5 Types of Audience Targeting on LinkedIn (for Your Law Firm Content)

Screen shot 2012-04-19 at 11.39.53 AM.pngWith the recent announcement of Targeted Updates on Company Pages, LinkedIn has created yet one more way for lawyers and law firms to share content with segmented audiences on the professional network.

When it comes to Content Marketing, it’s all about reaching the right people at the right time, and LinkedIn makes this easier than ever. In fact, there are now five key types of audience targeting on LinkedIn, each with its own particular strength. Here’s a quick overview of each – and why they should be of interest to your law firm:

1. The Professional Network

A no-brainer, and first on the the list because this is where everyone should start. This audience might not be “segmented” in the traditional sense of the word (ie, exclusively leaders in the insurance industry), but, as a measure of the personal and professional relationships forged by each attorney in your firm, it is incredibly valuable.

I find that, given LinkedIn’s professional context, most connections in my network don’t abuse the ability to share and engage. I check in several times a day and the stream of content produced by my network is always fresh and interesting (more signal, less noise).

The takeaway: each attorney in your firm has the ability to grow a trusted audience on LinkedIn. Without abusing the privilege of this attention, your attorneys should be sharing law firm content within their networks. This is indeed a targeted group of readers for your updates and publications, including the ability to cross-promote expertise from other practice groups (example: someone in your Corporate Law group shares the latest white paper on an aspect of family wealth management for owners of private companies, produced by your Estate Planning team.)

2. LinkedIn Groups

Yes, group members are another form of targeted audience on LinkedIn. The act of joining a group is a form of self-selection, segmentation (“This is what interests me”).

Each group has its own self-policing set of rules regarding what members can share and how, but I have come to count on the daily and weekly group emails as another source of targeted information provided by LinkedIn. Your firm should be participating.

I find that most attorneys tend to join LinkedIn groups populated by other attorneys. A better strategy: join the groups that cater to the industries in which you work. Use those groups (in HR, energy, insurance, finance, securities, life sciences, etc.) to hear what is on the minds of the professionals you serve. And also, as appropriate, use those groups to disseminate meaningful, targeted content produced by your firm, on topics that matter to group members. Terrific thing about groups: engaging content often spurs immediate conversation.

3. Company Profiles

In our experience, by now most law firms have established a Company Profile on LinkedIn. And the recent Targeted Updates announcement pertains to this particular feature.

Your “followers” are already a well-targeted group on LinkedIn; they’re all professionals who’ve opted to hear from your firm. Every one of your updates appears in their network stream. Now, LinkedIn has produced a number of tools that make it even easier to segment that pool of followers, including the ability to share with people by industry, location, or company size.

It’s an excellent feature (and I suspect a response to targeting offered by Facebook and Google Plus), backed by the ability to measure engagement for your shares. In order to be effective, it does, however, require that you have a large enough group of followers in the first place. (At a glance, most law firm profiles appear to be followed by hundreds of people, not thousands.) Luckily there’s a solution; another new offering: you can now add a button to your website encouraging visitors to follow the firm directly on LinkedIn.

4. JD Supra’s Legal Updates on LinkedIn

Do I have a bias here? Absolutely, guilty as charged – and yet, our Legal Updates LinkedIn InApp remains one of my favorite ways to reach targeted audience on the professional network.

Why? Well, an update on your Company Profile is a way to reach people who have opted to hear about your law firm. An update via “Legal Updates” is a way to reach people who have opted to hear about specific legal issues that matter to their business.

With the former, you engage people who already know about you. With the latter, you extend your reach, engaging with people beyond your network who don’t yet know your firm and its expertise, but should.

Legal Updates distributes law firm content to any professional who has added the application to their LinkedIn profile. Users receive advisories and updates pertaining to their industry (insurance law news to people in insurance, finance and banking to professionals in that field, and so on) – and anyone can customize the feed to add any other legal subject that interests them.

The app allows your firm to reach a targeted audience beyond the scope of the network you and your attorneys are building. Content in the app is easily shared and it all drives back to the firm or attorney who authored the work in the first place. In this way, it complements your networking and audience-building as outlined above; we see readers connect directly to the firms and attorneys whose work they discover and appreciate via Legal Updates.

5. LinkedIn Answers

There are three types of meaningful audience available to your firm via LinkedIn’s “Answers” feature. The first: the professional who asked the question in the first place. Highly targeted because, most of the time, questions tend to be quite specific. It’s an opportunity not for a general update on a broad topic by one of your attorneys, but for a showcase of some pretty specific expertise. That’s worth the time it takes to find good questions and answer them.

The second audience: others who have answered that same question. In the mix, you’ll find professionals for whom this topic is important. Such people are worth knowing, and they should know about the expertise held by attorneys in your firm.

The third audience: lurkers, those people who don’t ask or answer questions, but browse or search LinkedIn Answers for the information they need. This will be the largest of those three audiences, and taken as whole, it is a good, targeted audience, worth your effort on LinkedIn.

Some attorneys will undoubtedly hesitate over ethical issues raised by answering specific questions on LinkedIn. I think you can craft a way to both share useful information and not bump up against those concerns. Either way, as with the other avenues outlined above, all roads should lead back to your firm, and the attorneys in it.