LinkedIn Groups Gets an Update

LinkedIn GroupsI’ve long been an advocate of LinkedIn Groups as a business development tool, but, especially with the previous round of changes that separated Groups into a stand-alone app, many lawyers didn’t take advantage of Groups.

This month, LinkedIn announced it’s making some changes to its Groups feature in both the website and mobile app that should improve the user experience.

Groups will now be re-integrated into the main LinkedIn user interface for a more seamless experience, making it easier to access your Groups from the LinkedIn Home page.

With the new Groups interface, you’ll also see conversations from your Groups right in your main LinkedIn news feed. Threaded replies will be incorporated, and you’ll be able to edit posts and comments and reply to comments from the app.

Rich media features will also be added to Groups, allowing members to post video, multiple images or rich media links to Group discussions.

For those of you who are overwhelmed with email, you may be happy to learn that instead of getting updates from your Groups via email, those updates will now be incorporated into your LinkedIn notifications.

Changes in LinkedIn Group Administration

The previous round of changes to LinkedIn Groups included a lot of changes in how Groups were administered and monitored.

LinkedIn is simplifying Groups administration by reducing the number of categories of users in Groups to just owners, managers and members. Groups members who were previously designated as moderators will become regular members unless the Group’s owner elevates the user to a manager.

All Group members will be able to post in their Groups without prior approval. Group admins should block or remove members who consistently violate the Group’s rules since pre-approval will no longer be available.

Both Group members and admins will still be able to report inappropriate content to help reduce spam, and admins will continue to be able to edit or remove posts and comments that violate that Group’s rules.

Group managers will be able to pin items to the top of a Group’s feed.

Why You Should Use LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are an excellent tool for gathering valuable intelligence about your audience. By following Groups on LinkedIn that contain your target audience (existing and potential clients and referral sources), you can learn about their problems and concerns and see what’s important to them.

In Groups, people share information, brainstorm ideas, discuss their interests and challenges,  post informational articles or links and conduct polls, making it easy for you to get to know others and for them to get to know you.

Groups give you the ability to reach out to your target audience to ask for feedback, educate them about your services or the legal issues that affect their lives and/or businesses, demonstrate your knowledge, and increase your visibility.

Reviewing LinkedIn Group discussions and activity can also help you to generate ideas for new service offerings, blog posts, articles, presentations, and more.

Joining Groups gives you access to a wider audience that goes beyond just your direct connections. As a Group member, you can view the list of members who share a specific interest, and navigate to their Profiles for additional information or to connect.

Getting The Most Out Of LinkedIn Groups

To get the most benefit from Groups on LinkedIn you need to be an active participant, just as you would when joining a group or community in “real life.” Merely being a member won’t do too much for you-you have to get involved: start discussions, post interesting articles, engage with other Group members and their content, and reach out to begin one on one discussion or connect.

Engage naturally in Groups, just as you would in an in-person networking setting. Provide value. Don’t over-promote. Be sure to review the Group’s rules and abide by them. Post content that is relevant to the specific Group.

Don’t just post links – add your own commentary, ask a question or make a statement to encourage interaction.

The new Groups experience should begin rolling out to users shortly.

A Simple Social Media Plan for Lawyers

A Think social media is too difficult or time consuming? Here’s a basic social media plan that only requires about 1 1/2 hours a month – although you can expand and contract it as necessary:

LinkedIn Updates and Changes Every Lawyer Should Know

LinkedIn logoLinkedIn has been busy making even more changes to its platform lately. Here’s a summary of some of the changes and updates you should know about:

Skills and Endorsements

LinkedIn’s previously named “Skills and Expertise” section has been re-named “Skills and Endorsements” in part due to feedback LinkedIn received from lawyers who advised that many jurisdictions (including mine – New York) would not allow lawyers to complete any section under the title “expertise” without special certifications. The newly-named “Skills and Endorsements” section should cause less ethics headaches for lawyers. However, there are still cautions. To learn more about endorsements, check out my article on Law Technology Today, LinkedIn Endorsements 101.

Changes to LinkedIn Company Pages

In another article on Law Technology Today, I talked about LinkedIn Company Pages. That article gives a good overview of what lawyers can do with LinkedIn Company Pages for their law firms, but as of April 14, 2014, LinkedIn will be eliminating the Products and Services tab from LinkedIn Company Pages. It turns out that not too many users were taking advantage of this feature of Company Pages. In place of the information that used to be contained in the Products and Services tab, LinkedIn recommends two options. First, you can post Updates to your Company Page about your services. These Updates will appear both on your Page and in your followers’ LinkedIn feeds. You can even include video in your Updates. While this is one option, you may want to use this option for announcements of new services or initiatives, news or other timely items, rather than general descriptions of your practice areas and services.

Your other option is to use Showcase Pages to highlight specific services that your firm might offer. Showcase Pages were introduced by LinkedIn in late 2013 as a way to highlight specific products or services, or to allow businesses to reach specific audiences who might be interested in only a segment of the company’s offerings, rather than their general Company Page updates.

