Blogging is a fantastic way for lawyers to demonstrate their expertise. But for lawyers who don’t have access to a blog for whatever reason, LinkedIn’s Articles platform is an easy, effective, and completely free alternative.
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Why write a LinkedIn Article?
LinkedIn remains the social media platform for professionals. It’s where recruiters often seek out candidates, and it’s where businesses in the position to hire someone go as part of their vetting process. So, having a robust LinkedIn profile is critical to anybody who wants to improve their online presence.
A LinkedIn profile is fairly static, however, only changing when there’s a new job or award, etc. Publishing an article – quarterly, monthly, or even weekly – is a solid way to keep your profile updated and maintain your presence on LinkedIn. Plus, because you probably have hundreds or even thousands of LinkedIn connections, you’re essentially publishing your work on a busy street where it’s likely to get read.
LinkedIn’s Articles platform is also fairly idiot-proof. You don’t need a graphic designer or any coding skills to publish a nice-looking piece.
One quick clarification: An article is not the same as a post. A LinkedIn post is where you’re sharing a link and a sentence or two about, for example, the event you spoke at or the award your firm won. An article is, as the name implies, an article of anywhere from 500 to 2,000 words long. An article stays connected to your profile indefinitely (creating a nice archive you can link to), whereas a post will cycle out of your newsfeed in a few days or weeks, just like any other social media post.
How to write a LinkedIn Article
Go to your profile and click on “Write an article” in the box at the top of your LinkedIn homepage:
That will take you to this page:
From there, just start writing. Or, if you’ve already written the article in a Word doc or other word-processing program, cut and paste your text into the template.
I’ll go into the finer points of formatting below. For now, let’s talk substance.
What should you write about?
Here, I’ll give the same advice I give my clients about blogging: You should endeavor to answer (even anticipate) your clients’ and prospective clients’ questions. But remember: This is not a sales piece. You’re not writing “why I’m such a great lawyer and everybody loves me.” You’re working to become a source of genuine value to your readers. Next to doing a bang-up job for your current clients, that’s the best marketing you can do.
Here are the writing prompts I recommend:
- What are your clients’ perennial questions? What mistakes do you consistently see clients make that, if they didn’t, could help them avoid trouble? These topics are great fodder for “evergreen” articles, which you can continue to promote and re-use for years.
- What’s your “101” course? Educate your prospective clients on the things they need to know about your key areas of expertise. That could be Insurance 101, Patents 101, Alimony in Texas 101 – you get the picture.
- Is there any pending or recently enacted legislation or regulations that will or could affect your clients’ industry?
- Are there economic trends that could affect them down the road?
- Are there any recent court rulings that could impact them?
- Are there any current events that intersect with your clients’ interests?
- What events happen on a regular basis (quarterly, semi-annually, annually, etc.) that you can use as a jumping-off point? That could be previewing SCOTUS cases in your clients’ industry, providing updates at the close of the legislative session, reminding property owners about how to maximize insurance coverage in anticipation of spring storms, etc.
Don’t be afraid to appeal to your niche. I have a client who gets two or three times as many readers on her super-niche articles as she does on the ones written for a broader audience.
Before you start coming up with new content ideas, though, give some thought to recycling content you already have, such as:
- CLE Presentations
- Articles you’ve written for other publications. Many publications will let you re-publish the article in its entirety as long as you seek permission and indicate where it was originally published. It can’t hurt to ask.
Revisit your archive periodically to see what you can update. Of course, some of your articles will be one-time-uses only (e.g. your analysis of a recent SCOTUS decision), but many of them can be updated annually with new information.
Other LinkedIn Article writing tips
How long should it be? Your article should be as long as you need without going overboard. This doesn’t mean you should make every post be 2,000 words, especially if you only need 500 or 1,000. Because if the 2,000-word post is boring or hard to read, it’s not going to do you any good. If you only have 500 words to say, write that. A 500-word article performs infinitely better than one that does not exist because the writer didn’t have the time or the wherewithal to write 2,000 words.
Be sparing with jargon or legalese: Most people prefer plain English, even lawyers. To the extent possible, keep legalese to a minimum. That being said, if you’re targeting corporate clients and general counsel, you will want to speak in a language appropriate to your sophisticated audience. In other words, don’t dumb it down too much, but it shouldn’t require a J.D. to comprehend.
