I just finished doing a webinar with the ABA Law Practice Management section on LinkedIn for Lawyers with Michelle Golden and Dennis Kennedy. Of course, there is so much more information that we didn't have time to cover in the 90 minute program, and although we covered some of these questions during the presentation, I'm not sure that all of our particpants caught the answers, so I've decided to list some of the questions (and my resposnes) here.
Please feel free to comment and add your responses, too, since I know not everyone has the same 'take' on these questions as I do:
How can you take advantage of Linkedin as a business entity if you are a solo pracitioner or a small firm?
LinkedIn is a great tool for solos or small firms because it helps you extend your reach further and faster. Leverage your connections by seeing who they are connected to, asking them for introductions to people you want to meet, and looking at their Groups for ideas. Answer questions and join discussions within Groups to increase your expert status. Make sure your profile is complete and that it showcases your best skills and abilities. Use LinkedIn's powerful search tools to find events, industries and companies that you want to watch or connect to. Add a link to your profile on your website, email signature, blog, and other profiles on the internet for greater visibility. Build a company page for your law firm and make use of the 'services' feature to describe your practice areas and link back to practice pages on your firm's website.
What is the new Skills section, and how can it be useful in the future?
Skills is a new feature on LinkedIn that can be included in your profile. I think this feature will be especially useful for job-seekers as a place to quickly summarize the skills and abilities that set you apart from others. For young lawyers who may be skilled in social media, you may find a firm looking for someone who can be the firm's social media presence. Perhaps you are fluent in another language - putting that in 'skills' might get you noticed.
Is there a tactful way to refuse a connection request? Do you have any guidance about people you shouldn't connect with or is it an all-comers approach?
We didn't have a chance to discuss this much during the webinar, but I know that Michelle and I differ somewhat in our approaches. Some of it comes back to what you consider your purpose to be in participating in LinkedIn. I do not take an "all-comers" approach, because I prefer for my network to be useful to my connections. In other words, if one of my connections wants information about or an introduction to someone else in my network, I'd like to know enough about both of them to make an intelligent introduction (or have ready reasons why I wouldn't do so).
I take two approaches to 'refusing' connections. First, if it is someone I really don't know and never heard of, I may just ignore the connection request. This is particularly true if I don't know the person and they have sent me the generic 'invitation' without personalizing it or telling me something about how they know me. Sometimes there are just too many to respond to each of them personally.
My second approach is not to accept the invitation, but to reach out to that person with a note expressing thanks for the invitation and asking them if we can connect by phone, in person or otherwise to get to know one another better before we actually connect on LinkedIn. (For more on this topic, see my post, "Who Should I Link to or Friend on Social Networking Sites")
I don't usually report an invitaiton as "spam" unless I have a very good reason to do so (and I'm not sure that has ever happened to me).
Do you recommend upgrading from the free LinkedIn service to a paid one?
I haven't tried the paid service, so perhaps it isn't fair of me to answer this one. I know the paid service has some greater functionality as far as organizing contacts (although the new 'tags' feature does that fairly well in the free version, from what I've seen), and it allows you to see full profiles of people who are 'out of your network,' but I don't know whether that makes the paid version worthwhile. There is plenty of functionality in the free version to make it a very robust tool for most lawyers' purposes.
Is there a way to put video on a Linkedin profile?
Yes! (And it's a great way to stand out - although I haven't gotten around to doing it myself yet.) With the SlideShare application, you can add video to your LinkedIn account. You'll need a slideshare.net account (free). Create the video and upload it to YouTube and then embed the video into a SlideShare presentation, and publish the SlideShare presentation to your LinkedIn account.
All in all, I had a great time preparing for and putting on the webinar with Michelle and Dennis. If you're looking for more ideas about how to use social media effectively, check out Michelle's book, Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms.
[Update: Two more questions came in after we finished the webinar]---
Is it a good idea to connect LinkedIn to Facebook?
To me, this comes back to your purpose. Many people use Facebook as a more personal, social interaction and LinkedIn as more of a professional network with colleagues, clients, referral sources, etc. and cross-posting or linking the accounts may not work in that case. You will want to ask yourself whether your postings on each are appropriate for both audiences, and whether you want to have a different kind of presence on each platform.
On occasion, I do cross-post to both (using my Facebook Fan Page, rather than my personal FB profile), but I don't automatically link them.
How do you connect LinkedIn to Twitter?
Connecting your LinkedIn status updates to twitter is easy. You can add your twitter account to your profile in the space provided as you are building your profile. In the status update box, you can check the box next to the little bird that represents Twitter to have your update go to Twitter as well. Click the little arrow to the right of that to get to your Twitter settings or to add a Twitter account. LinkedIn will lead you through the process.
You can also connect to Twitter by going to your Account Settings in LinkedIn and clicking on Manage Twitter Settings. Those settings will also allow you to tell LinkedIn which of your tweets you want to display on LinkedIn - you can display all of your tweets on LinkedIn, or only those that are 'tagged' with a LinkedIn hashtag (#li or #in).
Just as I noted above with Facebook, you'll want to think about whether you want to simply display your twitter 'handle' on your LinkedIn profile or actually cross-post between platforms, depending on your audience and your use of each platform. Since Twitter is generally thought of as a more 'conversational' platform, simply posting status updates may not work as well on Twitter as it does on LinkedIn. And if you tend to get into conversations with others on Twitter that would be difficult to understand by reading a stand-alone tweet, you may not want to publish all of your tweets automatically to LinkedIn.
[Update: The program should be available by Friday afternoon, August 19 on demand here:www.ali-aba.org/rstp03]