In speaking to attorneys about how to use LinkedIn (“LI”) professionally, some people question whether they should accept a request to connect from an attorney at a competing law firm, or from someone they do not already know. There is no right or wrong answer. However, it is worth putting the question in context with how we traditionally develop business.
For example, can you ever imagine a situation in which your firm has purchased a table for a Constitutional Rights Foundation dinner, and when you attend the dinner:
- You arrive just as dinner is being served because you have no interest in meeting new people at the event, or handing out a single business card.
- You discourage the firm from inviting any of your clients because you don’t want people at the event to realize that you work together and with that knowledge try to steal them from you.
- If someone does happen to engage you in a conversation, you ignore their requests to stay in touch or meet for coffee.
Hopefully, you appreciate how misguided this thinking is if you want to develop business and network professionally. It is also a terrible waste of a great opportunity.
The same can be said for attorneys who only want to accept LI connections from people they already know. The good news is that the majority of people who are taking advantage of social media appreciate that it is an incredible opportunity to meet people with whom they already have something in common.
Four Tips For Adding Meaningful Connections
Here are four ideas for building your LI connections:
1. Scan The List Of “People You May Know” That LI Generates For You
LinkedIn will generate a list of “People You May Know” that will appear on the upper right corner of your home page, and, from there, you can click to “see more.” You can also access it directly by clicking “Contacts,” then “Add Connection,” and finally “People You May Know.” This list is reportedly generated using key words in your profile including employment history, education and interests. LI generates a list of suggested connections that also reflects people with whom you share LI connections. LinkedIn has also made it easier to narrow and shorten the list of recommendations. To do so, you simply click on a college, law firm, or company “logo” that will appear on the page with your LI recommendations.
The list is not foolproof. However, it is pretty amazing how many people you will know and want to connect with on LI. This is a great starting point for building your connections after exhausting the list of people you know are on LI. It is also why you want to take the time to fill out your profile. You can read more here, if you want help in putting together your profile.
2. Mine Your Connections List
Your connections on LI may be connected with people that you know or would like to know better. Sometimes they are hidden, but usually, you can see who is connected with your LI connections. These people are referred to as “2nd” degree connections on LI. You can connect with them by: (1) sending them a personal request to connect, and perhaps mention some of the people you know in common; or (2) asking the person you know in common (your “1st” degree connection) for an introduction through LI.
3. Use The “Advanced” Search Feature On LI
LinkedIn has an “advanced” search feature which allows you to find people by using various search criteria such as all people who worked at a particular law firm and live in California. This “advanced” search feature includes a wide range of criteria so you can narrow your search to people who work in specific industries, belong to certain LI groups, are “2nd” degree connections from you, etc.
4. Connect With People You Meet In Person
A day or two after you attend a networking event or conference, take the business cards you received, and send those people a request to connect on LI. It can be as simple as “Dear [ ], I enjoyed meeting you at the CRF dinner, and hope we can be connected through LinkedIn.” This message is sent through LI. You will add a connection, and also prompt most people to take a moment to look at your profile. It is a great way to start a professional relationship that you can develop further through the traditional methods of getting together for lunch or coffee sometime.
Engage With Your Connections.
These are only a few of the ways in which you can build your LI connections with quality people. As you continue to build your connections, remember to take advantage of your professional network on LI by posting updates. Some good uses of the status update feature are to publicize panels you are speaking on with a link to the program, or share a recent article by posting about it with a link. In addition, remember to be engaged with your LI connections by reacting to their status updates. If you are traveling for business, make a point of identifying any LI connections in the area, and try to meet them in person for lunch or coffee.
All the sage wisdom for networking and developing business applies to the connections you are making through LI and other social media. The opportunities are truly unlimited.
Michelle Sherman is Of Counsel at Slater Hersey & Lieberman LLP, a litigation and social media consulting law firm where she practices with some of her former partners from Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. Michelle has practiced business litigation for over 20 years, and took one year away from her large law firm practice to be a Los Angeles County Assistant Public Defender where she further sharpened her trial skills and won all her jury trials. Michelle also advises companies on all legal matters concerning their use of social media and the Internet, and also the issues with regard to their employees’ use of social media. Michelle is the editor and contributing author to the legal blog Social Media Law Applied, and teaches Law of Mass Communication at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.