Essentially, Showcase Pages are sub-pages under your main law firm Company Page on LinkedIn, but they are dedicated to one individual service that you provide. Showcase pages can be helpful for law firms who have diverse practice areas and want to post different content to different audiences. As legal marketing expert Nancy Myrland noted in her post announcing Showcase Pages last year, Showcase Pages can also be a great way to institutionalize cross-selling, because all of the Showcase Pages link back to the main Company Page and to one another.

To find out how to drive traffic to your Company Page, you may want to read my post from the Legal Ease blog, “Driving Traffic to your Law Firm Company Page.” These concepts can be applied to your Showcase Pages as well.

LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn has been adding some tools within the platform to help you see how much attention your LinkedIn Profile, updates and Page are getting. For example, the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature of LinkedIn now gives you lots of information about the industries and locations of the people who have viewed your Profile, as well as information about how they found you (LinkedIn search, Google search, etc.) – even with a free account (although premium accounts provide even more information). In addition, at the bottom of the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” screen, LinkedIn will also give you suggestions about how you can garner more Profile views.

If you post Updates to your LinkedIn Profile, on your Home Page LinkedIn will provide you with information about how many views and likes your recent Updates have received under “Who’s Viewed Your Updates” in the right sidebar.

If you manage a Company Page for your firm, you’ll get Analytics (stats on the number of impressions, clicks, and interaction) and Page insights (Page views, unique visitors, page clicks).

Blocking Users

LinkedIn recently made some changes that will now allow you to block individual users on the platform. Simply go to the person’s Profile that you want to block and click the down arrow next to the blue button you see on their Profile and click on “block or report.” For more details, including what blocking means on LinkedIn, stay tuned for an upcoming post on Law Technology Today explaining how you can do it.

Three Steps to Using LinkedIn [infographic]

If you’re not a regular LinkedIn user, you may be wondering what it’s all about or where to start. This infographic was developed as a quick overview of three of the steps you need to take to build your LinkedIn presence. All of these steps are covered in more detail in the recently released Second Edition of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, which is available now (for more information about the book, you can click on the book cover at the bottom of the infographic)

Who’s Using Social Media?

Lawyers ask me all of the time whether they should get involved in social media platforms, and whether those platforms really do anything to help them build their practices or attract potential clients and referral sources.

When answering this question (or similar questions about any particular marketing endeavor), I encourage lawyers to first determine two things: first, what is their purpose or intended outcome (for example, do they want to get in front of a wider audience, have a platform for distributing content, build relationships with existing clients, or attract potential new clients, etc.?) and second, depending on that purpose, is the audience they are seeking involved in that particular activity?

If you’re seeking to target a specifically male or specifically female audience, for example, his infographic from InternetServiceProviders.org,  may help you to determine if your audience is participating on social media:


Social Gender Infographic

As I discussed in a recent post on Slaw.ca, if you have a business to business practice and in-house counsel play a role in selecting or retaining outside counsel, LinkedIn might be a good platform for you to consider. As I discussed in that post, the 2013 In-house Counsel New Media Engagement Survey revealed that more and more in-house counsel are influenced by blogs and social media, with LinkedIn’s “professional network” being the one they use most for their professional contacts.

Don’t forget that even if your audience is participating on a particular platform, you’ll need to ensure that your content fits with the culture of that particular site. It’s great to have an opportunity to communicate with your intended audience, but you’ve also got to make sure that your message will resonate, and not turn them off. For example, if your audience is on LinkedIn, don’t ignore the culture, which is one of professionalism and business-oriented discussion, rather than the more personal sharing that may occur on other platforms (such as Facebook, for example).

Google Plus for Lawyers

Google PlusI’ve been getting a lot of questions from lawyers lately about Google Plus – do they really need yet another social network to concern themselves with? The answer may depend on why you’re considering Google Plus for yourself or your law firm. Many lawyers evaluate social media platforms based on whether their clients use them. But if that describes you, at least in the case of Google Plus, you may want to adjust your thinking.

Google Plus is Google. You know – the search engine – the one everyone is always trying to ‘game,’ to pay “SEO experts” to ‘get to the top’ of, the one you may be paying for adwords or pay per click campaigns to boost your visibility or drive traffic to your website. If you’re serious about online visibility, you need to pay attention to Google Plus and Google’s related services. Google “favors” content from Google+ in its search results, and if you use Gmail and Google Contacts, they integrate with Google+, making for an easier user experience.

Finally, it’s FREE. Why ignore the free option and throw money at the paid services? And what are the chances that you will be found in organic Google search results in the future if you don’t have a presence on Google? Why take that chance?

Google+

Google+ is similar to other social networks; you create a personal (or business) profile, follow others ( by placing them in “circles”), and post content including links, photos, videos and other media. It has over 500 million registered users, of whom about 235 million are active monthly.

As with anything else, you will want to make sure your profile is credible, authoritative and contains good content and information about you.

