The professional services industry is slowly but surely becoming aware that they too will be affected by the rise of social media. When talking to lawyers and consultants, a lot of them ask me to give them a short introduction about the correct use of tools like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Most of the professionals I speak to are 'on' LinkedIn, a lot of them for many years. But it's rare to find professionals who actually use LinkedIn, instead of merely being (somewhat passively) present on it. They collect connections, but that's about it. So: what can a professional actually do with LinkedIn?
Basically, LinkedIn can be used to increase the number of high quality contacts that you have with your current clients and with prospects. Like all social media, LinkedIn offers an alluring mix of broadcasting and microcasting. You can communicate often without bugging anyone, because it's less intrusive than e-mailing, sending direct mail or cold calling. You can choose to send out messages to large groups (all your contacts, generalistic groups) or small, focused groups (segments of your contacts, specialised groups). If used well, LinkedIn is a powerful but free marketing tool.
First, make sure that your status updates and messages will be visible to your entire network. Go to 'Settings' and under the heading 'Privacy settings', select 'Profile and status updates'. Answer 'yes' to both the questions:
Next, start using LinkedIn consistently to keep your contacts up to date about your activities. To do this, use the "status update". Status updates are one of the most easy and least intrusive ways to inform your client base and prospects what you are doing.
A lot of the questions I get are about "what to write" in the status updates. Like all marketing communication, your status updates should offer value to your contacts. Social media efforts should be embedded in a strategy that is about sharing your knowledge and expertise with your contacts (who will be either clients or prospects).
What is valuable to your clients and prospects? Mostly, news: new, timely, relevant information. News can be:
Of course, LinkedIn status updates are too short to write long comments. What you want to do on LinkedIn is to signal the news. Mostly, you will be linking to it (be sure to shorten your links using a service like bit.ly). There might also be room left for a short opinion, to qualify the news, to signal why you are linking to it.
If you have a blog (your company should have a blog for the reasons we list here - article in Dutch), LinkedIn is the place to announce to all your contacts that you published new blog posts. If you have a company blog, it is advisable to connect your LinkedIn profile to the blog feed (RSS feed) directly as well.
For groups reason alone, you should be actively using LinkedIn. Groups are a great way to exchange information and knowledge with colleagues, but also a great way to use your expertise to raise awareness about yourself and your company.
Suppose you are a lawyer specialised in real estate. You should find groups that group real estate professionals, and join them. Next, you should try to become a helpful member of the group community by answering questions that the real estate professionals ask.
If you write a blog about trends, news and insights in your industry, the LinkedIn group is the place to post links to your new blog posts. The goal is not only to raise awareness of your personal brand, but also to position yourself as an expert, an authority in your chosen field.
On regular intervals (depending on group settings and/or member preferences), an e-mail goes out to all members of LinkedIn groups. In these mails, all the new topics, discussions and jobs that were posted to the group are mentioned. In some groups, the link to your blog posts will be e-mailed daily to thousands of professionals who will at least scan the LinkedIn updates mail. This is a very powerful broadcasting tool for two reasons:
If no relevant group LinkedIn group exists, you should consider starting one yourself. There is certainly room for improvement when it comes to Belgian professionals and LinkedIn groups. The case of the Belgian law profession on LinkedIn speaks for itself: there is currently no Belgian group for lawyers, or for Gent or Leuven law alumni for instance.
Aside from answering questions in the groups, you can also join conversations in the LinkedIn "Q&A".
Here, people from outside your chosen specialty will ask questions about your specialty - it's the place where you can really build a name for yourself as an expert. If people like your answers, or thought they were helpful, they will reward you by giving you so called 'expert points'. Professionals with more expert points will show up more often and more prominently in LinkedIn search results.
Suppose you are giving a seminar on "Trade marks in the EU". LinkedIn is a great tool to announce this seminar to your contacts.
First, you will need to create the event: you have to submit all the relevant information about the event to LinkedIn. To do this, go to the "More" tab on your LinkedIn homepage and select 'Events'. There, select the tab 'Add an event' and fill in all the relevant information about the event:
After the event is created, your contacts will autmatically receive the information about the event in their updates.
Next, you can choose to invite specific contacts to attend the event. It is advisable to do this sparingly, and only use this if you are very certain that the event will offer significant value to the prospect. You don't want people to get the impression that you are spamming them with events.
Finally, you should announce your event in your LinkedIn status update.
Twitter is one more communication channel that you can use to keep your prospects up to date about your activity in a non intrusive way. It functions much the same way as LinkedIn, in fact. You can even link your Twitter profile to your LinkedIn profile. This way, every time you update your LinkedIn status, your Twitter status will be updated.
A minor, but fun application on LinkedIn is the "Reading List by Amazon". Yet another small tool to let your contacts know what you are thinking about (them - and their problems). Use it to keep your contacts up to date on relevant books that you are reading.
Finally, LinkedIn offers a free way to post job openings. Every group has a section for job listings. If you are active in relevant, vibrant groups, there is a decent chance that your job listing will be read by a highly selective group of professionals in your chosen specialty.
Do you have questions about this blog post? Are there still issues that are unclear, or portions of this article that you would like us to flesh out more? Please let us know: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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