LinkedIn: A Lawyer’s New Best Friend

Linkedin LawyersWhile there are plenty of books written about social media, I’ve found that most attorneys have little time to invest in such trivial pursuits. I’m sure you’ve rolled your eyes a few times when perusing Facebook or Twitter and reading some of the material on those sites. Many of these negative opinions stem from reality, whereas others come from a disappointing lack of knowledge as to the sites’ benefits.

In order to effectively utilize social media, it’s important to recognize what you want social media to do for you. Are you looking to grow originations, develop a cult-like following, or brand yourself to get speaking engagements? By answering this question first, you can focus on investing your time in the most effective social media forums.

There are literally hundreds of social media channels to choose from. Being selective and focused on the right one will help you get results more quickly. For most attorneys, developing your brand in the business community is most important. In addition, you’re most likely to get results from a social media channel that allows you to be proactive in developing new contacts and ultimately new business. In my experience, the best and fastest way to get results using social media is through LinkedIn.

Over the past 10 years, LinkedIn has become the number one resource for helping brand and generate new business for service-based professionals. In many ways it’s better than Google because it’s a business networking platform rather than a general search platform. The ability to search and target people and organizations is unlimited.

LinkedIn is a fantastic brand-building tool that allows you to literally post your resume online. LinkedIn also helps you leverage your best contacts to make inside connections. Done properly, this can create a massive universe of followers, possible connections, and, most importantly, a cast of personal advocates willing to make quality introductions on your behalf.

Imagine being able to look at your client’s list of friends, vendors and associates prior to asking for a referral. You can search through LinkedIn’s 50 million users to find the best inside connections for you.

While there are hundreds of different tools on LinkedIn, I want to give you the top three keys to effectively using LinkedIn. As with anything that’s worthwhile, it’s imperative that you try to have an open mind and invest a few hours exploring the site to see where the value is for you.

The first key to effectively using LinkedIn is to create a complete profile that best represents your expertise and experience in your field of practice. The second key is to develop your LinkedIn universe by adding the right contacts. The third key is to leverage those contacts and turn them into quality introductions. These three keys should initially take only a few hours to implement, and then as little as an hour a week to start producing results.

The First Key: Writing a LinkedIn Profile That Represents You Beautifully

In order to be effective on LinkedIn, you must have a professionally written and completed profile. Think of your LinkedIn page as your online resume and personal website. If the information online is incorrect, incomplete or poorly written, it might stop someone from reaching out to you.

Imagine you’re looking online for a remodeler for your home. The first site that comes up on Google looks fantastic. You click through to see some of the remodeling work the company has done, and the site says, “Sorry, cannot open this page.” So you try another one. The same message comes up. If you’re like me, you’re done at that point. You just move on to the next search result. This is exactly what happens on LinkedIn without a skillfully written and finished profile.

Here are three tips to ensure your LinkedIn profile makes you look your best to potential clients and strategic partners:

Tip #1: Use a recent professional photograph on your LinkedIn page.

Most people are visual and want to see whom they’re going to be speaking with. As important as content is on a website, you’ve never seen an exceptional one without images to back it up. Use the photo from your website if it’s good, or get a headshot taken right away. It’s not hard to do and it can make all the difference when someone is checking out your profile. This may seem obvious, but don’t post a cutesy picture with your kids, pet, or Halloween costume.

Tip #2: Have a professionally written background/summary.

Since your LinkedIn profile will be someone’s first impression of you, failure to capture the reader’s attention can move the reader quickly away. Personally, I like to see a summary written in the third person. It has the appearance of someone else boasting about your successes and best qualities without seeming egotistical.

If possible, keep your profile to three solid paragraphs. I enjoy reading profiles that read a little like a story. The first paragraph pulls you in. The second gets you familiar with the character. The third wraps things up and motivates you to take action. It might make sense to look up some other attorneys in your practice area to see what they’ve written. This will help you identify the best profile style for you.

Tip #3: Develop a strong list of skills that best represents your expertise.

If you take a few minutes and search some of your colleagues and competitors, you can quickly begin to formulate such a list. For example, an estate planning attorney would want to have the words “wills,” “trusts” and “estate planning” listed among his or her skills, thus enabling people searching for an estate planner to more easily find the attorney.

Once your skills are posted, people in your network will then have the ability to endorse you. Essentially, when you have a skill that someone agrees with, they’ll endorse you for that skill. While this might seem like “fluff,” it’s an important factor that people use to determine who are experts and who are not. For example, if you had to choose between two referred doctors, one who has hundreds of positive endorsements on LinkedIn and one who has none, which would you choose? While this might seem insignificant, in the competitive legal environment everything counts.

