In a recent American Bar Association survey, 66% of attorneys who used social media said they did so to network and further their careers. Any social media platform can be used for career development, but for these purposes, the best is LinkedIn, a professional networking site with 675 million monthly users. Here are three ways to use LinkedIn as the valuable professional networking tool it is:
Make strategic connections
It wasn’t long ago that most forms of social media seemed like popularity contests: The more friends or followers you had, the better. That’s the wrong strategy if you want to put your LinkedIn account to strategic use. Instead of trying to accumulate as many connections as you can (which will lead to a very crowded and noisy experience for you), think about the kind of people who would benefit your business, and then try to cultivate a presence that appeals to them. For example, it might make sense for you to be connected to the president of your local chamber of commerce. If they accept your connection request, make a point to share material or commentary you think they’d find interesting. That will help them see the value of being connected to you—and, by extension, the value of knowing you professionally.
If there’s one demographic where it makes sense to cast your net widely, it’s with former law school classmates. They’ve likely gone on to become lawyers themselves, and will probably have informative content and valuable material to share, to say nothing of the occasional referral or two.
Join the conversation
Many attorneys join LinkedIn and eventually abandon it because they aren’t sure how to use it. An easy way to address this issue to look at what other people are talking about and make contributions along those same lines. To illustrate, let’s say you followed our first recommendation and connected with six local business leaders whom you think might eventually be sources of new business. Observe what they post for two or three weeks, and then start to post similar things yourself. This simple method establishes you as a relevant connection in their eyes, and can strengthen the relationship you’re forming.
If what your connections are posting isn’t resonating with you, it’s never wrong to post about things such as:
- Awards or recognitions you received
- Developments at your firm, such as hiring a new attorney or office professional
- Community contributions, like participating in a holiday toy drive or local 5K
- Notable developments in your area of law
Although it’s a good idea to be human and show some personality, shy away from posting anything that might rub your connections the wrong way, like overt political commentary.
It’s also good to have a goal for how often you share or post content, like posting twice a week. Having a schedule provides some structure, and makes it easy to evaluate whether the time and effort you’re putting in are paying off.
Join relevant groups
LinkedIn groups are a place for people in the same industry or with similar interests to offer insights, request guidance, and find new people with whom they can connect. Some LinkedIn groups are open to the public, and some require approval to join. LinkedIn groups can be useful if you follow a few rules of thumb:
- If the title or theme of a group is too broad (“Law,” for example), the discussions may be too broad to make participating a good use of your time.
- Look for groups with a geographic aspect, like “Insurance Lawyers of Northeast Ohio” or “Phoenix Family Law Attorney Group.” A geographic focus helps ensure the people in the group are useful connections.
- Take a look at how often other people contribute to the group. If you find a group that looks relevant, but no one has contributed for a while, the group is probably dormant and isn’t worthwhile.
As a final thought, LinkedIn offers a premium option that can cost between $29 and $120 per month, depending on which tier you choose. Generally speaking, most LinkedIn users don’t need the premium option. Its expanded messaging and search options are good for job-hunters, recruiters, and sales professionals, but are probably not necessary for a solo or small-firm attorney who wants to expand their network.
Our complimentary playbook “The legal professional’s guide to LinkedIn” explores how LinkedIn can work for you in greater depth.
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