Google+ Circles

Circles work like Friend Lists on Facebook, except that on Google+, you must add people to at least one circle (on Facebook, you can ‘friend’ someone without adding them to a specific friend list). Just as you do when choosing an audience for posts on Facebook, you can choose which Circles to share specific information with on Google Plus.

Unlike Facebook, you can add someone to a Circle without them having to add you back – it is a one-way, rather than a two way relationship. For personal profiles, if someone adds you to a Circle and you don’t add them to one of your Circles, they will only see your public posts on Google+. By contrast, business pages (discussed below) require that a user add your Page to their circles before your business page can add them to your circles.

Google+ Business Pages

Google+ also offers businesses the opportunity to set up profiles, called Google Plus Business Pages. Firms and organizations should consider consider setting up profiles on the site because there are many advantages to having a presence on the network, and Google is investing more time in business pages, as can be seen by the recent release of the Google dashboard discussed below. In addition, as mentioned above, Google wants more people to begin using Google+, and it has begun ranking posts to the network very high in its search engine. If you are at all concerned about optimizing either your personal or professional appearances in search engine results, this may be the main reason to set up a Google Plus account.

Google+ business pages can have multiple administrators, just like Facebook business pages can.

Google dashboard

Google has now made things even easier for its users by creating an integrated dashboard to help you manage your information across all of Google’s services, including not only Maps and Search, but also Plus and Local (formerly Google Places).

If you set up a Google Places account so that your firm could be seen on Google Maps and for purposes of Google search, the look of your business listing has changed to be more consistent with the look and feel of Google+, and the name has changed to Google+ Local. Now you can also combine your Google+ Local page and your Google+ Business page into one complete page that is both listed on Google Maps and incorporates the social features of Google Plus.

According to Google Engineer Pavni Diwanji, using the dashboard businesses can now:

  • Update core business information (hours, location, etc.) to Google properties such as search, maps and Google Plus.
  • Monitor notifications on their Google Plus page and manage their account
  • See “at-a-glance” data about their AdWords Express account
  • Create and manage special offers through Google Offers
  • Conduct hangouts (video chat) with fans and customers

Google+ Integration

Another advantage Google+ offers users is the ability to link to every single other one of their online profiles and websites. (Other social media sites allow the following number of outside links: Twitter-1; Facebook-2; LinkedIn-3). Google+ is the only one that allows its users to create a complete profile of all of their online activities in one place. This is also important for Google authorship, which is discussed in a bit more detail below.

If you are already using other Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Google Calendar, etc., you can easily share anything from them with your Google+ Circles. If you use Google Ads, your click-through rates will improve if you include Google+ material. Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) allows users to post reviews and photos of places and businesses directly to their Google+ pages. Google+ Events allows users to create events and invite people to them, then share photos and videos in real-time as the events take place, and it integrates with Google Calendar.

Google+ Hangouts

Hangouts used to refer only to the Google+ free online videoconferencing feature (which supports up to 10 participants), but now hangouts encompass what used to be Google Talk – essentially a chat service which supports photos and emoticons. You can invite anyone to join you in a video hangout (whether they are a Google user or not) on the spot or you can schedule hangouts for some time in the future and invite others to attend. You can even live stream your hangouts (called Hangouts On Air). Your hangout will be recorded and then you can easily share it on YouTube and Google+.

You can host or participate in a hangout from your computer, tablet or smartphone (iOS and Android).

You can also add apps to your hangout to collaborate through Google Drive, watch YouTube videos together and more.

Google Authorship

One additional reason to consider a Google+ account is Google Authorship.

As a recent post on Copyblogger points out, Google’s purpose is to encourage great content on the web. Their algorithm is built to return the pages or sites with the best, most current and most relevant content in search results. But they’ve also started evaluating content not just based on the site and the site’s reputation, but on the reputation of the author of that content (where that information is available). To take advantage of this feature, you need to have a Google Plus account.
When you search on Google, you may have noticed that some of the search results include a thumbnail photo of the author of the article or web page, like this (you’ll see one of my blog posts listed in the results with my thumbnail photo, my name and my Google+ stats):

Google search results on LinkedIn for lawyers

This is only accomplished if you have a Google+ profile and if Google can recognize that what you write on other sites is indeed written by you. Google outlines the steps for making that happen here. Essentially, you’ll need to have a Google+ profile with a recognizable headshot first. Then you’ll need to make sure that your byline appears on the articles you write on other sites. Your byline should match your name on your Google Plus Profile. Then you’ll go through a verification process on both ends.

To learn more about Google Plus, you might want to check out these links:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2013/06/google-releases-google-plus-dashboards-for-business-pages.html
http://webmarketingtoday.com/articles/Basic-Checklist-for-How-to-Rank-in-Google-Places/
http://www.copyblogger.com/google-plus-authority/
http://www.mycase.com/blog/2013/06/guest-post-kymeshia-morris-google-authorship-for-lawyers/

Are you using (or have you considered using) Google+? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.