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LinkedIn continues to be the favorite social networking entry point for lawyers, law firms, legal marketers and other legal professionals. It is the safe, honorable, professional business networking and research site that most closely resembles the profession’s culture and image. Given this comfort level with LinkedIn, here are five things you need to know about the “skills and expertise” section.
1. What are these skills’ endorsements? Last October, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature called LinkedIn Skills’ endorsements, allowing your first-degree connections to “endorse” your skills and expertise with one click. Your “skills” appear in your profile as short words or phrases that describe what you do. They are then listed on your profile under “Skills & Expertise” in order, with those skills most often endorsed listed first. The basic intention is to add credibility and have others speak up on your behalf. To lawyers, this might play into the effort to build that “know, like and trust” factor that clients seek and deserve. Whether you like this feature or not—and there are many on both sides of the discussion—it appears it is here to stay. In social media years, of course, “here to stay” might mean the next few months until LinkedIn decides to change its mind. Change is the norm, so we don’t expect any features to stick around too long.
This quick-to-change, short-term mindset doesn’t mean you should ignore new features. A better approach is to stay on top of opportunities that are presented, then decide which ones make good business sense, fit into your business and marketing plans, as well as your personality, and, last but not least, fit into the strict code of ethics in the legal profession.
2. What’s the difference between a recommendation and an endorsement? Recommendations have been around for a while. I’m sure you’ve all seen them, received them, given them and have opinions about how they fit into your LinkedIn presence. Some states do not allow them, so it’s important to research the rules in all the states where you have a presence before allowing them to appear on your profile. While Skills & Expertise endorsements are short phrases or words, recommendations are longer form—often detailed—testimonials, as you can see from Patrick Lamb’s profile below. Recommendations have their own section on your profile, and can add real value if written with thought.
If your state is not excited about LinkedIn recommendations, then simply send the kind client or advocate a sincere thank you, letting them know how much you appreciate their support, but that you are bound by rules of the profession that do not allow such testimonials.
3. What does it mean when others endorse you? So suddenly others are endorsing your skills. What does that mean? The short answer is either “something” or “nothing.” Often these endorsements are given by people who truly know and like you and your work, and who understand what you do for a living. When given in this vein, they are wonderful. Plus, they provide more digital breadcrumbs that help build credibility, are searchable, invite interaction between you and the giver, and lead back to you and your skills. Who wouldn’t want that?
As you can see below, they become a compilation of the skills others might think describe you.
On the flip side, and this is where the “nothing” could come in, sometimes skills endorsements are given without any thought other than to get on your radar—or because someone unrelated to your target audience just happens to click on a few skills without having any idea what you do. These ill-fitting skills can then become confusing to those viewing your profile.
LinkedIn at least sends us emails about new skills that others have suggested, so we always have the option to turn them down, which means they won’t appear on your profile. Additionally, you can delete skills you don’t want to appear, or those from people who have endorsed you if you don’t want others to see them as your advocates.
4. Do you need to reciprocate when others endorse you? The short answer is no. If you have a large number of connections on LinkedIn, you will find there are many very kind people who endorse your skills. This happens easily because we are all presented with suggested skills to check off while we are maneuvering around LinkedIn. That makes it very easy to simply click on these skills as we happily make our way around the site in our daily networking.
What this means, however, is that it could become difficult to keep up with the number of people who endorse you. It takes time to go back in and endorse every one of them for the skills you know apply to them. Also, there will be times when, as much as you’d like to, you simply do not feel comfortable making an endorsement. You want to remain honest and genuine, so don’t ever feel obligated to endorse others only because they endorsed you. On the other hand, if it fits into your personality to reciprocate, and you can keep up without offending those who might be monitoring this closely, then do so.
But always remember that your credibility is at stake when you recommend or endorse others. These statements of support are, again, digital breadcrumbs that lead back to you.
5. How can I control the skills listed? LinkedIn suggests skills for others to endorse based on the keywords it finds in your profile. Now and then, though, LinkedIn gets these skills wrong. Most are relevant, but some completely miss the mark. I strongly suggest you take control of the skills listed by giving your visitors some real skills to consider endorsing. My philosophy is that you want to give your advocates something to talk about if you want them to correctly and effectively endorse, support and promote you.
If you’ve already spent time listing the skills you would like to be known for—perhaps in your marketing materials or website—and researching terms others may use to search for someone with your skills, then add these skills to your LinkedIn profile. It will take away some of the guesswork and increase the chances people will choose those skills when endorsing you. If you haven’t spent time yet on a list of your skills and areas of expertise, you need to do so right away—it drives many other parts of your marketing plan. LinkedIn lets you include up to 50 skills, so use them wisely. You don’t want to use all 50 if that means diluting those that are most important.
Of course, as with all marketing and communication, please temper all of this with your jurisdiction’s rules and ethics.
Nancy Myrland is President of Myrland Marketing and Social Media, and is a certified social media consultant, speaker and trainer, and a professional marketing advisor to law firms, legal marketers, administrators and lawyers. She has more than 20 years’ experience partnering with clients to build their business by strengthening their relationships with their clients. She is a member of the Legal Marketing Association’s International Board of Directors for 2013-2014. Follow her on Twitter @nancymyrland.
This post originally appeared in March 2013 as the Friday Five “What You Need to Know About LinkedIn Endorsements.”
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