How Your Law Firm Can Use Linkedin Effectively
Kirsten Hodgson helps lawyers and their firms to grow their practices by harnessing the power of LinkedIn.
Kirsten achieves this in three ways:
- Helping lawyers harness the power of LinkedIn to achieve their goals & add rocket-fuel to their existing BD & marketing initiatives.
- Bringing the voice of the client into their firm so that they can focus on those activities that will make the biggest difference to their business & generate best bang-for-your-buck.
- Assisting with pitching strategy & compiling compelling RFP/EOI responses.
Kirsten also has a practical online training course with actionable modules, “Grow your practice with LinkedIn: for lawyers”, launched in early May 2014.
You can reach out to Kirsten here
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[Dan:] Thanks, Kirsten, for joining me.
[Kirsten:] Thanks, Dan.
[Dan:] Hey Kirsten, tell us a little bit about what you do.
[Kirsten:] So I help professional services firms and the professionals within them to grow their practices by harnessing the power of LinkedIn. So it’s really looking at how can you use LinkedIn alongside everything else you’re already doing, to stay top of mind with your existing clients and contacts; and to find and attract more of your ideal prospects.
[Dan:] Fantastic! You only work with professional services firms?
[Kirsten:] Yes, I do; background is professional services so it’s what I know.
[Dan:] Great, and you work pretty well everywhere. I mean you’re based in New Zealand but you work in Australia, internationally as well?
[Kirsten:] Yeah, predominantly in New Zealand and Australia but I have friends and [0:01:40] in the UK and done some consulting over there too.
[Dan:] Excellent. How do you see in LinkedIn [0:01:47] changed over the last few years since you became involved with the platform?
[Kirsten:] I think it’s really grown. When I first became involved it was almost like Google+ is today. There were definitely some niche markets on there so there were lots of recruiters. There were lots of IT people, lots of consultants and small business owners. And there were some really good conversations and I found a great referrals tools. But I think it’s just almost ballooned, mushroomed. There are now just so many people on there. I think in Australia, there’s four million Australians and one million New Zealanders. And you know, almost everybody that you look for has a presence on the platform including CEOs and company directors which wasn’t the case a few years ago.
[Dan:] Yeah, it’s ironic, isn’t it? Because given how the platform has resonated with all of us, there’s still this sense I think, from attorneys and lawyers who say, “Well yeah, I’m not going to be on there.” But is LinkedIn really a great client acquisition platform? How do you feel about it?
[Kirsten:] Yeah, I think that’s a good question. And it’s always a fear of the unknown. When you’re on a new platform it’s always hard to actually think, “How do I use this the best effect?” And so I think that’s probably a major barrier. I mean from my perspective, it’s definitely a great tool for acquiring business right from your existing clients as well as your ideal prospects.
I think if you’re using LinkedIn purposefully then it can lead to more face to face opportunities and also make new business meetings easier; because often you’ll find that people have done the research online. You may have been referred to them and then they look you up. And your LinkedIn profile obviously is returned really highly at the search engine results so it’s often the place that they’ll go to.
And if you’ve done a good job on that profile and you’ve got content up there and so on, they can make a call about you before they meet you. So I bet you’ll find that it makes those new business meetings a little bit easier and the prospects sort of further down the decision-making track.
[Dan:] Yeah. I hear lawyers, particularly Commercial lawyers who will say, “Yes, I can see the sense in LinkedIn in that there’s obviously a clear synergy between other professionals in them that are in the LinkedIn platform.” But I often hear a little bit of angst; say from a Family Law practitioner or a Personal Injury lawyer who say, “Well, but my clients aren’t going to be on LinkedIn, they’re going to be elsewhere.”
[Kirsten:] Yeah, and I think then you need to look at what’s the best platform for you to start on, and they may decide to start elsewhere. But I think even if they don’t believe their clients are on there, their referrals will be and so would journalists. So for example, if it’s a Family lawyer, they might want to be getting more media coverage and LinkedIn is then a great way to actually meet and start the relationships with those journalists. But I think also for those types of law, anybody that you’re connected to could potentially need your services down the track or be asked to refer you.
So again, it’s just another tool that they can use to stay top of mind particularly in times when you’re busy and can’t get out from behind your desk; and to position yourself because often it’s about being top of mind. And if you haven’t in touched with someone for two years, that’s a long time and they could be thinking of somebody else when they’re asked for recommendation. But if you’re using LinkedIn regularly and you’re sharing content so they could be seeing one of your status updates a month for example, then it’s just going to keep you front and center.
