Law Practice Today | November 2013 | The Internet Marketing Issue
November 2013 | The Internet Marketing Issue
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MARKETING

A LinkedIn Marketing Plan for Lawyers

By Allison C. Shields

It’s hard to discuss online marketing for lawyers and not mention LinkedIn. Known as the “professional network,” LinkedIn is one of the online marketing tools that lawyers seem to fear the least. And although LinkedIn has premium account options that require a fee, the free version of LinkedIn has many features and benefits for lawyers, whether they are practicing on their own or within a law firm.

As with many other online platforms, LinkedIn has made significant changes to its interface over the past year, and it is likely that more changes are on the horizon – but I hope the basic structure and functionality will not change again in the near future.

Although social media and online marketing are becoming increasingly popular, many lawyers still are unsure of how they can get the most out of participation on LinkedIn, given all of their other daily responsibilities. But if you have a good marketing plan for your LinkedIn use, it shouldn’t take an inordinate amount of time to make it work more effectively for you or for your firm. The key is to stick to the plan and not get distracted.

Step 1: Establish Your Purpose

In LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, we talk about the concept of purpose by asking, “What are you hiring LinkedIn to do for you?” To be effective, you must first establish your reasons for participating on LinkedIn. This will determine not only what you include in your LinkedIn profile, but who you connect with, what you share, which groups you join, and even how you regulate your settings on LinkedIn.

Some examples of purpose include:

  • Seeking out strategic alliances to help build your client base
  • Developing relationships with people in specific industries
  • Gaining information about clients, competitors, industries
  • Searching for employment
  • Establishing your expertise
  • Developing a web presence for you individually, outside of your firm’s website
  • Maintaining contact with real-world connections

As you might imagine, each of these purposes might change the way you use LinkedIn.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience

Whose attention are you seeking on LinkedIn? If your purpose on LinkedIn is to get a job, you may want to attract attention from law firm managers, hiring directors, recruiters or human resources departments at specific types of companies. By contrast, if you want to build your client base, you may want your profile to resonate with in-house counsel or small business owners.

Taking the time to identify your potential audience and think about their wants and needs, the search terms they use to find people or information on LinkedIn, the kinds of content interests them and the kinds of people they want to connect with will help you use LinkedIn more strategically and effectively.

Step 3: Build Your Profile

With your purpose and audience in mind, you can begin to build a better profile. Use the keywords your audience uses to search for information in the descriptions of your different positions under the Experience section. Think of a specific person who fits within the audience you have identified in Step 2 and write your profile summary as if you are speaking directly to them. Use LinkedIn’s multimedia tool (on the Edit Profile screen, look for the icon that looks like a square with a plus sign) to upload or link to content including slide presentations, PDF documents or video that speaks to the needs and interests of your audience.

Do your clients expect you to belong to certain associations? If you are a member, make sure those associations are listed on your profile. Are you trying to attract clients or contacts in multiple jurisdictions? Mention them in your profile as well.

Choose sections to add to your profile that support your purpose. For example, if you’re trying to build your reputation as an authority in your field, add a Publications section to your LinkedIn profile to showcase books and articles you’ve written on related topics. If you want to reach people in a particular industry and you are involved in an organization related to that industry (for example, if you serve on a board or volunteer for a charitable organization), you might want to add Organizations or Volunteer and Causes sections to your profile.  Looking to reach an audience with a specific national origin? If you speak that language, add the Languages section.

Don’t forget to make sure your title and professional headline that appears directly under your name is descriptive enough that the people you want to connect with on LinkedIn will recognize immediately that you’re the type of person they want to learn more about. Don’t limit yourself by limiting your headline to “attorney” or “partner;” include your practice area or the industry you represent right in your headline. It is also helpful to include your firm name, since sometimes only your name and title will appear on LinkedIn .

Step 4: Build a Strategic Network

LinkedIn is a professional networking site. Synonyms for networking include schmoozing, interacting, making and maintaining contacts, and meeting people. Networking isn’t all about promoting yourself; it’s about connecting with others. Once your profile is in place, it’s time to make some meaningful connections.

