Focus on Brand and Audience to Leverage Your LinkedIn Profile’s Referral Power

February 2nd, 2016 by Search Influence Alumni


LinkedIn is for lawyers. If the anecdotal evidence—such as an attorney receiving a 10x ROI from a four-hour investment—is not enough to convince you, consider the takeaway from Chester and Del Gobbo in the ABA’s 2012 Law Practice: “Now that the use of social media is… widespread, disengagement is not the answer. The issues are not insurmountable, and being a wallflower lets others gain a competitive advantage.”

With a little forethought, LinkedIn can become a powerful referral tool.

The Discovery Process

Before you can present your online persona to the public, you need to set some objectives to guide your content:

1. Know your audience. When you know your audience, you not only know which of their needs you can meet; you also know what they are not interested in. Do not invest time on subjects or past experience that are not relevant to your audience, especially on a new profile. Not sure who your audience is? We can help.

2. Know your brand. Your brand is the value you offer others. To build a successful online presence, you want to become a thought leader, or “influencer,” on all things related to your brand. Thought leaders are not only recognized for how they think, but also for how they lead. Put another way: your audience is as motivated by trust and likability, the “leader” side, as by your perceived knowledge. To create a successful brand, you need to find the intersection of ability and likability.

When building your profile, every content decision you make should be based on demonstrating your ability to meet your audience’s needs or promoting your brand.

Opening Arguments

Two types of viewers will see your profile: the public and your connections. Connections can see all of your information, but public viewers need to click and scroll before they can access everything. You have three opportunities to draw public viewers in: the photo, the professional headline, and the summary.

LinkedIn Profile For Lawyers Image

Only your connections (right) will see all of your information at first glance. Use a descriptive professional headline to stand out to searches (left) and public viewers (center).

3. Use a photo. It should be professional, of course, but more importantly, it should support the brand you are promoting.

4. The professional headline is not a job title. LinkedIn autocompletes this section with your current job title, but you need to change it immediately. Titles such as “attorney” or “partner” do not tell the public about the services you excel at, the people you can help, or the value propositions you are passionate about. In other words, your job title may not effectively support your brand or target audience. Use a professional header that includes keywords and presents a value statement.

5. The summary is anything but. Your whole LinkedIn profile is a summary of your professional life—do not lead this section with an even more abbreviated version. Summarize your brand by looking to statements that address:

  • Who do I help?
  • Why do people trust me?
  • Why do people like working with me?
  • What have I accomplished?

The summary may be the last thing read by a viewer who is interested in you but still on the fence. Use it to encourage the people who are intrigued by your professional headline to become interested in your accomplishments.

The Evidence

Now you have drawn your audience into the parts of the LinkedIn profile that address job experience, education, and skills. Use these sections to solidify the claims presented in your professional headline and summary.

6. List accomplishments, not job descriptions. A list of responsibilities encourages your viewers to skim. Open each job description with a short (1–2 sentence) description of what you do. If you use a list, list your accomplishments, not your responsibilities. You do not need to give an exhaustive account; the purpose of these descriptions is to pique your viewers’ interest so that they contact you or look deeper for information.

7. Focus on the quality of skills, not the quantity. This is where knowing your audience plays a huge role. Focus on the skills that matter to them. LinkedIn ranks your skills by how many people have endorsed them, which creates a visual hierarchy that emphasizes about ten skills over the rest. By only listing a dozen skills, you create the impression of focused expertise. List too many skills, though, and the ones that are most relevant to your audience may be overshadowed by less important skills.

(Note: It is recommended you review your bar association’s guidelines on online advertising to determine if skills are considered to be claims of specialization.)

Closing Remarks

Very few of the people viewing your profile will read all the way to your volunteer work or organization memberships. That does not mean you should skimp on these sections; they are your opportunity to cement a connection with the people most interested in your brand.

8. Show your passion. This is another opportunity to bolster the “leader” part of your brand. Stay focused on causes that both you and your audience care about. Show, don’t tell, by listing volunteer experiences and accomplishments, honors and awards, and professional organizations.

9. Use publications and projects to encourage sustained engagement. Unlike most of the profile sections discussed above, projects and publications enable you to include URLs to outside sources. Direct readers to your legal blog or website to further bolster your online presence.

10. Do not just build a profile; use it. The lawyer who saw a 10x ROI from LinkedIn spent one hour building his profile and three hours building his network, followed by 30 minutes every week maintaining it. Plan on investing at least as much time sharing your profile as building it:

  • Join and comment in LinkedIn groups.
  • Regularly share updates and engage with other people’s updates.
  • Never stop looking for contacts.

Over time, a well-curated social media presence will grow into a second profile that shows who you are—the likable and trustworthy part of your brand. When designed with your audience and brand in mind, your LinkedIn profile becomes the cornerstone of a professional network that can drive referrals.