Read Part 2 here: LinkedIn for Lawyers – Strengthening Your Circle by Establishing the Very Best Connections Part 2

Read Part 3 here: Effectively Using LinkedIn for Lawyers: Going Beyond Connecting and Turning LinkedIn Relationships into Better Introductions Part 3

Copyright @ 2016 Sales Results, Inc.

Microsoft Acquiring LinkedIn as Move into Enterprise Social Media

Linkedin MicrosoftMicrosoft has announced that it is buying LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, one of the largest tech acquisitions in history, and that it intends to use the business social media giant to put Microsoft at the center of our work lives.

Currently, LinkedIn has 433 million members in 200 countries. Microsoft has 1.28 billion Office users worldwide. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview with Bloomberg:

“This is about the coming together of the leading professional cloud and the leading professional network. This is the logical next step to take. We believe we can accelerate that by making LinkedIn the social fabric for all of Office.”

Nadella said that Microsoft’s vision is to place your LinkedIn profile at the center of your online work life, connecting it with Windows, Outlook, Skype, PowerPoint and other Microsoft products.

For example, Cortana (Microsoft’s digital assistant) could provide users with information on other participants in an upcoming meeting by pulling data from LinkedIn profiles. Members working on a project could pull up LinkedIn articles concerning their project or use LinkedIn profiles to search for an “expert” to help with the project.

Microsoft also sees LinkedIn playing a major role in developing a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool for sales organizations. LinkedIn analytics could be integrated with Microsoft’s Dynamics tool, which competes with Salesforce.com, to assist companies with managing their customers.

Here’s a CNBC interview with Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner explaining the opportunities.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Three Steps to Leverage LinkedIn for Your Law Firm

I have yet to find an attorney who could not benefit from having their profile on LinkedIn. It’s the number one online network for white-collar professionals.

Whether you want to connect with non-competing attorneys, non-legal professionals, or potential clients, the demographics on LinkedIn speak for themselves:

  • The average age range of a LinkedIn user is 30 to 49

  • 44% of LinkedIn users report an annual income of more than $100,000

  • 50% of members have a college degree

  • 28% have a graduate degree

LinkedIn members are highly educated and affluent. Is this a demographic you would like to reach? For most attorneys, the answer is obvious.

The first step to using LinkedIn is to create a comprehensive profile. Use your entire bio in your profile and be sure to include your keywords in it. In other words, use the exact keywords that you believe prospects or potential referral sources would use to find an attorney with your skill sets.

For example, if you are a business attorney in Omaha it might sound like this:

“John Doe is a Omaha business attorney who works with small business owners and CEOs of mid-sized companies to create comprehensive operating agreements, buy-sell agreements and employment agreements. His Omaha business clients appreciate the fact that John is an attorney who has a strong business background, having owned and operated two different companies, including a high tech company with 25 employees.”

Next, go to the See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn page and import your email contact list. This makes it super simple to connect with people you already know who are also on LinkedIn. In addition, based on your contacts, LinkedIn will suggest relevant contacts for you to connect with on the site.

Then search LinkedIn Groups and join those where your clients and prospects are. Create content — blog posts, free reports, articles, etc. — that will attract their attention. You can also start your own group and invite contacts to join.

The key to utilizing LinkedIn effectively is to be involved and be consistent. You need to commit to investing at least 30-45 minutes every week to log in, post an update or a link to your blog, reach out to your contacts, answer any questions that are sent to you, and make yourself visible. Simply setting up a profile on LinkedIn will not lead to more referrals any more than a having a business card will automatically get you new business.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

LinkedIn For Lawyers: The Publishing Tool

Jaffe

There is no question that LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that can potentially turn online connections into real-world clients. That won’t happen overnight, however, and those efforts will only thrive with proper care, maintenance and pruning.

Writing Your LinkedIn Profile

Most likely you already have a basic profile, but one of the biggest obstacles lawyers face is distinguishing themselves online. Bios sound the same from one attorney to the next, and, while they might showcase a long list of achievements, they often don’t say much about the person and how he or she is a problem solver. It’s important to remember that your profile is your front door to the world. Spruce it up, and lay out the welcome mat.

Need some tips when writing your LinkedIn profile? To reach influencers, gain a following and develop a reputation as someone “in the know,” use actionable language, and try to be more lively and specific. Identifying clearly how you provide a solution will make it infinitely easier for potential clients to understand what you do and why you are the perfect fit for their job. If you think revising your online profile will easily drop to the bottom of your “to do” list, schedule it on your calendar.