LinkedIn has some powerful search tools that can help you identify individuals that you might want to meet, or find the names of specific people within an organization in key contact positions – even when this information is not readily available on that organization or business’s website. The Advanced Search tools let you search by keyword, company size, industry, location, and more.  Or take a look at a company’s LinkedIn Company Page to see who in your network works at the company. Whether you want to connect to those individuals first through LinkedIn, or simply use the information you glean from LinkedIn to make a real-life connection, LinkedIn’s search tools can be a valuable source of information.

Connect to people you already know on LinkedIn to provide another way to stay in contact, to receive updates about what they are doing, or to provide them with valuable information (discussed in more detail below). Make sending invitations to connect on LinkedIn a regular part of your follow up after meeting a new in-person contact. You can make the process even easier if you have an iPhone by using the CardMunch app, which will let you take a photograph of a contact’s business card, find and connect with them on LinkedIn (and add them to your personal address book as well).

Don’t forget to personalize every invitation to connect that you send on LinkedIn to increase the likelihood that your invitation will be accepted. Not only will your personalized invitation stand out from the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message, but it will help your potential connection remember who you are. It needn’t be complicated; a simple sentence or two about how and when you met or why it makes sense to connect on LinkedIn is enough.

Step 5: Participate and Stay Connected

Improving your profile and making new contacts are ongoing enterprises, and you’ll continue to spend some time doing both as time goes on, but more incrementally – in less than an hour per month, you can make any necessary tweaks to your profile and send quick invitations to connect or accept invitations you receive. But the real ‘juice’ of LinkedIn is in participating on a regular basis though group discussions, posting updates, sharing, liking and commenting on others’ posts and Updates, or by sending individual messages to your connections.

LinkedIn Groups

Just like in real life, groups on LinkedIn can be a bit hit-or-miss, and in all likelihood, you’ll join some groups that don’t provide any value to you, or whose members do not include the individuals you are attempting to connect with. But that’s no reason to dump the idea of LinkedIn Groups entirely. The easiest way to begin with LinkedIn Groups is to search for groups that correspond to groups you belong to in real life – your college and alumni groups, the American Bar Association Law Practice Division, your local bar association, etc.

Once you get a feel for what goes on in groups, you’ll want to return to your purpose and your audience to ensure that you’re connecting with the right people for the right reasons. One good method is to search for the profiles of individual within the target group that you are trying to reach on LinkedIn. Then scroll down on their profiles to see which groups they belong to. Chances are, those groups include other people just like them. You can find out who the members of the group are by clicking on the “Members” tab on the group’s page.

Once you find a group that includes your target audience, if your purpose is to showcase your expertise, the next step is to get involved: post articles or links, comment on discussion topics, and share valuable information. Or you could simply use the group discussions as a listening tool to find out more about what your potential clients, referral sources, and the rest of your target audience think is important.

Updates

Updates are short messages you share with your network, similar to Facebook status updates or Twitter tweets. Share updates with your network directly from your LinkedIn home page using the update box. Some updates should be about you and your practice, but others can focus more on your audience. In fact, some experts say that only 20 percent of your social networking posts should be about you, and 80 percent should focus on your audience, their interests and concerns, and what information would be useful to them. Keep your purpose in mind when composing your updates and be sure that your updates are in line with that purpose.

For example, to showcase your knowledge on a particular subject, provide the title of a recent blog post or article with a link. To be seen as a ‘go to’ resource in a certain area, link to articles or other resources that might be of interest to your network, especially if they relate to your practice area, local community, or your clients’ industry. Announce an event or industry conference you are attending to build interest in the event, or simply as a trigger for others to reach out to you if they also plan to attend.

Check your LinkedIn home page or read LinkedIn’s update emails for the updates related to others in your network. Share their updates or comment where appropriate to start a conversation. Look for reasons to reach out to those in your network with a congratulatory note or resources that can help them further a project or other initiative they have posted about.

Updates, group participation, and individual interaction with other LinkedIn users doesn’t have to be time-consuming if it’s done right.  A few minutes perusing the LinkedIn notification emails can prompt a quick comment, a note or two to individual connections and an occasional discussion post, and those few minutes are likely to yield better results than many other, more time-consuming marketing or business development efforts, if done with a concrete strategy in mind.

For more tips and practical step by step ways to use LinkedIn in your practice, check out LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, Second Edition, available now in the ABA webstore.

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About the Author

Allison C. Shields, Esq. is the president of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc. She can be reached at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com


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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Micah U Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc

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Allison C. Shields, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.

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Andrea Malone, White and Williams LLP

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