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How To Make The Most Of LinkedIn

by Larry Bodine

LinkedIn has 17 million users including executives from all of the Fortune 500.  Many lawyers are familiar with this business-oriented online social networking site and may have built up connections on it -- but dont really know how to use it for marketing or business development.

I am a user and a big proponent of LinkedIn, which is now the defacto online directory of all professionals, including lawyers.  It's an excellent way to make connections and contact them, join groups and lead discussions, and get introductions to your new-business targets. 

Here are some of the favorite uses of LinkedIn.

1. Professional Introductions:  This is one of the biggest reasons to use LinkedIn.  If you want an introduction to make a sales call, inquire about job opportunities or make partner connections with another company, this is the way to do it.  LinkedIn gives you instant credibility.  Many executives use it and they realize it is a great networking tool.  Remember in business development, it is not what you know but whom you know.

2. Make connections. Click on Contacts on the left-hand navigation bar.  When it goes to that page look for the Add Connections link see all your Connections in the space right below the tool bar.  To invite people into your network, simply enter their name and email address and click Send Invitations.

3. Ask your network a question:  To send a message to your connections, click on the Answers link at the top.  Disregard the caption that says "ask a question," and instead make a statement, tell some good news or send an announcement to your connections. Click on the Next button until you get to the "Share your question with your connections" box.  You can send a message to up to 200 contacts.

4. Testimonials:  You can ask others in your network, former employers, clients, business colleagues, etc. to give you a recommendation.  These show on your profile.  Again these can provide you with a lot of credibility.

5. Job Search:  There are many jobs posted here and you can do Boolean searches to search by location, industry and title.  Many high-end recruiters are using LinkedIn to post jobs and look for candidates.  LinkedIn is much closer to a specialty niche job board in nature than to one of the major job websites.

6. Find potential contacts at a company you want an introduction to:  Use the handy search box to see a pull-down menu for you to search people, companies, jobs, answers, inbox and groups.  This is where you find people at your target client with whom to connect or seek an introduction.

7. Web Pages:  You can provide links to your web page and blog in your profile.  This is especially helpful if you are a small entrepreneur or work for a lesser-known law firm.

8. Special Interest Groups:  There are all kinds of groups on LinkedIn that are composed of like minded lawyers and marketers.  I belong to the Chief Marketing Officers Forum, Lawyer Marketing | Grow your practice, Legal Blogging, Legal Innovation, and the PM Forum groups.  There is a function to ask the group a question.  Lawyers who start discussions are considered thought leaders or people with real insight.

Here are some other general tips/facts about LinkedIn:

1. You have to work this network.  It doesnt just come automatically.  So plan time for it each day or each week.

2. Your contact information is hidden.

3. List past companies and jobs, not just the current one, in your profile.  You never know who might be looking for you.

4. You can synchronize your LinkedIn account with Outlook, Outlook Express, Plaxo, Act, Lotus and Palm.  It will tell you who in your address book are already members.  You also have the ability to choose whom from your address book you want to invite.  You dont have to invite all or none.  This is another function it is good to check every so often.

5. Your network gives you have access to the names in their network unless they blind them, which is very infrequently.  It is also good to check changes in your network to keep up with people.

6. Keep an eye on the people added under network updates on the home page. 

7. One final note, I dont like to link to the people they call power networkers (networking pigs with 500+ connections).  These are people looking for attention who rarely have anything useful to say.

Tip:  Use the help tab if you have any questions.

Copyright 2004-2009 Larry Bodine

About The Author

Larry Bodine is a Business Development Advisor based in Glen Ellyn, IL.  He has helped law firms generate millions in new revenue by devising strategies, conducting business development retreats and individually coaching attorneys. He can be reached at 630.942.0977.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.