This is a presentation that was given to the Minnesota Legal Career Professionals (MnLCP) on January 12, 2011.
I always enjoy talking about social media. It’s a huge passion of mine, right up there with movies. I once gave an entire speech comparing Social Media to the Wizard of Oz. But don’t worry, that’s not this speech!
Throughout this talk, I will be making a couple of other movie references—so keep your ears and eyes open.
First of all, how many of you have a LinkedIn account? 24
A Facebook account? 25
Good, I am speaking to the advanced class.
But for those of you who may not know or need to find good analogies to take back to your colleagues here is one straight from the horse’s mouth, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner:
LinkedIn is a professional online networking site, as opposed to Facebook’s more social site. What does that mean?
While Facebook is in the business of helping you make connections in your personal life to facilitate social interaction, LinkedIn is focused on mapping connections between professionals, to help develop them within three degrees of connection.
By the way, anyone recognize these two folks? The one on the left is John Hodgman, he was the Father’s voice in animated movie Coraline. The other one is Justin Long, the voice for Alvin in Alvin and the Chipmunks.
And these are the real-life guys. The one on the left, for those of you who didn’t see the Facebook movie Social Network, is Facebook’s owner Mark Zuckerberg. The one on the right is LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner.
What do I mean by degrees of connection?
I’m sure everyone’s heard of six degrees of Kevin Bacon: a game created by four Albright students after watching the movie Footloose during 1994 blizzard. The four students wrote a letter to Jon Stewart, telling him that “Kevin Bacon was the center of the entertainment universe” and that every actor could be connected to him through 5 other actors or less.
Well, this idea of six degrees of separation has its origin from an Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy, who wrote a collection of short stories called “Everything is Different”. This idea influenced a great deal of early thought on social networks and LinkedIn is a spin-off of that idea.
I’ll give you some examples. Anyone that reads our blog, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, know that I am a huge admirer of Ashton Kutcher.
Well, I will have you know that I know people that know people that know Ashton Kutcher. He is only three degrees away from me.
And the same with Barack Obama. I, in fact, have a better chance of meeting the president than I do of meeting Ashton. It’s so sad.
Mr. Obama and I have a second-degree relationship while Ashton and I have a third-degree relationship—or what they call a loose connection.
Those third-degree relationships is where LinkedIn comes in and helps you to explore, build out and strengthen these more nebulous relationships.
Right now, there are 153 million people in the U.S. workforce and 3.3 billion people in the global workforce. This is LinkedIn’s target audience. And your potential audience.
Currently, LinkedIn has 135 million members in over 200 countries, with nearly 60% outside of the U.S.
And in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area there are over 1,700 LinkedIn profiles that show up in a “law practice” industry search.
So, now we’ve set the stage for why we have to active on LinkedIn, let’s talk about how do you market yourself in this digital landscape?
How many of you have heard of the Four Ps of marketing?
The four Ps are a basic principal of marketing that was introduced in 1953 by Harvard Advertising Professor Neil Borden in his American Marketing Association presidential address. The concept was later published in his article, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.” And, actually, he borrowed the term “marketing mix” from an associate, James Cullton, who developed the idea in 1948 to describe the role of a marketing manager. So if you ever wondered just what exactly a marketing manager does; well, you are about to find out.
The four Ps are:
So let’s talk about the 4 Ps in relationship to you. What is the product? That’s right: you. You, as an attorney, are the ultimate product in any law firm—you are the intellectual property of your firm. Only you know and have the relationships, knowledge and skills to negotiate, procure, and win business. So we know we have a great product—there is no denying that. But unless you are known you will not be retained. So how do we get you noticed? Well, that brings us to a sub-set of the first “P” –packaging.
What is packaging?
Well, at its most basic—it is the manner in which you present yourself. It can be as basic as your personal style, your voice, your delivery of services. But in terms of LinkedIn, it is your profile. You have got to make sure that you are taking full advantage of all of the offerings available on your LinkedIn profile.
Many people overlook the additional plug-ins and sections that are available for your profile.
These plug-ins allow you to include certifications, if you are board certified, organizations, publications, legal updates, blogs and tweets.
