Four or five years ago, I spoke with someone about the social network LinkedIn. She wrinkled her nose and said, “You know, I looked at that site because you mentioned it, but I just don’t get it. It looks like little more than a bunch of resumés and I honestly don’t see what use it has… besides using people you might know to get a job.”

Half a decade (and a pandemic) later, a lot has changed. Today, LinkedIn — which debuted a year before Facebook in the early 2000s — is far more than just about the professional networking. It’s a valuable medium through which businesses and organizations can promote themselves to an affluent, highly-desirable market of key decision makers. Companies can use LinkedIn to effectively generate leads, build their brand, and grow their revenue. LinkedIn Learning offers more than 15,000 courses (not a typo) for professionals at all stages of their careers, in a wide variety of topics. (Trending courses include everything from strategic thinking to figure drawing… really!)

But what does this have to do with NHBA, which, as a unified bar, doesn’t need to recruit attorneys? First, we go where our members are: and they’re on LinkedIn. Over the past weeks, for example, Attorney Michael Iacopino congratulated his colleague Jaye Rancourt for a recent success in the first jury trial since the pandemic. (Her client had appealed a District Court finding that he violated a temporary restraining order when he made eye contact with a former partner in a movie theater.) Attorney Steve Venezia was promoted within Planet Fitness (admittedly, a tough place to work these days) to Vice President of Leasing and In-house Counsel. Attorney Christopher Paul celebrated 10 years at McLane.. you get it.

Many companies encourage their staffs to have an active presence on LinkedIn and create LinkedIn “connections” with each other. They also ask their employees to follow the organization’s LinkedIn company page. (Are you following NHBA, BTW?) Note that companies have “followers”, rather than “connections”. This distinction appears to reflect the difference in the types of business relationships which may be formed on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is generally more formal and professional than other social media sites, so you’ll need to approach marketing there differently. (For instance, the hard sell that you may see on Twitter and other networks is particularly frowned upon.) There are two ways to promote NHBA events, trade shows, seminars, conferences, webinars, CLES, and services on LinkedIn: passively and actively. Passive marketing is a more “organic” approach: you post relevant content and hope someone sees the value in it. You wait for followers, rather than seeking them out. You let the market reward you for your content… if they can find it. Passive marketing is like dropping a leaf into a river and letting the current take the leaf wherever the water goes.

Passive marketing is becoming less effective over time, as companies become more knowledgeable and sophisticated about social media. Marketers using LinkedIn today are facing many of the same obstacles they experience on Facebook and other social media, where the platform intentionally drives down viewership of non-promoted (i.e, “unpaid”) content. This makes things exponentially more difficult for the small company working on a shoestring (or non-existent) promotional budget.

Active marketing, on the other hand, is more like navigating that same river in a canoe: you get to decide where to steer the boat (although there are no guarantees on how far you’ll get or how smooth the trip will be). Examples of “active” LinkedIn marketing include participating meaningfully in LinkedIn groups (or creating one of your own) and publishing articles of interest to your followers. You can also pay to have your posts and updates distributed to a wider audience.

Your company’s LinkedIn page should have the same “look and feel” (branding) as its web site and presence on other social networks. We pay special attention to our visuals (banners, logos, and status update graphics) to make them high-quality, relevant, and attention getting.

Reasonable minds differ as to how “regularly” to update your LinkedIn status. While some sources recommend posting updates at least once a day, having relevant content is far more important than high frequency with nothing more.

Consider developing content exclusively for your LinkedIn audience. Write with an eye to creating conversation, engagement, and signups. (After all, the whole point is to have someone do something after reading your content.)

Planning a big event like the Bar Foundation Awards or Midyear Meeting? Build excitement through your status updates. Email or send direct messages to members through LinkedIn. Publish updates to your followers and contacts as additional information becomes available.

THE BOTTOM LINE: LinkedIn is the gold standard for professional networking sites. It has matured into a venue through which serious B2B and B2C commerce can be conducted. Clever marketers can continue to leverage its free features and strategically use LinkedIn’s paid features to reach their target audiences with razor-sharp precision. LinkedIn company pages have been known to rank high in Google search engine results, helping our members and prospects find us. Be sure to understand the difference between LinkedIn and other social media platforms and observe its culture (rather than merely making the same post on multiple platforms.

– Lynne Sabean