The pandemic has altered our lives in many ways - one of which is our ability to stay connected to our professional network. Many professional service providers, such as attorneys, use networking and referrals as a way to build their practice. According to Hinge Marketing Agency that specializes in professional services, more than 70% of buyers reported turning to their personal network when they needed a new service provider. Referrals remain the top search method for professional services, but according to Hinge, the number of buyers that actually ask for a referral has declined by 15%. Why is that? Hinge says it is because many of today's professional services buyers have adopted digital techniques.
One of the main digital techniques used today is LinkedIn. Like many social media sites, LinkedIn's members have increased dramatically during the pandemic with a gain of 62 million more members worldwide since 2019. According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of adults in the United States use LinkedIn. LinkedIn has reported that user sessions have increased 26% year-over-year as of the third quarter of 2020, and they expect it to continue to grow into 2021.
With networking, professional, and social events being cancelled and their likelihood of returning anytime soon slim, how can attorneys utilize LinkedIn to stay connected?
This question is something I had to research personally for our company, which provides appeal bonds to the legal community. When I began, I had a LinkedIn profile page already, but had never done much beyond that, so I had to start exploring. In the process I learned a lot, which I will share in this article.
Start with your profile
If you are new to LinkedIn or have an account but never spent much time setting up your profile, that's the place you will want to start. Use a professional photo and include a headline that stands out describing what you do. One article I read on this topic suggested thinking of your headline as the words that follow an initial handshake making sure to describe what you do and how you are different.
In the summary section you should share your story and explain how you got where you are today. Write in the first person and explain how you help solve the client's key challenges, the kind that keeps them up at night.
Building your network
Start by connecting with your current network and make it a habit to connect with new people you meet shortly after. Today "meeting" may be on the phone or through email. Connect broadly, think of trial attorneys, clients, and other appellate attorneys. If you don't know someone, you can ask for an introduction. Every article I read recommended to always personalize your connection requests.
Engage in the Newsfeed
If you spend a few minutes on the LinkedIn newsfeed, you can engage with your networks' posts by liking or commenting on them. Doing so will also give you an idea of what things you might want to post yourself. Many of the attorneys in our network post things like recent decisions on cases, upcoming virtual CLE's, articles they've published, awards, or sometimes just an inspirational quote.
Understanding the LinkedIn Algorithm
published on LinkedIn by Social & Digital Media Freelancer, Courtney Johnson, "\u2026LinkedIn measures dozens of factors to predict how relevant your content will be to your audience, and they rank it accordingly. It then pushes your post to a small sample of your audience and waits to see if they engage. Depending on how that first test goes, it then decides whether to push it to more people and continue testing, or to stop showing it in the feed."
Ms. Johnson's article explains that LinkedIn distinguishes between low-quality posts and high-quality posts. To increase the quality of your posts, she suggests the following:
- Mention people in your post by using @[their name].
- Use around 3 hashtags (example: "#appellate").
- Format your post, so it's easy to read.
- Go niche vs. broad on your topics.
- Post things that encourage a response (an easy way to do this is by asking a question).
- Don't use outbound links (put them in comments).
- Use strong keywords such as appeals, decision, and appellate.
Another thing I learned from Ms. Johnson's article is LinkedIn measures the initial engagement in the first hour to see if it's worthy of moving the content into other people's feeds. If your post does well in the first hour, it is much more likely to do well all day, week, or month. If not, it won't be shown by LinkedIn.
According to Ms. Johnson, here are a few things to consider when posting to improve the odds of engagement.
- Post at a time when your connections are online.
- Ask a question to spark engagement.
- Interact with other posts while your post is in its first hour.
- Follow a consistent posting schedule, so your followers know when to check for new posts.
- Respond to anyone who engages.
LinkedIn is certainly no substitute for in person interaction, and in many ways, it's not as straightforward. That being said, it can be a helpful way to engage with colleagues in your network, as well as expand your network, both during the pandemic and post-pandemic to supplement your typical in-person interaction.