- Use the Summary portion of your profile as your "elevator speech."
- Personalize your invitations to connect: don't use the boilerplate language.
Lawyers and other legal professionals constitute one of the largest groups of users of the social networking platform LinkedIn. You might use LinkedIn on a regular basis, or you might vaguely remember that you signed up in response to an invitation from a client, colleague, or friend. Either way, there’s no question that all lawyers using LinkedIn have the feeling that they could be using LinkedIn in better and more effective ways than they do now.
Why would you want to do so? LinkedIn is an online networking tool with more than 100 million users. LinkedIn, unlike other social media platforms, focuses on your professional presence, allowing you to create a profile, add business connections, and map and communicate with those in your network. It’s starting to replace both the traditional resume and the traditional Rolodex.
We’ve found that it is surprisingly easy to greatly improve your LinkedIn experience and results, no matter how active or accomplished a user you currently are, taking a few simple steps and spending a relatively small amount of time.
Consider the following ten tips.
1. Change Your Public Profile Link
If you try a Google search on your own name, you’ll probably see how high your public LinkedIn Profile ranks in the results. As a result, you might be surprised by how many people find you first through your LinkedIn Profile. The default URL for your LinkedIn Profile contains a long set of gibberish characters. If you sign in to your LinkedIn account and click on the “Edit” button in the view profile screen next to your public Profile link, you can change the URL to eliminate the nonsense characters and substitute your name, your firm’s name or other branding you use. It’s a simple way to make it easier to find your Profile, show that you are LinkedIn savvy, and reinforce your “brand.”
2. Customize Website Links
In your LinkedIn Profile, you can (and should) provide three links for your website, blog, or other pages on the Internet. However, LinkedIn defaults to names like “Company Website” for the links on your Profile. Click on the “Edit” button and customize those links to reflect the destination site; instead of “Company Website,” name it “[Yourfirmname] Law Firm Site.” Don’t forget to use all three links—you can link one to your site’s main page, one to your bio (name it “[Yourname] bio”), and one to another profile of you on the web or your blog or other account, or direct people to your practice area pages.
3. Change Your Professional Headline to Include Descriptive Keywords
Your professional headline is a one-line description that often accompanies your name when you interact on LinkedIn. For many people, this headline will be the first thing they see about you. The professional headline field defaults to your current title (i.e., Attorney, Partner, Owner, etc.), but you can change that by clicking the “Edit” button next to your name and adding descriptive keywords to your professional headline that will quickly tell a reader something useful about you.
4. Take Advantage of the Summary Portion of Your Profile
In addition to the Headline, LinkedIn allows you to write a summary. Many professionals give the Profile Summary short shrift. But this two-part section of your Profile is important, especially because it appears at the top of the Profile. “Professional Experience and Goals” gives you 2,000 characters of description—approximately 300 words. Describe what you do. Make it interesting. Don’t use an existing bland internal bio. Write it for an external audience. Consider it a chance to give your “elevator pitch.”
5. Add Skills to Your Profile
The Skills section is a relatively new Profile section added by LinkedIn to make it easier to search for professionals with particular skills or expertise. Adding Skills, such as specific types or work, litigation expertise, public speaking, foreign languages, and more to your Profile may help you appear in more search results. It might also help you appear as a top result when someone is searching for a specific skill.
6. Resequence Your Profile
LinkedIn uses a default order in your Profile. That might work well for you, but if it does not, you can drag and drop section headings so that the most important items appear higher up on your Profile. To do so, grab the “handles” that appear when you roll your mouse over the section heading.
7. Personalize Your Invitations to Connect: Don’t Use LinkedIn’s Default Message
A key to successful use of LinkedIn is to continue to add to and build out your list of connections. You add connections by inviting people to connect to you and—this is important—having them accept your invitations. The default message LinkedIn sends with an invitation to connect doesn’t provide the recipient with any information about you or much context about what your relationship might be. Don’t count on your invitees clicking over to LinkedIn to view your Profile or to searching for you online when they get your invitation. Give them enough information to identify who you are and why connecting with you makes sense for them. A custom invitation also gives you the chance to say hello, remind them of a good experience you shared, and encourage a reply in addition to an acceptance of your invitation.
8. Use LinkedIn to Further “Real Life” Relationships
It often takes seven to nine “touches” before someone will do business with you. Why not accelerate your offline relationships by connecting online, too? LinkedIn makes it easy for you to stay in touch and find out what clients, colleagues, and strategic partners in the real world are doing, and to discover commonalities or challenges that might lead to additional business. Think of LinkedIn as a supplement to real world relationships and not an entirely separate area. A great way to use LinkedIn is to identify connections in cities you travel to and arrange to meet one or more of them while in town.
9. Update Regularly to Stay “Top of Mind” With Your Network
LinkedIn “Updates” (along with other activity) will appear on your connections’ LinkedIn “Home” page, and are included in weekly “Network Update” emails from LinkedIn. Keep your network up to date on what you’re doing by updating regularly. In LinkedIn, you can post short, informative updates on a regular basis. If you post helpful material or information showing subject-matter expertise, your connections will tend to remember you the next time they have issue on those areas than if they haven’t heard from you in ages.
10. Join Relevant Groups and Participate in the Discussion
LinkedIn is a network that works just like your real-life networking groups, except that it eliminates geographic constraints. LinkedIn Groups can be excellent places to learn about topics of interest and often see what thought leaders are talking about in these areas. You can also join the discussion in a group. LinkedIn lets you search for groups that might interest you. Use these Groups as places to seek or give advice and discuss issues of interest. You can demonstrate your expertise through Group discussions and even get to know the leaders in your field.
LinkedIn can be a powerful networking tool, yet many lawyers use only a tiny fraction of its features and obtain a tiny portion of its potential benefits. But, as these simple tips illustrate, it does not take much time or effort to enhance the value of your LinkedIn account. Networking is more important today than ever before and you do not want to neglect one of the most powerful networking tools available.