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With more than 500 million members in 200 countries, LinkedIn continues to be the dominant social networking site for lawyers. Research from Greentarget confirms its use by 73 percent of in-house counsel for professional reasons. The same study also cites LinkedIn as the “only social media platform considered particularly credible” by in-house counsel. According to Attorney at Work’s reader survey, LinkedIn is in the top spot among social media sites used by lawyers, too.
Because of this widespread use by lawyers and businesspeople, LinkedIn’s potential to create and nurture relationships between lawyers and clients is significant. You need to be there, and you need to focus on creating a profile and presence that accurately represents who you are, and that reinforces your credibility and focuses on how you can help others.
There are many ways to do this, but one I am often asked about is the LinkedIn “Skills & Endorsements” section.
Introduced in 2012, the LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements section is an optional part of your profile. Depending on your jurisdiction, you will need to be cautious about how you approach this section. When it was first launched, the word Expertise was used instead of Endorsements, so we had many ethical concerns in the legal profession. The change to Endorsements helped, but you still need to remember that, just as with any description you would use to describe yourself and your skills on any platform or in any place, it is a best practice, if not a requirement in some jurisdictions, to avoid the use of words and phrases that don’t represent skills that are verifiable.
With the redesign of LinkedIn, the top three skills in this section are what others see when they visit your profile in what LinkedIn now calls the “Featured Skills & Endorsement” section. These skills are the only ones others see at first glance. Unlike prior versions of this section, your visitors have to click on “View more” to see the rest of your skills. They will also see a snapshot of others who have endorsed you for these three skills who also have these skills, as well as colleagues.
Note: Knowing profile visitors will only see the top three skills at first glance, make sure the ones you want to feature most are those they will see. You can do this, as well as perform any other edits, by clicking on the edit pencil in the top right corner of the Featured Skills & Endorsements box.
Reordering skills. When you click on the pencil to edit the section, you will be able to reorder your skills by clicking on the little icon with four lines to the right of each skill. The three you place at the top will be those your profile viewers will see at first glance when they visit your profile.
Don’t be worried if the endorsement numbers for your top three are lower than you’d like. LinkedIn suggests your top skills to others to endorse so those numbers will change over time. If those skills are that important for you to readily communicate to others, it is worth the time it takes to build those numbers.
Deleting skills. You can delete skills in this same box by clicking on the X to the left of the skill. For example, as a result of visiting my profile to create this summary for you, I deleted several that I thought were not words my clients would use when searching for someone with my skills.Note: You might want to put a reminder in your calendar to visit this section once every six months or so to keep it up to date.
Endorsements for skills not already listed won’t show up unless you approve them. If you’ve forgotten who has endorsed you, simply click on that skill to see a list of all who have endorsed you. If you want to hide or unhide specific endorsements from certain people, simply toggle that person’s endorsement off under the word “Visible” on the right. This person’s endorsement will no longer be included in the total number of endorsements shown for that skill. You can always toggle it back on if you change your mind.
You can list up to 50 skills. That doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. To add a new skill, simply click on “Add a new skill” in the upper right corner of the Featured Skills & Endorsements box. You will then have the ability to add those skills not already represented.
Always think of the skills on your profile as keywords, which means that LinkedIn and other search engines could potentially find and rank you higher should those keywords be searched by others. Spend a few minutes recalling those keywords that are critical to you and your practice. Make sure they are listed here under Skills & Endorsements and in other sections of your profile on LinkedIn, as well as in your newsfeed, groups, when you write posts in LinkedIn Publisher, on your firm’s blog, in presentations, interviews, and wherever else they make sense. Be professional in your use of them, avoiding keyword-stuffing.
Note: Remember to think like your clients and potential clients. What words might they use to research a particular topic?
After you click on “Add a new skill” and begin to type in the skill, you will notice suggestions for skills that are somehow related. In the example below, I began typing “Trusts,” and was presented with several options. Click to add any of these skills if they accurately identify skills you have and want others to see on your profile.
Note: If you are making changes you want to bring to your followers’ attention, toggle on the “Share profile changes” setting highlighted below. If you do not want to share them, then toggle it off. I can think of other sections I would not want to promote in my newsfeed, such as making a dozen minor changes in the wording of prior positions. Skills are important, though, so consider leaving this turned on so the change will be mentioned in your newsfeed. They might learn something about you they didn’t know before or perhaps had forgotten.
You have the ability to choose whether you want to be endorsed, to be included in endorsement suggestions LinkedIn makes to your connections, and whether you want LinkedIn to show you suggestions to endorse your connections. These options are accessible by clicking on “Adjust endorsement settings” at the bottom of your Skills & Endorsements section.
Do you need to reciprocate when others endorse you? The short answer is no, but it is completely up to you and your style. If you have a large number of connections, you will find that many very kind people will endorse your skills. This happens easily because we are all presented with suggested skills to endorse while we are maneuvering around LinkedIn. Although these suggestions are not as in-your-face since a recent redesign, it is still easy to endorse others.
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 and endorse every one of them for the skills you know apply to them. Also, there will be times when you simply do not feel comfortable making an endorsement. You want to be honest and genuine, so don’t ever feel obligated to endorse others simply 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 may monitor this closely, then do so. Remember that your avatar (your profile picture) shows up alongside each skill you endorse, so make them wisely and genuinely.
Some like to proactively endorse others for skills they know they have to get on their radar. LinkedIn alerts all of us when someone endorses us, so this can be a good way to pop up in others’ email inboxes or in LinkedIn notifications based on their settings. Always remember that your credibility is at stake when you recommend or endorse others. These statements of support are digital breadcrumbs that lead back to you so they must always represent you in the highest ethical manner.
As busy as you are, I encourage you to spend thoughtful time in this section on LinkedIn. We know our clients and prospects are using LinkedIn for professional networking and research. It is important to think about the Skills & Endorsements section strategically, making sure that if your jurisdiction allows this section to be listed, you are represented as fully and accurately as possible.
This article is from Attorney at Work’s new 80-page ezine, “Engage! A Lawyer’s Guide to Social Media Marketing.“ There’s more great advice from experts like Nancy Myrland inside, so be sure to download your copy here.
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