[Dan:] So what would an effective regime or rhythm look like for a lawyer who is new to the platform but is sort of wanting to sort of garner a bit of attraction?
[Kirsten:] Yeah. I think firstly, the first point is being really, really clear about what it is you’re looking to achieve. So what are your goals and what are you already doing? How’s LinkedIn going to fit in with that? I think if you don’t have clear intent, you can spend a lot of time on the platform just wasting time.
And then the next step is to think about, okay, who is it that you want to be communicating with on LinkedIn? Is it your existing contacts? People that you know, or do you want to reach out and acquire new business? Because that will determine the different features that you use. Once you’ve done that, I think you create your profile with that in mind.
All too often, I think everybody knows the importance of a good LinkedIn profile. But I’ve looked at so many professionals’ profiles – lots of lawyers’, and they’re skeletal. And I think that’s a real danger and it comes back to the point earlier that people actually search for professionals online. So yes, they rely on personal recommendations, but they might get two or three names. And some research that BTI consultants did in the States found the next [0:07:20] was online search, and the two weren’t mutually exclusive. So if they’ve been given two or three names, the next thing they do is search for you and then obviously your LinkedIn profile was up there; so too your website profiles. But you can’t dictate what people are going to click. And if they go to LinkedIn profile and it’s skeletal then you could lose work.
So I think spending time crafting a good profile is absolutely critical. And just an example of how that works really well is, I was talking to a lawyer a couple of weeks ago and he said he spent a lot of time finding out his keywords – the words that people would look for for someone with his expertise – and he inserted those into his profile. And he got a regular email from a CEO of a company saying, “Look, I need some collective bargaining help, can you assist?” And he rang him up and found out the nature of the problem, got the work and then said, “Well, how did you find me?,” fully expecting it to be a referral. And the CEO said, “I typed in collective union bargaining into LinkedIn in your country and you were the first search result that came back.”
[Dan:] Yeah, a great example.
[Kirsten:] Yeah. So I think that just highlights the way that things are changing.
[Dan:] Kirs, what about the content rhythm itself? So they’ve defined and articulated a reasonable profile, and now they’re thinking, “Gosh, I’m going to feed this thing.”
[Kirsten:] Yeah, great question. I think the first thing is there’s lots of – you’ve probably got a lot of existing content. Law firms in particular have heaps of content. You could have spoken at a conference, you could have client FAQs that you’ve put together – there’s all sorts of content.
And I think a really good starting point is to write down a list of the common questions that your clients ask you and you could probably block out two hours and answer a load of those, and that could feed your content machine to the next few months.
And the other point is that you don’t always have to be sharing your own content. So it’s really a good idea to become a curator of content, essentially doing people’s reading for them. So if you’re sharing great third-party content that either helps position you in your area or creates a need for your services, then that’s all going to help, too. Because there’s so much content out there it’s far easier to go to one source than it is to twenty or thirty.
[Dan:] Is there a content rhythm that works best, Kirsten?
[Kirsten:] Yeah. I think on Linked, it’s not like Twitter where you need to be posting a few times a day. I think it’s absolutely fine if you’re posting once a week, once a fortnight. The thing about LinkedIn, I think, is status updates tend to get lost quite quickly because people are connected to a lot people and so they tend to sort of go down the screen quite quickly.
The great thing about if you published LinkedIn for example, is that anybody you’re connected to when you publish, will receive a notification that you’ve published a new post and the title. Now, even if they don’t access LinkedIn for two weeks, when they go into LinkedIn, they’ll still have the notifications tab and they may have five or six notifications, but amongst those will be that you’ve published this post. So I think that’s a really good tool for keeping you top of mind.
In terms of frequency, I’m a great believer in sharing content when it’s going to be relevant and helpful and when it’s fresh. Don’t just share content for content’s sake.
[Dan:] Yeah. Are there metrics that sort of inform your approach to it, Kirsten?
[Kirsten:] Yeah, I have. I mean, I sort of do it quite manually but I do have an excel spreadsheet. I’ve found that with the publishing to LinkedIn, I tend to do that monthly. I find that for me, that works in terms of – I’m creating content for my blog typically bi-weekly anyway. But also it seems to maximize the number of use. I think, if you’re posting or publishing too frequently, people sometimes just don’t look at your content.
