LinkedIn is one of the best online tools for business development and networking. But it by itself is not magic.  Just having LInkedIn will not help you build your practice and manage connections.  To get the most out of LinkedIn, as with any tool, you have to get familiar with using it and then actively engage in the social community.

Many lawyers have LinkedIn accounts, but few use them effectively.  It is rare to find a lawyer who posts interesting information to their LinkedIn profile, and when I ask why, they simply are not sure about the how and why.

Mastering LInkedIn will take you a lot longer than simply reading this post.  You have to commit to using it, understand how your competitors are showing up in social media, and develop an action plan around how often to post.  If you have not visited LinkedIn in the past week, you are missing out on ways to stay informed about what your clients, prospects, referral sources and others are doing.  While not everyone posts to the platform, those who do are giving you a key insight into what is important in their business.

Let’s start with the basic.  Your photos on LInkedIn.  There are two photos, the profile picture and the banner.  Most people have a professional headshot that they have uploaded, but few use the banner. As for the headshot, make sure it is professional.  You do not need to be dressy if you are not one to wear a suit on a daily basis, but you should look like you are doing business.  I worked with one attorney who had a bandanna on while sitting on his Harley-Davidson.  It was not the same corporate image he and his firm portrayed.  He Facebook is a great place to show off your hobbies, and LInkedIn is more like a resume.  This does not mean you cannot share your human side, but for the photo itself, make it match your business image.

But let’s talk about the banner.  LinkedIn provides some generic backgrounds, and most people upload their city skyline or some other photo… but the banner is valuable real estate that you can use to show more about who you are and what you offer.  It is worth it to hire someone to help you create a banner that will get you noticed.  Take a look at my LinkedIn page for one idea of how to use the banner.  Notice that I added my phone number into the graphic.  Then start paying attention to how others use this area to make their page more memorable. As you begin to notice what you can do in this space, a generic photo will not be good enough.

Now lets talk about your summary and your job descriptions.  The summary is the most read part of your profile, and too many people say nothing. I mean nothing. What you write does not have to be long, but you have to say something about the journey of your career and who you serve.  If your summary does not show those two things, your profile will not help you win business.

The best way to decide what to write, visit the profiles of lawyers in your practice area whom you respect.  Look at how they describe their careers.  Now copy them.  I do not mean cut and paste, but copy the concepts they write about and make it your own.  The best thing to remember is that you LinkedIn profile is a living document that can be changed regularly.  So if you are not happy with the first draft, you can keep editing until it meets your needs.

Do the same thing with job descriptions.  LinkedIn provides room for you to write about each job, but most people only list the firm they were with, job title, and dates of employment.  To maximize your impact write about what you did in each job and what you learned from it.  Let your job history be more than a list, allow it to show the journey that has lead you to being the best at what you do today.

In part two of this section about LinkedIn we will talk about posting and commenting on other people’s posts.