Emily Miller and Susan Kench explore LinkedIn's value for solicitors, and offer some tips on how to improve your profile.
LinkedIn, as the preeminent professional online networking platform, has been used since 2003 by millions of professionals to successfully build business-to-business relationships.
With current global membership at more than 400 million and UK membership tipping 20 million, LinkedIn is a vast reservoir of potential professional relationships just waiting to be developed.
Solicitors, whether working in-house or in private practice, have always relied on networking and personal relationships to grow and reinforce their client base, raise their profiles internally or develop key relationships with strategic partners, referrers or suppliers. While LinkedIn can never be a substitute for the face-to-face relationship building that transforms a faceless service provider into a 'trusted adviser', indispensable team member or recommended referral, it can, if used effectively, be an invaluable tool to generate and then support those relationships in a way that's unparalleled in terms of time and cost.
Raising your professional profile
Google ranks social networks highly, which means that if you have a LinkedIn profile, it will almost always appear on the first page of a search on your name. If your LinkedIn profile is sparsely filled out or if you are not on LinkedIn at all, this may leave a negative impression.
Whether you like it or not, your online presence is now a fundamental piece of your professional brand. But what exactly should a 'good' LinkedIn profile include?
Be an 'All-Star' on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has a set of prescribed formulas that determine how much weight to give your profile in LinkedIn searches for your name and/or profession. To appear higher up searches, your profile should rank as an 'All-Star'. Effectively this means ensuring that your profile, at a minimum, includes the following:
- your industry/sector and your business postal code
- a current position with a description
- two more positions (either current or previous)
- your education
- at least five skills
- a profile photo (a professional one)
- at least 50 connections
TIP: To find out if your profile ranks as an All-Star, click on 'Profile' on the left-hand side of the top menu. Your profile ranking is shown as a partially/almost filled circle on the top right of your profile page.
Additional ways to communicate your professional expertise include:
Your summary is the synopsis of your professional experience and the most appropriate spot for weaving in your personality as a way to create a really standout profile. This is where you should highlight your specialist expertise and experience.
- Recommendations and Endorsements
In an age where peer-generated product/service reviews are regularly included in a consumer's purchasing process, having a number of well-written recommendations and numerous endorsements for relevant expertise will add substantial weight to your profile's visibility and credibility.
- Communicate thought leadership
You can also position yourself within your network as a 'thought leader' via the Share an update or Publish a post facility - located near the top of your Home Page.
If you decide to share someone else's content, make sure it's interesting and relevant to your connections / network and be sure to add your own insightful commentary. The Publish a post option is an easy-to-use blogging platform, where you can post articles that demonstrate your knowledge and expertise or offer sagacious opinions on current market issues or relevant legislation. Be sure to add an image (available from sites such as www.freedigitalphotos.net) and keyword tags at the bottom of the post, which help index your blog for LinkedIn and Google searches.
Building better internal and supplier relationships
Improving your LinkedIn profile will reinforce the value of your professional brand to your colleagues and business contacts searching for you online. However, if you want to use the full power of LinkedIn to build better internal and supplier relationships, you need to be proactive.
LinkedIn offers numerous tools to stay in touch, communicate and interact with your connections. Here are a few suggestions to consider.
- Manage your LinkedIn invitations
Most LinkedIn members who are not very active on LinkedIn will more than likely have a host of LinkedIn invitations waiting for a response. If this is you then clearing your LinkedIn invitations is a good way to start engaging with your network. Your LinkedIn Invitations can be accessed from the Add connections icon - top right-hand corner of your profile page (head and shoulders + icon).
- Staying in touch with your network
LinkedIn offers a number of ways to stay in touch with your connections. Have a look at your LinkedIn Home Page - are any of your important business contacts sharing content? You can learn more about your contacts by reading the content they've shared or written. Consider 'liking', commenting on or sharing their content if you find it interesting. This is a simple way to show your support for your colleagues and important contacts.
We all want to avoid the Carter-Silk vs Proudman debacle that flashed across our screens a couple of months ago, so with that in mind, here are a few simple rules of etiquette.
- Remember LinkedIn is not Facebook - always be professional and behave the way you would in any offline networking event.
- LinkedIn is all about building relationships so overt self-promotion is not recommended.
- Think before you connect with people you don't know - the power of your network is directly proportional to the strength of the relationships you have with your first-degree connections.
- Always write personalised invitations, recommendations and introduction requests.
- Content is king - quality is more always more important than quantity.
- Don't reveal company confidential information - obvious but still worth saying.
- Be polite and show tolerance for others - again behave as you would in an offline-business environment.
- Very importantly, always be authentic - be you!
The potential of LinkedIn to support your professional goals is clear. By investing time in creating a LinkedIn profile that represents you well and reaching out to your colleagues and key business contacts, you can raise your profile and build these important business relationships in an efficient and effective way.
Improve your presence
With the launch of My Law Society, you can now link your social media profiles to your entry on Find a Solicitor, the Law Society's official database to find solicitors in England and Wales. Members of the public can search for the contact details of law firms, or individual solicitors if they already have a name. By adding your LinkedIn profile, you will enable potential clients to find out more about your professional work and allow colleagues to connect with you more easily.
Read our Social media practice note
Read our Protecting your online reputation practice note
Watch Emily Miller and Susan Kench in our webinar about using LinkedIn to promote your small firm
Update your details on My Law Society
A version of this article was previously published on the In-house Division website.
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