LinkedIn and how to use it

Entering the realms of social media may make you feel like Eliza Doolittle when it comes to understanding how to behave in polite society. Rest assured that the following tips will have you understanding social media etiquette quicker than you can say “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

Whether you are a later lawyer, a senior associate actively looking to build your profile, or someone who finds yourself grimacing at your colleague’s latest online updates, here are some suggestions to start you on your way to social media success.

If you have read some of our recent blogs, you will now know that LinkedIn is the tool that we favour most for lawyers and job seekers. I’m focusing on LinkedIn today.

Adding and accepting – size doesn’t matter

It’s Monday morning and you are checking your emails. LinkedIn has just informed you that Dave from Glen Iris, an IT salesman, would like to connect with you. As a CBD M&A lawyer you briefly query whether you have crossed paths, but quickly decipher that in fact you have never encountered Dave. ‘What harm would it cause to have an additional contact?’ I hear you ask.

LinkedIn posted an interesting article on the risks of accepting potential hackers (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-youre-being-scammed-linkedin-protect-yourself-anna-gervai, Written by Anna Gervai). Whilst I promise not to lecture you on the risks of online security, I can assure you that as a recruiter I would never judge a candidate on the size of their LinkedIn connections list. Therefore, when considering whether to accept Dave’s request, do not be driven by the need to have 500+ connections on LinkedIn: this is not a popularity contest.

Have we met?

In the beginning, LinkedIn was designed for people to connect with people they ‘knew’- through professional interaction, a personal meeting, email or phone.

Over time, this requirement has softened, so you can ask to connect with influencers, interesting people, those you admire from afar, competitors you’d like to keep an eye on – anyone really. The recipient need not accept your request. If you’re on a connection spree, it’s still advisable to personalise your request if you can.

Having your say

You’re a trademarks lawyer who recently joined an IP law group. Do you write something controversial in the group to attract attention? Do you opt for something witty and current affairs related to spark conversation? Or do you stick to just ‘liking’ other users’ posts?

My advice is straightforward. Contributing to online forums helps you demonstrate your knowledge in your speciality and may very well encourage enquiries from prospective clients. This is a free marketing opportunity for you and your services. Do not feel that you have to reinvent the wheel every time you post. Even drawing your network’s attention to an interesting link or article is another great way of appearing on the home feed. Simply ‘liking’ a post will not develop your online presence.

Remember to seek advice from your employer before actively contributing to industry forums online. You’ll find that most organisations now have social media policies in place.

A spring clean

Enjoy the feeling of going through your wardrobe, book collection or garage and throwing out or creating a pile of unused items for charity? That same therapeutic feeling can be achieved through a good clear out of your LinkedIn connections list.

Setting aside some time to review your connections gives you the opportunity to connect with contacts you have been meaning to get in touch with and organise those coffees that are well overdue. It is also the impetus to streamline your online network by reinvigorating lost connections and drawing your (and maybe their) attention to current news and events.

This doesn’t have to be an arduous regular chore- two or three times a year will suffice.

He says/she says

One of the trickier items around social media is the question of endorsements: both giving and requesting them.

In our profession it’s not unheard of to request client testimonials or endorsements for a job well done. Approach this with caution.

First, there’s the obvious confidentiality issue of publicly drawing attention to a particular client (this may well be viewed by a competitor and may breach your employer’s social media policy).

Assuming it’s ok with your employer or if you are between jobs and looking to give your profile a little boost, do consider how your endorsement request may be received. Instead of making the request via LinkedIn, maybe opt for a personalised email in the first instance explaining your request and emphasising that there is no obligation.  You may get lucky but don’t be miffed if the request is rejected. That same person may champion you as a referee in the future, rather than agree to the public (and necessarily brief) online testimonial.

As I said earlier, quality will always trump quantity so focus on those former employers or professional contacts with industry prowess and relevance, rather than aiming for lots of irrelevant endorsements.

And if someone asks you to write a testimonial?

The same issues of confidentiality and employer policy apply in reverse. Be careful. Mature online users won’t be offended if you say no. And you can still support them in the future, just a little more privately.

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