to your individual profile. Last November, LinkedIn gave these profiles greatly improved capabilities, including space to add video content.
7. You can have fun with it. I personally enjoy reconnecting with old colleagues and finding out interesting facts about people in my network. LinkedIn is career-related, but also a lighter diversion. You can spend a minute on LinkedIn as a break during the day or while watching TV on weekends.
While LinkedIn offers great benefits, you should keep in mind some of the ethical concerns governing lawyers and promotions. For example, LinkedIn recommendations are an important part of most people’s online profile. But the question of whether lawyers and clients can recommend one another generated a huge response, with no clear answer: http://abovethelaw.com/2010/10/linkedin-recommendations-yay-or-nay/
Some attorneys I know find LinkedIn intriguing and fun initially, but then find it taking time without producing tangible benefits. If this happens to you, I suggest just focusing on one or two things. Like “Sharing an Update” with your network before every speaking engagement. Or taking 10 minutes on a Sunday to look up the profiles of every person on your calendar during the coming week. Remember one of the reasons to invest in LinkedIn as part of your business development:
It doesn't take a lot of time.
Bruce Segall is a professional services marketer and President of Marketing Sense for Business LLC.