Blogging on LinkedIn

With a progressive profile in place, you’re now ready to harness the power of LinkedIn. In addition to providing opportunities for connecting with colleagues, friends, and potential prospects; joining groups; and posting, LinkedIn has recently unveiled a new publishing platform. It was designed to provide users with a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, blogging tool. For those who work at law firms that do not have blogging resources, or if you want to prove the viability of a blog before adding it to your law firm website, using LinkedIn publishing is a good option.

To help you use the blogging platform, LinkedIn provides a built-in template that comes up when you click on the orange “Publish a post” icon at your home screen. From there, it is easy to add a photo, draft an engaging headline, drop in the text and click Publish.

Blog posting through LinkedIn allows you to share quality content on a regular basis with a built-in audience and group of followers. You can share posts with specific groups or individual connections. Another bonus of the LinkedIn blogging tool is that the pages encourage two-way conversation and discussion. Each post is equipped with social-sharing buttons, so it’s easy for other users to share, like, repost and retweet across all social networking platforms. Unlike cumbersome email campaigns or formal alerts, you can easily point and click your way to becoming a thought-leader on specific topic. And, the tool catalogs all your posts in one area for easy reference.

LinkedIn Blogging Best Practices

Successful bloggers publish at least twice a month, and more frequently to accommodate new developments or interesting news. Content should be relevant, entertaining, engaging and brief. It should include a call to action. If at all possible, it should tell a story. But most importantly, you should write about topics that affect your clients and help to position you as a valuable resource.

In fact, according to Bloomberg’s Big Law Business Report, there seems to be a sea change among in-house counsel about how to handle client development. Fancy dinners and tickets to sporting events might be nice, but it’s also important to show that you have your finger on the pulse of the market and are watching (and can report on) trends. Blogging ticks this box.

It is also important to note that, as lawyers become more and more proficient on LinkedIn, they also need to be aware of the various state bar rules. While the ABA has not yet published comprehensive guidelines on social media usage, some state bars have, including New York.

In fact, in March 2015, the New York County Lawyers Association Professional Ethics Committee released an opinion recommending that attorneys in New York with LinkedIn profiles that include information about their practice areas, skills, endorsements or recommendations – essentially, anything more than the straightforward biographical information in their profiles – should now include attorney advertising statements at the end of the “Summary” section of their LinkedIn profiles, similar to “Attorney Advertising – Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.”

While this doesn’t mean that LinkedIn should be abandoned as a powerful networking tool, it just will require that attorneys periodically monitor and review the content of their LinkedIn profiles for accuracy and compliance with bar guidelines.

The Confluence of Content and Social Media

Lawyers and legal marketers seem to have an ever-growing number of marketing tools and tactics at their disposal. Technology has provided us with a number of new avenues to reach our desired audiences, but just using these channels is not enough. They have to be leveraged strategically.

Lawyers should take the time to populate their LinkedIn profiles with quality information that positively reflects their personal brands. They should also make it a habit to continually update their profiles to capture recent successes, promotions, organizational affiliations, pro bono activities and published articles. Finally, with the LinkedIn publishing tool, lawyers can maximize the benefits of the social network by crafting and distributing relevant thought leadership materials to a targeted audience of engaged professionals.

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LinkedIn, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Real-World Implications of Online Activity

With the ever-increasing amount of information available on social media, employers should remember to exercise caution when utilizing social media as a part of their Human Resources/ Recruitment related activities. We live in a digital-age, and how people choose to define themselves is often readily showcased on social networking sites. Whether – and how – employers choose to interact with the online presence of their workforce will continue to develop as the relevant legal standards try to catch up.

A recent federal court filing in the Northern District of California against LinkedIn Corp. provides yet another example of the growing interaction between online personas and real-world employment law implications. There, in Sweet, et al v. LinkedIn Corp., the plaintiffs sought to expand the application of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by alleging that LinkedIn’s practice of providing “reference reports” to members that subscribe to LinkedIn’s program for a fee, brought LinkedIn within the coverage of the FCRA as a Credit Reporting Agency (“CRA”). Briefly, the FCRA (and relevant state statutes like it) imposes specific requirements on an employer when working with “any person which, for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in whole or in part in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties, and which uses any means or facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports.” In other words, there are rules – such as providing requisite disclosures and obtaining prior authorization – that apply when an employer engages a CRA to perform background checks, reference checks and related inquiries.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that LinkedIn was a CRA – and that these various rules should apply – because LinkedIn collected and distributed consumer information to third parties and the resulting reference reports “bear on a consumer’s character, general reputation, mode of living, or personal characteristics, and/or other factors listed in 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d).” Further, according to the complaint, LinkedIn violated the FCRA because it should have provided FCRA compliant disclosure and followed the reporting obligations applicable to CRAs.

