It’s not hard to see why LinkedIn isn’t popular: it’s technologically clunky and everybody is on their best behavior, so it’s basically a live feed of the world’s most boring party.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the first places employers, recruiters and prospective clients go to vet potential hires. So if you’re interested in beefing up your firm’s or your personal online presence, LinkedIn is what we in the marketing business call low-hanging fruit.
Need help turning your legal marketing to-do list into reality? We can help with that! Muse Communications was named one of Dallas’ best legal public relations firms by the readers of Texas Lawyer (although we represent clients all over Texas). Just drop us a line.
LinkedIn Best Practices
So how best to maintain a relevant and healthy LinkedIn profile without it taking too much time? The good news is that, once you have made an initial time investment by setting up and filling out your professional profile, you probably only need an hour or so a month to keep it updated and relevant.
Here are some best practices:
Include a professional photo. Profiles with photos get more views, and the better the photo, the better first impression you’re making. No selfies, vacation photos or party pics with your friends cropped out. There are many uses for a professional portrait, so it’s a sound investment if you don’t have one. But if you lack the budget for a professional photographer right now, find a friend with a high-quality camera, buy her a good bottle of wine as a token of your appreciation (I’m partial to McPherson Viognier), and spend an hour or so taking some nice photos.
Your headline shouldn’t be your job title. Most job titles are opaque, at best. Your headline should be what you do, what services you provide. Saying that you’re a partner at a law firm tells prospective clients very little about the kind of work you do. Just like a headline in the newspaper both summarizes and informs, so should your LinkedIn headline.
Flesh out your summary. This is the narrative in your bio, so make the most of it. Just as your website bio shouldn’t begin with where you graduated from law school, neither should your summary. Lead with your best stuff: how much you’ve saved (or won) clients, what special skills or attributes you bring to the table, etc. If you have any relevant bona fides, include them here as well as in the body of the profile (where things like publications, certifications, etc., are broken out in list form). You don’t need to include it all here, but you do want the highlights.
Make full use of the various profile sections. Go beyond just education and work experience (and feel free to expand on relevant information in both of those). Profile sections also include:
- Honors & Awards
- Test Scores
- Volunteer Experience
Include relevant legal work. If you haven’t included them in your summary or work experience, “Projects” is a good place to include relevant legal work that would interest prospective clients or legal employers.
Obviously, client confidentiality issues will require various degrees of discretion, but within those confines, find ways to highlight your relevant experience.
Include links to your articles and blog posts. Also, if you have a presentation available in a PowerPoint (or similar presentation deck), you can export those to SlideShare, LinkedIn’s presentation platform. If you’re feeling truly ambitious, you can even repurpose your blog posts into SlideShares, thereby giving you a piece of online content that exists on a high-authority website (always nice for getting recognized on search engines). This article provides a good step-by-step.
Keep your profile updated. Just as you keep your website bio updated with presentations, publications, client wins, news releases, honors and awards, etc., you should do the same on your LinkedIn profile. Set up a monthly calendar reminder to review your website bio and your LinkedIn profile to ensure that both are kept up-to-date. (This begs the question: If you have a website bio, why bother with a LinkedIn profile? First, if someone knows your name but not your firm, they can easily find you on LinkedIn. Second, if you leave your firm, you will want a fully fleshed-out résumé that can go with you. Third, unless you have direct access to your firm’s website, you may not control when or whether your updates are made. With LinkedIn, the login is all yours.)
Get some Recommendations. It’s worth your time to reach out to clients, former clients, supervisors and others to evaluate your work and provide a written recommendation. They aren’t as important as relevant legal work, but they don’t hurt. Plus, if the person who is considering hiring you knows and trusts the person recommending you, all the better.
Articles, updates and Groups? LinkedIn experts (and LinkedIn itself, of course) advise visiting LinkedIn frequently, sharing relevant articles to your profile, commenting on other people’s updates, publishing your own articles (e.g. blog posts), and being active in Groups relevant to your practice area. None of those things hurt, of course, but for lawyers looking to maintain a LinkedIn profile with minimal effort, they are the ones you can probably do without. Publishing articles is nice (particularly if you’re simply repurposing a blog post), but you can also provide blog links in your profile and share them as updates (with the added benefit that you’re driving traffic to your blog).
You’ll also want to make sure your LinkedIn profile complies with the State Bar’s advertising rules. This blog post goes into the finer points of that.
Eat Your Vegetables
Of course, LinkedIn isn’t a substitute for personal networking or other marketing efforts (such as giving speeches and writing articles – both of which can be recycled and promoted on LinkedIn). Very few, if any, lawyers or law firms find their next client solely based on their digital presence. But anybody who hires an outside lawyer will likely consider reviewing a lawyer’s or law firm’s online profile – particularly on LinkedIn – as a crucial part of their due diligence.
LinkedIn will never be the social media platform people love. We go to social media for escape – to get the latest on the Mueller probe, to share neighborhood gossip, to get smoothie ideas, etc. – not to talk about our day jobs, even if we really like our day jobs.
But LinkedIn is an important part of a balanced social media diet – the vegetables, if you will. And for lawyers looking to get in front of prospective clients and employers, the vegetables are arguably the most important part.
Amy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.