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Home / Expert Opinion / Commentary / Commentary: Using LinkedIn to build an online brand

Commentary: Using LinkedIn to build an online brand

Launched in 2003, professional networking site LinkedIn was quickly overshadowed by Facebook when that startup went online just a year later. At the end of its first month, LinkedIn had only 4,500 members.

But with a better economy, a lower unemployment rate and a surge of millennials driving more tech innovation, it’s finally LinkedIn’s time to shine. Earlier this year, the site hit the 350-million user mark, with 115 million in the United States.

For law firms that aren’t harnessing LinkedIn’s benefits, it may be time to consider putting more effort into building a presence on the site. A firm’s website, along with press releases, can help to develop an online brand, but are likely to take your firm only so far when it comes to recruiting, online reputation, and visibility. Here are some areas to focus on when diving deeper into LinkedIn:

Profile pages: Every associate and partner at a firm should have a LinkedIn page, and update it regularly to add success stories, photos, links, and recommendations. Often, attorneys find themselves with such chaotic schedules that updating a LinkedIn profile gets pushed far off the to-do list, but if that’s the case, it may be worth bringing in professional social media help in the form of a consultant or in-house marketer.

When a potential client is researching firms or job candidates are searching through employee profiles, having robust profiles in place will bolster the firm’s brand visibility. Updates can also include endorsements that showcase particular skills, awards, volunteering experience, pro bono work, or other details that keep a profile fresh.

Recruiting: With such a strong business focus, it makes sense that LinkedIn would be ideal for recruiting, and “jobs” is one of the main categories at the top of the homepage. According to research firm Social Media Today, 77 percent of all U.S. jobs are posted on LinkedIn, and that number is climbing. That means everyone from college students looking for internships to associates consider a jump to another firm are researching companies and open positions by making LinkedIn a launch point.

In addition to posting available jobs, LinkedIn can be used as a source of active recruiting searches, says Mike Frommelt, principal and co-founder at Minneapolis-based Keystone Search. “You also want candidates who aren’t actively looking, and who are currently using their skills and finding success,” he says. “For that, you need to reach a different pool of candidates.” Putting more information on LinkedIn about the firm, its culture, recent work, and thought leadership can help turn a curious non-jobseeker into a new candidate.

Posts: Posts have become hugely popular on LinkedIn, and even U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron recently put up his post-election thoughts. Similar to blog posts, the content that’s put on LinkedIn should be geared toward a larger audience, and include thoughtful riffs on current issues, legal strategies, technology, and any other topic that seems relevant to a business and legal audience. This isn’t the place to put out press releases disguised as posts, or to promote the firm overtly, though. You’re trying to begin a discussion, not make a speech.

To be more effective in creating LinkedIn posts, it’s usually advisable to start with a content plan, says Kyle Meehan at PH Digital Labs, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency. Much like a firm’s in-house blogs, posts should be put up consistently, and that often takes some commitment, Meehan says: “You need to decide how often you’re going to post, and then set time in your schedule for that. Otherwise, it will get put lower on your list of priorities.”

LinkedIn has many other aspects as well, including professional groups and quick-hit updates on the homepage. By exploring what the site has to offer, it’s likely that firms of any size will find areas that can be helpful in building their online reputations and more firmly establishing their brand visibility.

Elizabeth Millard has been writing about technology for 20 years. Her work has appeared in ABA Journal, Law Office Computing, Business 2.0, eWeek, and TechNewsWorld. A version of this column originally appeared in Minnesota Lawyer, sister publication to The Daily Record.

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