What started as a snowball has become an avalanche. That’s lawyers using LinkedIn as their preferred directory and the evangelism of LinkedIn by marketing and PR professionals serving the legal profession.

The latest comes from Oliver Picher, president of Visible Influence, speaking about LinkedIn and social networking to the Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group.

Jason Lisi and Julie Meyer highlighted Picher’s presentation in an article in The Legal Intelligencer.

  • LinkedIn is for business connections much in the same way that Facebook creates personal connections.
  • Philadelphia firms, such as Fox Rothschild and Reed Smith, have as many as 45 percent of their attorneys and staff holding active LinkedIn accounts.
  • Legal professionals should import business contacts to identify those with LinkedIn accounts and invite them to connect.
  • LinkedIn allows you to connect with others with similar interests by connecting with users who are secondarily connected to an original LinkedIn connection.
  • LinkedIn’s answer feature provides an additional tool for effective networking and marketing of practice areas. LinkedIn answers provide for LinkedIn members to tap — or add to — the knowledge of their professional network by answering questions posed by others or recommending another member as a source of information: a virtual referral.

The following point by Picher should also not be lost on Martindale-Hubbell.

Much like a free publication or commercial television, social media sites such as LinkedIn generate their own revenue from the number of users they attract as potential viewers for the advertisers who pay to market on the site. To that end, it is in the interest of the social media purveyors to provide increasingly effective tools to both retain current users and regularly attract additional new ones.

LinkedIn is adding feature after feature so as to facilitate networking between business professionals, hundreds of thousands of lawyers included. And while Martindale-Hubbell is charging thousands of dollars for directory listings and losing law firm customers as a result, LinkedIn has a growing revenue base through ads and premium listings for what is basically a free service.

LinkedIn may now be Martindale’s most serious competition. Something none of us could have seen coming a year or two ago.

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