I would encourage you to these over after the session ends and explore some of these options as well as many other third-party apps, including Martindale’s Lawyer Ratings, Amazon’s Reading List and the hottest social network, SlideShare Presentations.
Now, I am going to assume that most of you have already built out your profile. Let’s face it, LinkedIn has been around for 10 years—as a matter of fact, it was founded in Reid Hoffman’s living room in 2002. If you haven’t built a profile, then now is the time. According to Lisa’s Rule of Law Firm Technology, if the technology has been adopted in the general culture for 10 years or more, then Law Firms can safely bring it into the walls of their firm.
So let’s move on to the next “P”.
Now placement with regards to online activity is probably the most esoteric concept for people to understand since it is has no physical reality—it is all about virtual presence. So let’s look at it another way.
We know the basic marketing principle behind placement is which shelf in the grocery store that you want your box of cereal to be—optimally, at eye-level.
Well, the same holds true for LinkedIn. So LinkedIn’s goal is to be where the eyes are.
So what is LinkedIn doing to help you make this happen? LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner (3:10) explains that “when you meet someone in a professional context for the first time, one of the first things you do is exchange business cards—you exchange professional identities. We have learned that the more our professional identity is out there, the more potential opportunities accrue to us.”
“Whereas if you were to meet someone in a personal context or in a social exchange—say that you go to a party and meet someone for the first time—it’s very rare that you would say, “here’s my home address and my cell phone number.”
“So there is a difference with regards to the context.”
“So that the more that people can put their professional identity out there—in LinkedIn’s case—it’s your profile—you update your profile. The fresher and more relevant your profile information, the more likely it is to be search-engine optimized. So when someone does a search on a major search engine for your name or someone like you, your LinkedIn profile is going to show up at or near the top of the results.
That’s an incredibly valuable piece of digital real estate because you get a chance to represent your experience, your skills and, most importantly, your ambitions. And that’s how opportunities accrue to people and the more they see these opportunities, the more engaged they become. Not only with their profile, but with their network, sharing information and knowledge within a professional network.”
So that leads us to search-engine optimization. Simply put, you want to make sure that you are on the first page of any search engine result. So, say for example, you perform a search for Minneapolis trademark attorney, you make sure that you or your firm’s name shows up in the search result.
I’ll give you an example, we at Fulbright have worked really hard to make sure that all of our attorneys show up on Google’s first page if you do a search for them.
So for instance, Ronn Kreps’ firm bio is number one, followed by his LinkedIn profile. That’s the way we like it at Fulbright and we built our web site with this purpose in mind.
So how do you make sure that your LinkedIn profile is search-engine optimized? Make sure that you are building your profile with your target audience in mind. One common mistake that I see, is that profiles are built to an internal audience. They write things like so-and-so is a “practice head” or so-and-so “leads a department”.
If a GC or a business owner is looking for a lawyer, they are not necessarily looking for practice heads or department leaders; they are looking for law firms, attorneys or lawyers. So make sure and use these kinds of words liberally in your profile. There are a number of locations in your LinkedIn profile to plug these words in: your summary, your experience, your organizations.
Another way to search engine optimize your profile is to update it regularly. You might want to calendar a 15-minute task once a week to make sure and update your profile with fresh content. Which leads to the next “P”: Promotion.
Now, most attorneys don’t like to talk about promotion. They start getting nervous about advertising rules and ethics. Which they should.
But there is also this knee-jerk reaction to any form of marketing that go back to a time when lawyers could just hang out a shingle in their home town and wait for work to come in.
Well, those times are gone.
In 2011, the ABA reported that there are over 1.2M lawyers in the United States (ABA). In Minnesota, there are just over 23K—with a population of roughly 5.3M people, that’s 1 lawyer for every 227 people.
According to a 2011 New York Times article, 888 folks had passed the Minnesota bar. Legal services has become an increasingly competitive market place. I still remember when the first commercial by a lawyer came out in Texas. I was a freshman in college and was sitting in the dorm’s TV lounge when a whole room of college kids began booing at the screen.
Now, it is just a fact of life.
Plaintiff and criminal lawyers have seen the advantage of this and have plowed full steam ahead. Bigger defense firms have been much more reticent but as they get squeezed out of more and more market share by other law firms, they are beginning to take legal marketing more seriously.
