Social media is gaining in popularity, and for lawyers (and law students) LinkedIn is often the most palatable network, since it is known as the ‘professional’ network. But LinkedIn is more than just a static profile service. According to LinkedIn estimates as of July 2011, the service has:

  • 119 million members worldwide
  • Over 45% of which are in North America
  • And 50 million in the U.S. alone

Launched less than 10 years ago, in 2003, LinkedIn grew 17.3% between January and July of this year alone. Over 40% of the members are a Manager, Director, Owner, Chief Officer or Vice President.

Does it sound like your target audience might be using LinkedIn? How about your potential referral sources? They have been updating their platform, so if you have not taken a look at the new features lately, it’s worth looking at.

Did you know you could do these things with LinkedIn?

Segregate your contacts by tagging them, sending updates, event invitations or other messages just to specific segments of your network? Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog notes that this is a good way to keep up with journalists and media and to send them ideas and stories.

Rearrange your profile sections. Want your experience to show at the top of your profile? Prefer your recommendations to be front and center? Roll your mouse over the section title and you’ll see ‘handles’ appear that you can drag and drop to rearrange your profile sections.

Improve your profile. A new feature helps you get the most out of your profile. Click on the yellow “improve your profile” button on your edit profile page and you’ll get specific suggestions on what you can do to improve your profile for better visibility.

Create a Company Page for your firm. All employees of your firm who have a profile on LinkedIn will automatically be attached to your Company Profile page. Your page can not only give a brief summary of your firm, but in the “products and services” area, you can list and describe your practice areas and create links to your website for more information.

Clear the clutter from your Network Updates. In the past, your Network Updates showed you every update from all of your connections. Now you can customize your Network Updates to hide updates from some connections who may not be relevant to your business. The change is not permanent, so you can always restore them later, but this will reduce your frustration with those who tend to ‘overshare.’

Law students, showcase your accomplishments. More and more employers are looking to LinkedIn when it’s time to hire. LinkedIn has created sections with students and recent graduates in mind, allowing you to showcase your involvement in organizations, your honors and awards, projects you have been involved in, etc. And there is a new LinkedIn job portal for students and recent grads as well.

Get relevant news quickly. LinkedIn Today is a relatively new feature that gives you news from three sources: News your connections are sharing; news industry peers are sharing; and popular news trends outside of your industry. It can be a good source of ideas for blog posts, social media sharing, newsletter updates, or networking conversations.

Use applications to highlight your uniqueness. Applications like JD Supra Legal Updates are made just for lawyers and can demonstrate your expertise by linking your JD Supra content and profile directly to  LinkedIn. The Slideshare and Google Presentation applications let you share presentations on your LinkedIn profile, and you can link your WordPress or Typepad blog to your LinkedIn profile using the WordPress or BlogLink applications. The Events application lets you search for Events to attend or post your own events.

If you haven’t been to LinkedIn for a while, it might be time to go back and explore what is new, beef up your profile and get active.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nanpalmero/4278432941/)