LinkedIn, which is touted as the “world’s largest professional network,” does not portray itself as a CRA and moved to dismiss the complaint. LinkedIn argued that the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the statute was too broad and, moreover, was inconsistent with the facts. A federal judge agreed and dismissed the complaint (although the plaintiffs have the opportunity to file another complaint). The Court ruled that these reference searches could not be considered “consumer reports” under the law – and LinkedIn was not acting as a CRA – because, in part, the plaintiffs had voluntarily provided their information to LinkedIn with the intention of it being published online. (The FCRA excludes from the definition of a consumer report a report that contains “information solely as to transactions or experiences between the consumer and the person making the report.”) The Court also noted that the allegations suggested that LinkedIn “gathers the information about the employment histories of the subjects of the Reference Searches not to make consumer reports but to ‘carry out consumers’ information-sharing objectives.’”

The LinkedIn case should still serve as a reminder of several important and interrelated trends. First, as it concerns the FCRA, the statute is broadly worded to cover “any written, oral or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency . . .” and the equally expansive definition of a CRA can apply in numerous situations that extend beyond the traditional notion of a consumer reporting agency. If applicable, the requirements of the FCRA must be followed. Second, employers need to continue to be mindful of the fact that their online activity can have real-world employment law implications. Third, as the law governing traditional employment law continues to evolve in response to online developments, the challenges to that activity will evolve as well.

Authored by: Ian Gabriel Nanos and Maxine Adams of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.

©2015 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.

California Class Action Suit Alleges LinkedIn Violated Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) By Providing Employers With Reference Reports

Allen Matkins Law Firm

Another interesting case filed in California recently highlights the myriad risks employers face when using social media as part of their hiring process.

A class action lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California against LinkedIn based on allegations that thereference reports LinkedIn generates for premium subscribers, including many employers, violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act(“FCRA”). According to the plaintiffs in Sweet, et. al. v. LinkedIn Corporation, an employer who is a premium subscriber can generate a report containing the names, locations, employment areas, current employers, and current positions of all persons in a user’s network who may have worked with a job applicant and also contact the applicant’s “references.” An employer, according to the allegations, can run such a “reference report” on a job applicant without the applicant receiving any notification whatsoever. Thus, as the complaint alleges, “any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained.” The complaint claims this activity potentially violates both the FCRA’s purposes, which include safeguards as to the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of the information that a potential employer obtains, and the FCRA’s customer notification requirements.

This latest lawsuit against LinkedIn serves as another example of the complex legal issues and risks that an employer faces when using social media to make recruiting and hiring decisions.

© 2010-2014 Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP
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How to Build Trust Online by Being Human

The Rainmaker Institute

All you have to do is troll your own Facebook or LinkedIn account to know that there is LOTS of content online.

In fact, a recent post at Buffer.com noted that more content is published every day on Facebook than is found in every book published in human history!

Building Blocks with Trust

So how do you stand out from that enormous crowd and earn the trust you need to succeed with your social media marketing program?  Buffer provides these tips:

Use personal pronouns.  Using personal pronouns in your posts — I, we, you, me, etc. — and being more conversational elicits empathy from an audience, getting  you a better response.

Use simple words.  By using simple words, you can convey your idea in a way that people don’t have to think about before understanding it.  Big words and legalese will tend to alienate people, not draw them in.

Use stories.  Since the beginning of time, humans have communicated by telling stories and the propensity to listen to a story is ingrained in our DNA.  A Buffer study showed that adding a story to your blog post can increase readership by 300%.

Use contemporary culture references.  Weaving a pop culture reference or two into your post, especially if you’re able to add a celebrity name or two like Beyoncéor George Clooney (see how I did that?), helps boost readership and interest.

Use the Shaq Rule.  Shaquille O’Neal is a social media powerhouse, with a Twitter following of 8.5 million and 4.7 million Facebook fans.  His rule for posting is that 80% of his posts must be entertaining, 15% must be informative and only 5% should sell something.  People can sniff out a sales pitch online immediately, and just as quickly they are on to the next thing.

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