This is the first part of a three-part series on how small law firm practitioners can improve their social media skills around better use of LinkedIn and other platforms.
Everyone talks about LinkedIn as if it magically pulls clients and referrals out of thin air.
But for many time-pressed attorneys running small firms or solo practices, LinkedIn can feel like a useless time-suck, especially if it doesn’t yield the expected results.
And it’s true, LinkedIn and other types of social media can be a colossal waste of time — but only if you don’t know how to use them properly or don’t have a fully developed social-media strategy to help make that elusive social-media magic happen. You don’t have to hire anyone or be a tech genius, either — you just have to know what you are doing and why.
Unlike other platforms that emphasize socializing with friends and family, LinkedIn’s primary focus remains centered on establishing professional relationships and expanding networks to help users find careers, recruit employees, learn skills, connect with professional groups, attract new clients, and generate referrals. The key to successfully using LinkedIn lies in learning how to leverage the platform’s tools to create a personal strategy aimed at supporting your own professional goals.
In order to do that, however, you must first know what your goals actually are.
Set Goals Strategically
Everyone has general goals, but in order to use LinkedIn properly, you need specifics.
Carve out an hour or so and make two lists: goals for your firm, and goals for your own professional development. But don’t just jot down broad goals, like “Get more clients.” Instead, write a brief paragraph underneath each goal to deepen your own understanding. For instance, identify what kinds of clients you want to attract, and consider what characteristics these potential clients might wish to see in an attorney (e.g., compassionate, aggressive, organized, thorough, relentless, etc.).
For the above exercise, go old school and use pen and paper. Research shows that we are far more apt to solidify and realize our goals when we engage in reflective writing, by hand. By investing a little time writing down what you seek to accomplish and why, along with what features and benefits you can offer clients, you’ll end up with the outline for a LinkedIn strategic plan.
Perfect Your Profile
Once you’ve framed your goals and objectives, invest a little time learning how to use LinkedIn, specifically, to reify your ambitions. The internet sprouts new videos and blogs just about every day for anyone looking for free tutelage. The trick is to find high-quality tutorials that offer clear, effective, efficient instructions. For lawyers who are willing to devote half an hour to watch an instructive video, the best place to start is… wait for it… at LinkedIn.
Find quick — and free — tutorials at LinkedIn Learning, which is created by LinkedIn staffers. Don’t dismiss tutorials geared towards beginners and even college students, as these are thorough, well-organized, and contain many of the basic principles you’ll need to learn. A simple search for “create a LinkedIn profile” will yield courses for beginning, intermediate, and advanced users. All are designed to help you create an effective LinkedIn profile, or enhance the one you already have.
Once you’ve established a profile and are ready to connect with people, turn again to LinkedIn Learning for information on how to use the platform for professional networking. There, you’ll learn how to expand connections, identify and connect with professional groups, and locate useful communities to join.
For example, if “thought leadership” in your practice area is one of your goals, you can learn how to publish blog posts, share articles, engage in discussions, and otherwise establish yourself as a one-person locus of interesting ideas. For newbies, Maya Pope-Chappell, LinkedIn’s news editor and instructor, delivers a 30-minute course, “Why Publish on LinkedIn?”
Once you’ve identified your goals, created a useful profile, and have begun to create a reliable network, you can start making LinkedIn work for you. Devoting 15 minutes a day to LinkedIn is sufficient to make the effort worthwhile, but the true payoff comes through consistent, thoughtful, targeted interactions with your fellow users. There’s no magic to LinkedIn — but for those who learn how to use it well, it can pay some unexpectedly wonderful dividends.
In the next part of this blog series, we will offer more tips to create an impressive and effective LinkedIn profile.