When I first started talking to lawyers about social media in early 2009, there were barely more than 30 million LinkedIn users worldwide. A common complaint I would hear from lawyers was, “Nobody I do business with uses LinkedIn.” This is no longer the case.

The most recent BTI Consulting report shows that 70 percent of corporate counsel use LinkedIn as a tool, and half rely on it. Executives from every Fortune 500 company are using LinkedIn. Take a look at the lawyers at your firm: Do at least 70 percent of them have LinkedIn accounts? If they don’t, it’s time to get cracking. With 100 million members, LinkedIn matters.

The first step in creating a LinkedIn account (if you don’t already have one) is to go to LinkedIn.com and click on “Join Today.” Then, follow the prompts.

For the rest of you, here are five tips for using LinkedIn that you might be unaware of.

THE BACK DOOR APPROACH

LinkedIn users get frustrated when they can’t send a message to high-value contacts they aren’t connected to. The obvious approach is to ask one of your connections to make an introduction. This works, but takes time. A quicker method is to join a group to which the high-value contact already belongs. Members of the same group can send messages to each other even if they are not directly connected. If this fails, you can upgrade to a premium account, which lets you send “inmails” to anybody on LinkedIn, even if you aren’t connected. I don’t recommend sending inmails, however, because they come across as somewhat desperate.

MAKE YOUR TITLE SPECIFIC

Just below your name on your LinkedIn profile there is a space for your professional “headline.” The vast majority of lawyers simply write, “Shareholder at Law Firm X,” or something similar. This is a missed opportunity to make a first impression that tells people specifically what you do.

Simply click “edit” to the right of your name, and you can add a headline that tells people specifically what you do. Hat tip to Amy Knapp at http://knappmarketing.com for this great pointer.

UPDATE YOUR OUTLOOK CONTACTS OFTEN

When you joined LinkedIn, chances are that you imported your Outlook address book and sent invites to a bunch of your contacts. It’s time to do it again. With more 1 million people joining LinkedIn each week, the chances are that many of your contacts who weren’t members when you joined are members now. Just log in to your LinkedIn account and click on “Contacts,” then “Add Connections,” and then follow the prompts.

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