[Dan:] Just turn off, yeah.
[Kirsten:] Although if it’s fresh and relevant, that shouldn’t happen. But I’ve just found that that’s a good schedule for me. And in terms of status updates, I tend to maybe post two a week. But it really depends. I mean if I’m on LinkedIn and someone shared something interesting, I will comment on it, I will share and so on.
So it really comes down to, again, your goals. What are you looking to achieve? And if you’re looking to a state of mind with your existing clients, then you might want to spend a little bit more time looking through their content and commenting on their content; so that you’ve got another way to engage them than creating your own.
[Dan:] Conversely, what about the company pages? You know, we’ve got a law firm, there’s lots of lawyers that are now active within the practice on LinkedIn. How do they collectively harness that on their company page?
[Kirsten:] Yeah. So again, I think, it comes back to: be purposeful. And then I really like the term that I know Brian [0:12:57] used to use for Tweeting and he used to say, “Tweeting en convoy.” And I really like the idea of using LinkedIn en convoy.
[Dan:] It’s the right term.
[Kirsten:] Yeah, you’ve got your firm presence, you’ve got your practice area – and it needs to be in sectors, and then you’ve got your individuals. And that way you’re actually reaching the widest possible network ever; because you’re using the reach of your firm and of your individuals.
And so in terms of the firm level, I think on those company pages, it’s really important to be active; so regular posting. By that I mean, weekly with fresh, relevant content and good headlines.
And then if as a firm, you have a hundred or more followers, then segment your audience so you’ve got the ability to target your updates. So you can send them to a specific audience. And it’s really easy to define that. And I think that really helps because if you can send messages that resonate with people, they’re going to take notice. Whereas, if you’re using your company page for job ads as well as updates from different practice groups, it can just get a bit – almost a bit congested, and people don’t take as much notice.
[Dan:] Yeah. I’m assuming that most firms would probably have a fairly static company profile page.
[Kirsten:] Yeah. I think a lot do from looking through. There are a few firms now who set up showcase pages for specific practice groups or industry sectors. And I think that’s great in firms where you’ve got the resources to manage that. From a client’s perspective, it’s great because you can choose to follow those parts of the firm that are of interest to you and you don’t have to search through updates that aren’t relevant. But from a firm’s perspective, it requires a lot more input.
[Dan:] And Kirsten, do you encourage firms to think more broadly about their LinkedIn approach in the context of also a content strategy as well?
[Kirsten:] Absolutely. Yeah. Because I think the two really go hand in hand. And the whole point of, you know, you want to generate work from LinkedIn. Then you’ve got to be sharing that content which is part of your content strategy.
I think the other way that LinkedIn can really help with that is through some of its paid features; such as sponsored updates and direct sponsor content. Because it allows you to put the firm in front of the right people and potentially get them into your pipeline. So for example, if a firm’s put together a valuable piece of content such as a white paper or how-tos, they could put off that as a download. And if they then sponsor that update, then the people that they want to see it, can, if they’re interested, click through and take action. And they then get the ability to market the firm on an ongoing basis.
[Dan:] From a marketing-budget perspective, it’s really insignificant too, isn’t it? I mean it’s not expensive.
[Kirsten:] No. I mean, LinkedIn is just minimum amount. It’s not a lot and I think you can test the water; a great thing. One thing I thought it would be really good for is prior to an RFP coming out. So for example, if you know that a client or an organization is going to [0:16:39] tender in three months, you can start to direct fee content that helps position you and use those pay tools to position it in the news feeds of people within that organization who are likely to be involved in the decision-making process. And that would be a really cost-effective way to tip that level playing field in your favor.
[Dan:] I think it’s a great idea. Absolutely. The perennial question that I’m often asked Kirsten, is, “What is the correct and perhaps the most effective etiquette when it comes to accepting connections and also asking for them?”
[Kirsten:] Firstly, and it sort of goes hand in hand with that is, “What do I do if I don’t want to connect with somebody?” And I think you’ve got to have really clear parameters in place so again, it will come down to your goals. So I’m quite happy to connect with people I don’t know if they work in professional services or are sharing interesting content.
