There is a lot of advice out there on how to use LinkedIn and why you should use LinkedIn and what’s useful about LinkedIn – have I used “LinkedIn” enough in this sentence yet?
I’ll begin at the beginning with a little story and without naming any names. About 15 years ago, when I was a wee baby and before LinkedIn was at all popular with lawyers, I gave a presentation to about 200 of my clients, extolling the benefits of the platform and why it was going to be the “next big thing.” At that time, it was nowhere near as useful as it is today because it lacked engagement, but I could really see the benefits. One of our very senior attorneys tapped me on the shoulder in the middle of my speech and in a stage whisper, told me that no one cared about what I was saying, and I needed to cut the rest of the LinkedIn stuff out because I was running too long. It was by far one of the most mortifying moments of my career.
But cut to today, when LinkedIn is considered to be among the most professional of the social media platforms – and it’s not just used for networking; it’s used for targeted and strategic business development. It’s an excellent place to achieve goals like becoming a thought leader, expanding your reputation, conducting client and potential client research, prepping for meetings, and, as I mentioned, even business development. (And yes, I tell that story as a bit of a pat on the back.)
As you can imagine, everyone and their bestie have appeared with their advice on how best to use LinkedIn. I’m not going to pretend that my advice is the only or best suggestions you will ever read. I’ve been using the platform fairly regularly since I joined LinkedIn in 2006 and 15 years of engagement has taught me a few things.
Before we get to the tips – although I know the legal industry can lag behind others when it comes to adopting new technologies and platforms, we’re going to assume that by now, if you’re reading my blog, you’re a LinkedIn user with a fully fleshed-out profile. Much of the advice I read still treats lawyers like children who need hand-holding, and while I do get more of that in my day-to-day than I’d like to admit, we’re going to proceed as though you’re all the adults with the higher education degrees that we know you have. Bearing that in mind, I’m assuming that you’re here because you want practical tips for how to best leverage the platform to your advantage.
Tip One: Identify Your Goals
Ha! Fooled you! I’m sure you thought I was going to suggest something to do with LinkedIn itself. But bad news – this one starts with you. Before you use ANY tool, the first thing you need to do is decide what you need that tool for. Otherwise, it’s not going to be effective for you. If you’re a regular Zen reader, this isn’t going to come as a surprise to you. What do you want to achieve here? Are you looking to raise your reputation among certain audiences? Are you trying to connect with a niche client base? Do you want to grow into a new client base? Are you trying to develop business? Do you want to develop new business with existing clients? Do you want to become a thought leader in your practice or industry? Your goal will inform the next steps that you take.
Tip Two: Decide on Your LinkedIn Strategy
This tip again doesn’t involve you being on LinkedIn YET. You’ve got your goal, and now you have to decide what your next steps are. Let’s choose a goal here – you want to develop new business with existing clients. Choose the top three clients that you have that you believe aren’t giving you all of the work that they should. There are, of course, a multitude of ways that you can get more business from them, so LinkedIn will just be a PART of the strategy that you’re using to get this business (that’s what we’re focusing on here). In terms of what these steps would be – and make note of them – you would do things like follow their company page, identify the key stakeholders through the company page who you should also get connected to, identify people that you’re connected to that you didn’t realize you already knew, inventory your current list of contacts. Your strategy going forward is going to be something along the lines of following their page regularly for news on the company to identify issues that may come up that you can reach out to them on (issue spotting), if you’re a blogger or you write alerts, you may author something on these things and send them to your contacts there and use that as an opener. Use existing contact to introduce you to the other contacts that you’d like to get to know better – take these meetings offline. Look at the 2nd-degree connections you have to see if there may be other people outside of the company who you can leverage to connect you – where appropriate, as this can be sticky when you’re already connected to others there. Create your steps and your timeline for moving forward on these items.
Tip Three: Execute That Strategy
This seems simple, but it’s one of the hardest steps. Part of any good strategy is the execution, and particularly when it comes to using any tool, you have to create the time in your schedule to dedicate to it. LinkedIn *feels* like a time-waster because it’s called a “social media” platform. But make no mistake – this is a business platform and when you use it strategically that way, it will work for you that way. Designate time in your calendar to spend on there – when you have goals and a strategy, the time that you have specified to spend on LinkedIn will be very targeted and won’t be spent scrolling. You’re allowed to do some of that too, of course, because it’s not wasted time to congratulate someone on a job change or share an article that you’ve read. All of that is part of using LinkedIn effectively too, for other types of business goals.
LinkedIn isn’t THE tool, but it is A tool in your arsenal when it comes to your goals and strategy development. When you take the time to think critically and align it with your existing mission, it can really supercharge your existing efforts.