A polished social media presence is now an indispensable business development tool for professionals, and even large law firms, traditionally hesitant about new technologies, are embracing social media, and the networking opportunities such platforms offer.
A major Australian law firm embarked on a project designed to ensure each of their legal operatives create a professional presence on LinkedIn, showcasing their skills and expertise, and promoting the firm’s work and achievements.
I assisted one of the firm’s partners in building a LinkedIn profile.
As I was dealing with someone with a very busy professional schedule, and precious little disposable time, we worked together in 30-minute blocks to achieve an overhaul of the LinkedIn profile.
We started with the basics. First, we selected a strong password, and enabled two-step verification on the account, for the maximum security offered by the platform.
Acknowledging that online security is never an absolute, and it is best to be prepared for the possibility of a security breach, we also discussed various scenarios, such as the hacking of the account, and developed emergency response plans for various scenarios.
We followed up with a step-by-step review of the account, privacy, and communications settings to ensure an appropriate balance between the partner’s desire for privacy, and the proposed business development and networking use of the platform.
I would emphasise the need for turning off the ‘Sharing profile edits‘ option under ‘Privacy,’ while you are making a series of updates to your profile, otherwise your entire network will be receiving notifications as you make each change.
Next, we customised the public profile URL.
Doing so makes a profile look more professional, and makes sharing the profile easier. This can be don by clicking on ‘Contact Info,’ then ‘Update your public profile settings,’ and finally the little pencil under ‘Your public profile URL‘.
While on the ‘Public Profile‘ page we also conducted a review of how the public profile will appear to others.
This is done by selecting (or deselecting) the sections of the LinkedIn profile one wishes to be visible to the public at large. The default position should be visibility for all sections, unless there is a particular reason not to show specific sections.
Profile and background photos
We also checked whether the profile photo selected was appropriate for the platform.
A profile photo is a must – a LinkedIn profile with a photo is 11 times more likely to be viewed than one without.
The profile photo should be professionally taken, or be a photo taken in a professional style (no selfies), with conventional wisdom dictating that the face should take up about 50-60% of the frame for maximum visual effect (personally, I have been known to duck this wisdom from time-to-time with my profile photos). Make sure the profile photo is relatively recent.
The expression in the picture should be that of an approachable and relatable person – it should exude the image of someone you would like to engage in conversation.
Your clothes in the picture should reflect what you wear to the office on a daily basis, but should be at least business casual.
The background in your profile photo should be simple and non-distracting, although an office setting is acceptable.
You should also add a background photo to your profile to increase its aesthetic appeal. There are a number of stock photo providers online who offer professional copyright-free images you can use for this purpose, such as: pixabay and StockSnap.
Next we added the appropriate contact details, including mobile phone, work email, and the firm’s website.
We kept the professional headline simple and to the point: ‘Partner at …’
You can be as conservative or creative here as your personal preference, your clientele, or the etiquette of your industry allows. Just remember, you are limited to 120 characters.
The summary is critical.
Often the summary is as far as most visitors to your profile will go, unless it offers a strong reason for them to stay, and read on.
It has to be succinct as you are limited to 2,000 characters. It should be personal, and in the first person. Remember, LinkedIn is a social profile, admittedly a professional social profile, but it’s not a CV or resume in the traditional sense.
Craft your summary to appeal to your target audience, offering a brief overview of your key skills, areas of expertise, and significant achievements.
Make sure your summary is rich in the relevant keywords (but not buzzwords) that best describe your skills and experiences – this will help your profile to fare better in searches.
Your existing professional CV is often a good starting point for this summary, but the summary is something you should consider and draft well in advance, so you can inject your personality.
This will be a relatively straight forward section for most professionals, keeping in mind that the description should be brief, and engaging to hold the reader’s attention.
As with the summary, your experience should be in the first person. Start with a brief description of your role, then focus on your achievements and demonstrable results.
Don’t just copy and paste your existing CV or resume.
This is another important section where you can list all your relevant skills, and can be endorsed for them by clients and colleagues.
This is a good section for highlighting professional, technological, administrative, managerial, and leadership skills.
This is a useful section for professionals to refer to admission into law societies, and various courts as a legal practitioner.
This is an excellent spot to emphasise various professional associations related to your practice areas, and other professional interests.
If you worked on any significant projects in the course of your career, they should be listed in this section.
Select the top 3-5 projects of your career, explain your role and highlight your contributions, achievements, and any demonstrable results.
If you write, or contribute to, articles in your area of professional practice, you should make sure all your articles are linked under this heading.
Doing so will demonstrate knowledge, and experience.
Unfortunately, new publications are automatically added at the end of the list of publications. This is not very useful, as most people would want this list to be in reverse chronological order, with their latest publication at the top.
Previously, moving your cursor over an individual publication revealed a ↕️ button next to the title of the relevant publication, which allowed you to drag it into any position. Unfortunately, the new web user interface released by LinkedIn in February 2017 removed this useful functionality, and many others.
Honours & Awards
If in the course of your career you received any notable honours or awards, whether professional or national civil recognitions, you should list them under this heading.
Previously, the various sections in your profile could be rearranged into any order you wanted them to appear.
Unfortunately, the new web user interface released by LinkedIn in February 2017 also removed this functionality.
Once your profile is set up, you should make connections. It’s a social network after all!
In the first instance, you should connect with your colleagues, existing clients, and professional contacts, and it will build from there.
When sending an invitation to connect, never use the template message. That’s just so anti-social and … rude.
Never hit the ‘Connect‘ button in your phone or tablet LinkedIn App, because usually those will send the template message by default, without giving you the option to personalise your message.
Always send your LinkedIn invitations from the LinkedIn website in a full browser.
Your connection request should be a brief, personalised message explaining where you met your desired connection, or your other reasons for the connection request.
And remember, you don’t have to accept every invitation you receive to connect.
In fact, you should be ‘selective.’
LinkedIn is a professional social network where you should build a professional network that reflects your professional focus, and career aspirations.
If you don’t know the person from whom you received a connection request, and they didn’t explain the reasons for wanting to connect with you to your satisfaction, if the person appears to be an inappropriate professional contact for you, or if the profile feels ‘dodgy,’ you are entitled to reject the request.
It’s your network after all.
Keep it up to date, and be social
Once you are all done, you are not really done.
Make sure to keep your profile updated, make new connections, join groups and discussions, and be social.
One very happy, grateful, and relieved partner
Needless to say, by the time we worked our way through all of the above, and more, I had a very happy, grateful, and relieved partner on my hands, who now has an amazing LinkedIn profile without having to go through that daunting journey alone.