I've been thinking this week about what it is that we can do as marketing professionals and trainers to have our partners, our leadership teams, and other lawyers begin to use LinkedIn and take full advantage of the myriad opportunities it presents. There's often a sticking point for lawyers around the first time that they issue their own post on LinkedIn.
Health and hygiene
Prior to sharing something, LinkedIn is a safe space. Lawyers can easily amend and present their own biography, add their experience, put in a job title to show what it is that they do every day. This is all safe because it's perfectly within their own craft. It's also the cornerstone for future success on the platform and it's something that we cover in The Global Legal Post Masterclass: How to make LinkedIn work for you and your firm.
However, having a perfect profile in itself doesn't do anything to proactively get you in front of any new audiences or even your own connections. Your profile on LinkedIn is something that simply exists until someone finds you through a specific search for you or through searching for something that your profile contains: your expertise, for example.
Often the next safest thing to do when you've set up your biography is to share something that someone else has written. Perhaps a post that was issued from your firm’s company page? Perhaps a post from your managing partner? Of course, there's still the odd example of ill-judged central communications that are best avoided, but thankfully they are few and far between.
The problem is that sharing these central communications is too easy and audiences don't really like it. LinkedIn made the conscious decision to reward 'shares' with fewer impressions over the past year as the recipients (your followers) simply scroll on by. If you insist on sharing a post, then please add in some of your own thinking. Better still, share the underlying content and draft something original.
Which brings us neatly to the inevitable: at some point to succeed on LinkedIn, you're going to have to draft some interesting, original content.
Compelling, original content
Some golden rules for creating original content. First, it needs to be of interest to your readers, not just to you. The difference in terms of reach is night and day. You'll get thousands of views if you say something that resonates with others and perhaps a few dozen if you write for yourself. There's one really easy way to find out what would be of interest to your clients: ask them.
Second, your post needs to pull the audience in with a strong first line, just as a headline would in a print title. The thing is that, unlike newspapers, the rest of the story is hidden until people have clicked on the link that says "more". So, if you write "This is the first in the series of webinars that the firm is running in relation to…" and you've hit the character count before giving people a reason to read on, they will not click through to read your story. Your post, in other words, will die on the vine. LinkedIn will spot no-one is reading it and stop showing it to anyone in their feed. It will have been a waste of time. This happens far too often.
Want more of these golden rules? You'll need to sign up for my course next Wednesday.
So, is it possible to go into this phase and convert doubters in one fell swoop? I'd suggest that it is. It's incumbent on us as marketers and as trainers to make this phase of experimentation as safe as we can for people just starting out on social media. What we may assume is normal and everyday practice, may well go against decades of training that encourages lawyers to be risk averse.
But everyone has an ego. And as hard as we might try and deny it, having hundreds or thousands of people read our words is a massive boost to our egos. It acknowledges our expertise and shows self-doubt to the door, maybe just for a day.
The trick is to work with someone who has had prior success on the platform. Whose posts do you, quite literally, like? What do you like about them? How can you emulate those for your own practice?
When you're first starting out with original posts, I always think that it's safe to do one of a couple of things. Either share something that's evergreen but useful – perhaps a guide to your area that is unlikely to change quickly or be contested too much. This can be shared any time. Or, share something that's relevant to your audience that's in the news with the simple facts: "X announces that Y has happened". This needs sharing when it is still newsworthy.
Now, having the help of someone else to draft this, or sense check it before you post will help. But what realty converts sceptics in one single post? Showing the author how far their post travelled, how many people read it, liked it, shared it, commented on it and saw it.
Once their interest is piqued, there's no turning back. I've had some posts seen by tens of thousands of people. One or two UK lawyers have their words regularly shown to hundreds of thousands of people. Do they suffer from self-doubt about posts before they publish them? Of course they do. They’re only human. But the subsequent statistics don't lie: they're convinced of the power of social media every time they share a post.
Simon Marshall is the founder and chief executive officer of TBD Marketing
The next online Global Legal Post Masterclass, Making LinkedIn Work for You and Your Firm, which is taught by Simon Marshall, takes place on 11 May. Click here for more details