So how can you use your LinkedIn profile to help promote you and your law firm without violating any ethical rules? In short—a disclaimer.
Make sure and study your ethical rules with regards to board certification and make sure that you put appropriate disclaimers to ensure that you are not creating any expectation of a attorney-client relationship. Those are the most basic of guidelines. – by the way, this particular disclaimer is pretty interesting. It is from a 2009 30-minute fan film called the Hunt for Gollum, which is based on the appendices of the Lord of the Rings.
But, in all seriousness, there is no need to fear posting on LinkedIn. My general rule of thumb—which I got, by the way, from the general counsel of the European Newspaper Financial Times—don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t put in a business email.
So let’s get back to promotion.
Do you know what the most under-rated tool is on LinkedIn?
The status update.
I bet you thought I was going to say groups. Well, as you will soon see, this will factor into this ubiquitous but under-utilized tool.
Let me give you a good example.
One of our lawyers just finished writing an article. He wants to get it published—every single lawyer that I know wants to get their article in a law review journal or a legal periodical. Fair enough; there is a merit to that desire. It legitimizes you, it gives you some street cred.
But I would argue that these publications do not get in front of your target audience. Remember, people that might retain your services may or may not be readers of these types of publications.
And in this day and age, who has time to read?
Everyone is increasingly relying upon Kindles, iPads, search engines, keyword results, scraped content, Law360 emails, other emailed newsletters and the like.
So how do you take advantage of that?
A few simple steps:
- If the magazine has agreed to publish the article, immediately list it on your LinkedIn profile with a link to the online publication. If the publication does not have it published online, then make sure and it get it online somewhere. Fulbright regularly post our lawyers’ reprints to our firm’s web site.
- Once the article is on the web, post a status update on your LinkedIn profile. This automatically sends a notice to all of your contacts that you have just written an article. This is reaching your first degree relationships.
- Next, post a status update on any group that you belong to. This will send a notice to all of the group members that you’ve just written an article—this is reaching your second and third degree relationships, or people you don’t know but who have similar interests and who you’d like to get to know.
- Next, advise the site administrator of your firm’s LinkedIn profile so that they can post it as a status update on the firm’s LinkedIn page. Faegre & Benson is doing a good job of this.
- Lastly, If you have access to any other social media pages like Twitter, Facebook, etc., make sure that this same information is sent out to these sites.
So, theoretically, an article written by the attorney that I mentioned to you in my earlier example has now has gotten in front of: 43,000 hard copy readers + 100 LinkedIn contacts + 250 members of LinkedIn Group 1 + 100 members of LinkedIn Group 2 + 4,000 LinkedIn Company followers + 2,000 Twitter followers.
And the biggest difference between those hard copy readers and the LinkedIn connections?
What is the likelihood that someone will tear out your print article and mail it to a colleague versus someone pushing the Forward/Retweet button? It is so much easier to do it electronically—it makes the person forwarding the article look smart and, ultimately, it makes you look smart.
There is just not enough good content out there. The web is starved, hungry for fresh content. That’s what keeps the beast going. So if you are speaking, writing, meeting, talking, going to meetings, why not get all the mileage you can get out of your activity by providing status updates?
By putting your select, well-positioned and strategic updates online, you are positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
I call it the “Cocktail Party” strategy.
We have all been at those cocktail parties where someone walks in and just seems to take over the room. They know everyone, everyone knows them and now they know that the party just got good and now, we are all in for a good time.
Well, you can be that person. But you can’t do it if you aren’t at the cocktail party. Heck, if you aren’t on LinkedIn and participating, you don’t even realize that there is a party going on.
I know of entire reputations that are made simply by being online. I have watched, first hand, entire reputations built on the web. Take 3 Geeks, for example. My friends Toby and Greg have turned themselves into Legal Technology rock stars by simply churning out their blog, tweeting good content and developing online relationships.
And the do think that the movie Julie & Julia was about cooking? No. It was about blogging. A girl decided to blog about her daily attempt to cook one Julia Child recipe a day. It was about blogging, not cooking.
And I have seen this happen over and over again in other industries: cooking, make-up, music, entertainment. And young lawyers are making their names known by simply connecting to one another online.
