If you think social media is just for keeping up with family and friends, you are missing the boat — the business boat. While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are the most social of the social channels, a great deal of business, including legal referrals, happens on LinkedIn.

Would you be surprised to learn that LinkedIn has 690 million users? If you are like most attorneys, you doubt the online power and connectivity of LinkedIn. Just because you see competitors’ short and sweet profiles, along with a lack of posts, don’t jump to the incorrect conclusion that lawyers, especially criminal defense attorneys, don’t use LinkedIn.

In fact, 90% of ALL lawyers are on LinkedIn. While there is no special interest group for criminal defense attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is there. Plus, there are alumni association and special interest groups that members of the defense community can join. If there isn’t a group that aligns with your specific legal and professional interests, LinkedIn provides an ideal place to form one.

Many of your contacts are active LinkedIn users – they are logging on, reading high-value content and researched options for representation. Those sparse profiles most likely represent savvy attorneys who don’t want to give too much away. They know their competitors are reading LinkedIn, too. They peruse the platform looking for relevant content and opportunities to authentically share interests and contacts with their peers.

The two most viewed, and most important, parts of your LinkedIn listing are the 120-character headline and the 2,000-character summary. If you are writing your profile for the first time or refreshing it for the new year, these two elements deserve more of your time and attention than any other part of the listing. Visitors to your profile page are likely looking for specific expertise. For that reason, put specialized skills right up front to grab attention.

Next, move on the 2,000-character summary. This brand-building opportunity needs to answer two key questions:

  1. What is your unique value to your clients and potential clients?
  2. What differentiates you from other attorneys in your field?

To answer the first question, consider the feedback you’ve received from actual clients. For example, has a client told you that you make the legal process easy to understand? Has a client applauded your ability to keep him or her consistently apprised of legal options even as things changed?

The second question is important because many potential clients, especially those who are hiring you for the first time, consider all lawyers to be about the same. In this section of the summary, blow your horn – loudly. Distinguish yourself by listing honors, community involvement and association leadership. Showing that your peers trust you will go a long way to building a preference for you and your brand.

Posting thought-provoking commentary and original content is another way to increase your visibility on LinkedIn. In the past year, posts on LinkedIn jumped 400% as users look to set themselves apart from competitors. Commenting on emerging legal trends, recent cases or even entering the “no bail” debate can show how you think and make you a legal voice that needs to be heard.

“There are a few key areas where law firms are finding value and leveraging the platform for marketing,” Andrew Kaplan, a director of product marketing at LinkedIn, recently explained to Law.com’s Patrick Smith. According to Kaplan, thought leadership campaigns targeting a specific message to a high-value audience is becoming a frequent way to distinguish attorneys and law firms from competitors.

Isn’t it time to revisit your LinkedIn profile?