So if I know I want to connect with somebody then I will accept. And I will then immediately send them a personalized email just thanking them for inviting me to connect. I’ll ask them something about their business and you know, take it as an opportunity to start a conversation because it’s not about just collecting connections for connection’s sake; it’s about building relationships. And even if it’s someone you know well, you’ve got the chance to find out how they are and just catching up for coffee which often, as you know, leads to work.
[Dan:] Yeah, absolutely. Indeed.
[Kirsten:] And then if you don’t know if you want to connect to somebody, there is the ability to reply without accepting. So if I’m unsure, I will often use that and say something along with the lines of, “I like to [0:18:27] to those in my network, can you let me know why you want to connect?” If they come back with a good reason, I’ll connect. If not, I’ll assume they’re just looking to grow their connections. And then if I don’t want to connect with somebody, I just hit ignore. They don’t know that you’ve hit ignore, they just aren’t connected to you.
[Dan:] Yeah. It’s what I love about LinkedIn, I suppose, rather social platforms out there. You can be quite specific and build a really engagement funnel, I suppose, with people you want to engage with.
[Kirsten:] Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I think the other really good feature on LinkedIn, and it’s one that not a lot of people know about, is the ability to tag your connections; which is essentially categorizing them. So if you are smart about that and you categorize people into say: industry sectors, or different job types, then you can make sure that your communications are really targeted. And you can send an email of up to fifty people at once, and you could actually do that by tag.
So it’s making sure that you’re getting the information out to the right people and it sort of supplements everything that you’re doing through your client relationship management system.
[Dan:] And one question I’ve got to ask you Kirsten is that, I know it drives me mad when perhaps somebody has posted a piece of fresh content and I’ve also clicked the option to send that content into my email box. When should you use that approach and when should you not?
[Kirsten:] Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t like it. And I think if you put up a post, people will say [0:20:03] a couple of weeks down the track you can share it as a status update. But I think safer emails for a content that’s really going to matter to people.
So say for example, there’s some upcoming legislation that you’ve just heard about. Then you might want to give a heads up to certain people and send them an email that way. Or one way I’ve seen InMail used really well, which is LinkedIn’s paid for email system, so that’s where you can email people that you’re not connected to and don’t know.
There was a financial planner in Australia, and at that time the Australian government were offering a rebate if people submitted their health insurance forms by a certain date. And not a lot of people knew about it. And so he used LinkedIn’s search feature to identify the prospects and he then sent each of them a personal email letting them know about this; and that was a great tactic. Because obviously they came back and thanked him and gave him work on the back [0:21:06].
[Dan:] Yes, that’s a great example.
[Kirsten:] Yes. So I think it’s just safer emails for the personal exchanges and sharing content is going to be really valuable. And in connection with that a lot of people say, “Well, why won’t I just use my normal email system?” Often, your normal email system just gets so overrun with emails. And if you’re busy doing something, you tend not to read everything or it goes into a folder to read later. And when people go into LinkedIn, they’re actually taking the time to go into the platform and generally will read through the emails that they’ve received. So it’s just almost a less intrusive way of getting content through to them.
[Dan:] And endorsements. I often hear from lawyers that they’ve been endorsed by people that sometimes they haven’t got a clue who they are.
[Kirsten:] That’s another really common question. I think one of the problems is that LinkedIn has a box that appears on your homepage saying, “endorse people for their skills.” And often if people haven’t filled in their skills, it’s left out for the LinkedIn algorithm; which isn’t always exact. It can often be really way off the mark.
So I think, if you’re going to be endorsing anyone, go to their profile and endorse them for their skills that they have listed. And if you want to be endorsed for the right skills, then it comes back to creating a profile and going into that section and listing your key skills.
Now, you can also opt out being included in endorsement suggestions which would eliminate that problem. But I found that just by completing those key skills, it not only helps you get found in LinkedIn search results, but it results in you getting endorsed for the right skills.
[Dan:] Yeah, yeah. Right. Kirsten it’s been such a great bunch of information there for people. Thank you so much.
[Kirsten:] Thanks for the opportunity.
[Dan:] And how do people find you?
[Kirsten:] So you can find me on LinkedIn if you just look for Kirsten Hodgson, or my website is www.kscopemarketing which is k-s-c-o-p-e-marketing.co.nz.
[Dan:] Wonderful. Thank you.
[Kirsten:] Thanks, Dan.
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