Marketing Tip
Leveraging LinkedIn as Part of Your Marketing Efforts     
By Michele W. Gibson 

For most ADR professionals, LinkedIn can be fertile territory for marketing their services and searching for prospective clients.  However, there is a process to using LinkedIn well, and it is quite possible to damage your reputation if you do it incorrectly.

Start With Your Profile     
Assuming you have a profile on LinkedIn (all ADR professionals should have one regardless of their market niche), this is your first step in the process.  Before you look at your own profile, take a moment to look at your competitionís profiles.  Make a list of what appeals to you in the way your competitors have presented their information.            

A.  What titles have they used for themselves and do they accurately portray what they do?  Attorney-Arbitrator / Mediator?  Mediator & Arbitrator?  Perhaps ADR Professional or ADR Professional Specializing in Intellectual Property Disputes.  Are the titles too long to show in their entirety in the brief search list?   

Just because your competitors are on LinkedIn, doesn't mean they're using it correctly.  If you think your title is better than theirs, then use it.  But before you decide on a title for yourself, make sure that it accurately conveys what you do and that the most important information in that title is at the beginning.  If possible, keep your title short enough that it doesn't exceed one line in the brief search list.

B.  Assuming that your competitors are not fresh out of school, they typically list some job experience.  Is that experience presented in a functional list that shows prospective clients what they are really capable of?  Or is it posted as just a list of prior employers with dates?  Remember that by listing your experience, you're trying to convince people that you can handle their cases, while not disclosing confidential information.  Line items such as "Successfully Resolved 35+ Aviation Disputes" or "Mediated 50+ Commercial Real Estate Disputes" tells the reader what your specialty is, how much work you've done, and that you've been successful.

C.  Age is more than a number, and in ADR work experience counts.  That said, readers donít need to know that you graduated from Yale Law in 1972.  In fact, giving them the date lets them arbitrarily decide that you are too old or too young to handle their cases.  List your educational institutions and relevant CLE / CE coursework, but leave off the dates.

D.  LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to add a lot of information that nobody is ever interested in.  Items such as what your social interests are belong on a dating profile, not on LinkedIn.         

Expand Your Connections         
After you have cleaned up your profile, it's time to add to your list of contacts.  Before you balk at this, let me remind you that many people will reach out to professionals partly because of whom they are connected to.  Being connected to the "right" people in your market niche can confer a seal of approval to your profile.  Even if you've worked in your market niche for 20+ years, the right connections can suddenly turn you into an overnight expert in the eyes of someone searching LinkedIn for the right mediator or arbitrator.

Adding connections does not mean you should start trolling LinkedIn for anyone whose name you recognize and, in fact, that has the potential to get you thrown off LinkedIn!  Instead, start by making sure that you are connected to all those people you really know.  Then take a look at their connections.  Are there people on their lists that would be appropriate connections for you?  If so, email your contacts and ask them if you can use them as referrals.  If they say yes, then send InMail to the prospective contacts indicating that your mutual friend thought you might be good resources for each other.         

Once you've expanded your list, make sure you export it to use for your email marketing efforts.  This will keep you top of mind with all your contacts.  Also, make sure you respond to all those pesky little LinkedIn reminders that tell you when one of your contacts has changed jobs or celebrated a work anniversary.  Not only is it a polite thing to do, but once again, it gives you the opportunity to be in the front of your contact's mind. 

Become a Giver Not Just a Taker         
The next step is the one that requires some ongoing work, but which will also yield long-term benefits for you.  It is important to get involved in some of the groups on LinkedIn that cater to your market niche.  While there are groups for mediators and arbitrators that help them with things like marketing, process, and training questions, what you really need are groups like those for people in specific markets who might be able to use your services.

If you specialize in IP disputes, then look at groups for entrepreneurs, inventors, and small businesses.  Perhaps medical malpractice is your thing.  If so, look for physicians groups.  Are you on the FINRA panel?  Go find groups for financial professionals.  Regardless of your market niche, there is a pertinent group or two for you.  Contributing comments and answers within the group will ensure you future referrals at a minimum, and I can show you several instances where an answer I gave directly led to business for my firm.          

In groups, you also have the opportunity to publicize recent articles you've written, the expanded resources section or your website, or the current issue of your newsletter.  You can even use groups to refer fellow ADR professionals when it wouldn't be appropriate for you to take the case Ė something that will surely lead to a referral for you from those colleagues in the future.     

Join LinkedIn Pulse          
Sharing content in discussion groups is one thing, but if you're someone who likes to write on topics within your niche, consider joining LinkedIn Pulse.  This is LinkedIn's "news" service, and the articles within it get recommended to LinkedIn members based on the contents of their profile.  If accepted as a writer here, you'll suddenly be a trusted industry expert whose content is available to thousands of other LinkedIn members.

Advertise it  
Now that you've spent a fair amount of your time updating your profile and getting involved in groups, don't confine your work to LinkedIn itself.  Make sure your website and other locations include links to your LinkedIn profile. 

In Conclusion         
I am always asked how much time one should expect to put into social media marketing in order to get results.  Assuming you do all the work yourself, crafting or tweaking a good LinkedIn profile can take 6-8 hours broken into multiple sessions.  This includes the time you spend studying the profiles of your competition. 

Adding LinkedIn contacts is something you should spend a few evenings on in the beginning and then 30-60 minutes each week.  The more time you spend, the bigger your sphere of influence becomes, and the more business you will attract.          

Finally, the amount of time you spend in LinkedIn discussion groups depends on how many groups you join and how active those groups are.  I always suggest that people check into their groups 2-3 times a week and plan to spend an hour or so weekly participating in discussions or starting new ones.         

The bottom line is that any time you spend on LinkedIn will yield significant results for you.  In some cases, you may not realize the business you are getting (or not losing) as a direct result of your updated profile and expanded presence on LinkedIn. But as your calendar tightens over time, you'll begin to start hearing from people that they found you on LinkedIn, and you will realize that your efforts are bearing fruit.

Michele Gibson is a Georgia-registered neutral and a certified emerging media consultant.  She is the president of Digital Smart Tool, LLC  which is an e-marketing firm offering website design, SEO, electronic newsletters, social media coaching, and marketing training seminars.

Phone: 404-592-3367  E-mail: mgibson@digitalsmarttools.com

 

 
 
     

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