What don’t see are the behind the scenes interactions that aren’t on display online. Toby, Greg and I are constantly getting phone calls, emails, and lunches about going to conferences, doing product reviews and writing CLE programs.
Which leads to the final “P”—price.
Now, traditionally, price is the value that customers assign to the product. Both offline and online, this is a tricky proposition.
In pricing, there is perceived value, the reference value and the differential value.
What does this have to do with LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is free, so why do you have to worry about this?
Well, I think that the better measurement for LinkedIn’s spend is not money but time.
In today’s online economy, I measure not how much money I am spending online but how much time I am spending online.
Everyone hates the onslaught of emails.
My prediction is that everyone is going to get a clue and start pulling the plug on their lives. We will see more unplugged vacations, more unplugged retreats, more unplugged spaces.
We are seeing it in movie theaters and business retreats. Vacations that are off the grid are becoming more and more desirable.
And consumers are becoming savvier about Groupon’s daily deals and walking away from these fire sales.
We are learning, one by one, how to be more thoughtful about how we spend our time online. So it is about striking that balance between how much time we want to spend online and how much of our contact’s time do we want to take? We don’t want to exhaust our contacts and wear out our welcome.
So let us consider the contact’s perceived value of your status update. Everyone is always quick to say, “I am not getting on X, Y or Z social network, why should I care what so-and-so had for lunch?”
Agreed. We don’t want to read about that sort of drivel nor do we want to contribute to it.
Our updates, then, should be meaningful and pertinent to our audience.
That means that we should be carefully selecting and culling our contacts list and providing them with meaningful content that could make a difference to their business.
So don’t think about your contact list in terms of sheer volume. Instead, look at them as providing you with potential revenue. Now this does not mean only having relationships with GCs. It also means developing relationships with people who influence or come in contact with GCs. Do not be so single-minded to think that only lawyers know lawyers.
One of the best stories that I have about this is about one of our IT guys. Back in 2005 we were chatting when I found out that his daughter was an assistant GC at CountryWide. You know I beat a path to our subprime practice group! And don’t forget the summer interns—sure they may not have taken the job with you and may be working at a competitor. But that won’t stop them from moving to other jobs and possibly going in-house at some point in their career.
This just goes to show how your status updates can become valuable to your contacts because, they in turn, can use that information and Pay It Forward to their contacts.
The reference value is about how your status updates stack up against your competitors. If you aren’t making any updates, your competitors are winning that particular race. If you are making updates and no one else is, as Charlie Sheen would say, that’s WINNING! If you are in a competitive market, then you need to be hitting it hard and matching your competitors update for update.
The differential value is about how your updates differ from the competition. Are your updates short, forward-friendly and links easily accessible? Is the content inviting other to forward?
By the way, did you know that if you say “please forward” or in Twitterese, “please RT”, you stand an 80% chance of being retweeted than if you don’t? It just goes to show you: It never hurts to ask.
And include a link, be it a photo, an article, a video. And the link should be shortened so that it will maximize your space. There are all kinds of shortners out there: Tiny URL, Bit.ly are just two.
So in the in end, the price that your contacts pay is the time that they spend reading your updates. Make it worth their while.
So LinkedIn is just one tool in your online arsenal. I hope this whets your appetite and encourages to try other online tools—Twitter is another great online tool that integrates very well with LinkedIn.
In fact, you can now use #IN at the end of a tweet and it will automatically repost your tweet as a LinkedIn status update, but only if you if have your Twitter profile tied to your LinkedIn profile.
Finally, as it’s explained in the famous “ignore the blond” scene from 2001 movie, A Beautiful Mind, (2:02) real life economist John Nash says, “Adam Smith said that the best result comes from everyone doing what’s best for himself. Incomplete. Incomplete, ok? Because the best result would come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group. Governing Dynamics, gentlemen, Governing Dynamics. Adam Smith was wrong.”
This movie was based upon a 1998 Pulitzer prize-nominated book of the same name. In 1994, Nash ended up winning the Nobel prize for his revolutionary work on game theory. This game theory was the mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances that would end up playing an instrumental role in online algorithms for games, markets, auctions and peer-to-peer systems.
All of which led to the development of sites like LinkedIn.
“The best result will come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group.”