This article will cover the most obvious social media network for professionals: LinkedIn. If properly used, LinkedIn is a great way to keep track of your network and to expand it.
My rule of thumb is that you should connect to people you work or have worked with who are also individuals you would recommend to others .Keep in mind that connectivity on LinkedIn is not an endorsement, but there may still be people you don't want to be linked to. You should not connect to some you've never met (even via email), but you may want to use LinkedIn to meet them.
If you look up someone on LinkedIn, they will receive a notification that you scoped their profile. This may result in a return view, an invitation, or nothing. You can choose to remain anonymous by changing your privacy settings under “Select what others see when you've viewed their profile”: everything, just industry and title, or completely anonymous. Usually, though, you’ll want people to know that you looked at their profile.
If you scroll down on a person’s page to "How You're Connected", you can find out if anyone you are already “linked” to is also linked to the person and can make an introduction. Send that person an email and ask for an off-LinkedIn introduction. This is a great way of using your network to connect with people you want to know.
Do you want to get a job at a particular company? Look up that company—LinkedIn will tell you if you know anyone who works there or if you know anyone who can introduce you to someone who works there. Then you can ask about next steps—or find out you really don't want to work there…
You can also search your connection's connections. Go to a connection's page and click on the blue number close to their name. (It may say "500+ connections", for example.) From there, you can type in a name, company, or job title to see whether your connection knows another person you want to meet or knows someone at a particular company or with a particular job title that is of interest to you.
Now, how do you create a profile that people want to look at?
Photo: Use a professional photo, preferably a headshot. If you don't have such a photo, find a neutral wall, put on a nice suit, and have a friend snap one with your phone. Under no circumstances should this photo include other people or drinks.
Headline: This should be both catchy and pertinent. "Private Practice Attorney Seeking Family Law Referrals" is pertinent but not catchy “Family Law Maestro” is so much better. This is the first thing, after your photo, that people will see. Get creative and show your personality. What do you want them to know about you? If you can't come up with something good, better to leave it blank, since further information will be conveyed in your current job title.
Current Job Title: Keep this up to date. You also may choose to include volunteer positions here. LinkedIn will automatically link your job title and job to the company page (if it exists) for the company you work for. If you're in private practice, make sure you take control of this page—it's yet another way for people to find you!
Summary: This is where you can expound upon who you are and what you do—and what you can do for the person looking at your profile. Keep it brief but interesting.
Mastered the Basics? Move on to these to make your profile pop!
Experience: Flesh out your work history with past positions and job descriptions. As with any resume, if you're looking for something specific, tailor the job descriptions to what you're looking for.
Education: The real benefit to adding your education to your LinkedIn page is to solidify connections with alumnae. It also helps people know, at a glance, if you're the Jane Smith they're looking for or not. And, as with any social medial presence, you want to be found.
Organizations/Interests/Languages: As on a resume, these help distinguish you and your abilities from other users. However, in addition, LinkedIn will link to organizations and interests so that you can find people with similar interests or who are involved with similar groups.
Skills: This section used to be called Expertise and Endorsements—feel free to use it, but keep in mind that, if LinkedIn changes the name again, you should hide it from your profile. The bar associations of California, Florida, and New York have found that LinkedIn Expertise listings qualify as claiming to be a specialist, which is regulated in all three jurisdictions. The ABA has recommended that attorneys not use the "Expertise" section on LinkedIn. Now that it's simply "Skills", use with caution. Endorsements appear to have been removed from the site, but may come back.
Volunteer/Causes: Set yourself apart from the crowd by revealing what you spend your free time on.
Recommendations: Ask former co-workers to recommend your work—and reciprocate!
Groups: This is one of the most powerful features. Join your alumni networks, groups dedicated to your area of practice or interest, and any other group that seems like it might be pertinent to you (LinkedIn will helpful recommend these every time you log in). Once in the groups, you’ll be visible to—and able to see—other members. Post links of interest to the group or simply comment on posted links to increase visibility and interest in who you are.
Taking it to the next level.
Publications: Do you publish? Link to it! Even if it's beyond a paywall, you can add the title to give visitors to your profile a flavor of the kinds of things you publish.
Pulse: LinkedIn has a newsfeed called Pulse that allows you to use it as a publishing platform. Check out this article about how to use LinkedIn to get into people's feeds.
Ninja Updates: Turn off “activity broadcasts” in your Privacy Controls before updating your page if you’re looking for a job (it may be a tip to people in your company that you’re starting to look). Turn them on when you get a better job to show up in your connections’ feeds with a prompt for them to congratulate you.