Make it easy for people to contact you: Include an “about the author” box at the end of all your articles. It should briefly encapsulate your areas of expertise and provide your contact information. Be sure to link to your bio on your firm’s website.
Headlines: Write a headline that conveys what readers will find but doesn’t overpromise. Don’t be opaque or “click-baity.” If someone can’t tell what the article is about from the headline, then they aren’t going to click on it. Conversely, don’t undersell yourself. If the gist of your article is that clients should be leery of a new regulation coming down the pike, the headline should convey that and not simply say the post is an “analysis of HB2012.”
Formatting is your (and your reader’s) friend
Obviously, a well-written, substantive, informative article is your primary goal. But, if it’s presented as a massive block of gray text, nobody is going to read it. So, use all the formatting tools at your disposal to create an article that’s easy-to-scan and welcoming to the eyes.
For better or worse, you don’t have a ton of formatting options in the LinkedIn Articles template.
In addition to your regular formatting options (bold, italics, underline, numbers and bullet points), there are also header codes. Those are for subheads, which you’ll want to use frequently throughout your article. Heading 1 is for main subheads and Heading 2 is for those subordinate to Heading 1.
You can also create callout quotes using the little quote marks button and add hyperlinks to supporting materials or anything else you want to link to.
If you want to add imagery, video, or link to a slide deck (such as LinkedIn’s Slideshare or a Prezi presentation), use this nifty link:
You should definitely include an image, at the very least, at the top of your article. Canva.com has loads of free and very inexpensive images you can use, but you can also find free images on Unsplash, Pixabay, and other sites. iStockPhoto and Shutterstock also have wonderful photos you can purchase in the $10-$15 range.
For photo editing, we’re partial to Canva because it also lets you add your firm’s logo, text, or other elements to your image. You can also size the image to your exact specifications if you have the pro version. What’s the ideal size for a header image? That’s a good question. LinkedIn says the ideal size is 744 x 400 px, but this article says they have best results at 600 x 322 px. Either way, it’s roughly twice as wide as it is tall (give or take). If you’re off a bit, don’t stress over it. The image will still look pretty good.
Before you hit publish on your LinkedIn Article…
First, find some fresh eyes to edit and proofread it. To send them a draft link, click on “More” and copy the link for “Share Draft.”
Once you’re happy with it, rough out a plan for getting it seen. As you publish it, LinkedIn will prompt you to share it on your LinkedIn newsfeed, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, so write those posts before you hit publish so that you can simply cut-and-paste your text into the template.
If you’re sharing it on Twitter, tag @LinkedInEditors, who compile the best content on LinkedIn. If your article catches their eye, you could find yourself with a bigger audience than you anticipated.
Share it to your relevant LinkedIn groups. Admittedly, many groups on LinkedIn aren’t very active, but if you’re in one that posts frequently and has good engagement, share your article if you think it’s relevant to the members.
Don’t forget email. If you have a periodic newsletter that is sent to your network, include a link to your article. (Our guide to law firm newsletters is a great starting point.) But if you don’t do a newsletter, you can simply include a link to your LinkedIn archive in your signature line.
Share it periodically on your profile if it’s evergreen or if news events warrant it. If your article is as relevant today as it was 6 months ago, share it again on your social media. Or, if outside events make your article newly relevant (e.g. you wrote an explainer on retaliation in the workplace and there’s a high-profile retaliation lawsuit in the news), feel free to re-share it with “In light of today’s news about Jane Doe’s lawsuit against XYZ Corp., I thought I’d share my article on the ins and outs of retaliation claims.”
Update it periodically. If you’ve written the definitive guide to non-competes (or whatever), update it annually and re-publish it.
Review your LinkedIn analytics. LinkedIn provides statistics on article views that, over time, will tell you what articles get the most readers.
Demonstrating your expertise on LinkedIn is just one way to spread the word about your capabilities with the benefit of being free and having a built-in audience. Taking the time to write and distribute a thoughtful LinkedIn Article is a surefire way to help spotlight your expertise while putting you in front of potential new referral sources and even new clients.
Amy Boardman Hunt is the president of Muse Communications LLC, which provides content marketing and public relations to the legal profession. She began her career in legal journalism and has worked in legal marketing and public relations since 1997. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.