One question I’ve been getting asked more and more frequently as I do presentations on LinkedIn for lawyers is whether it’s worth getting a paid LinkedIn account. For most lawyers, the basic (free) LinkedIn account has more than enough features to help you build your network, find and communicate with people and build relationships. But there are some advantages to having a premium account, depending on how you’ll be using LinkedIn. For example, if you’re planning to use LinkedIn as your main contact database, you might want to consider a premium account.
Here’s an overview of the different types of premium accounts that are available; each of these categories has different levels of accounts under it:
- Premium (broken down into Business, Business Plus and Executive) – For general business users
- For Job Seekers (Basic, Job Seeker, Job Seeker Plus) - For those looking for a job
- For Sales Professionals (Basic, Plus and Executive) – Specifically for sales professionals
- For Recruiters (Talent Basic, Talent Plus and Talent Pro) – For recruiters and employers who are looking for people to hire
If you’re looking for a job, if you’re the marketing director of a law firm or if you’re in charge of recruiting and you frequently have hiring needs, you may want to check in to the last three types of LinkedIn accounts. Job seekers may see some advantage if they are using LinkedIn to search and apply for jobs, because the Job Seeker accounts move you higher in the search results and you’ll have more access to see who might be interested in you by seeing who has viewed your Profile. Recruiters and sales professionals might benefit from expanded profiles and additional search features. But this article will focus on the Premium accounts for business, since most lawyers won’t fit into the other three categories.
LinkedIn Premium Features
The three LinkedIn Premium accounts most lawyers will use if they decide to upgrade are the business options. The main features of each of these accounts are listed below.
InMail allows you to send messages directly to those outside of your network without needing an introduction. You can send messages directly from the person’s Profile or from search results. Depending upon which level account you choose, you can send between 3 and 25 InMail messages per month.
Why should you care about InMail? If you are in the habit of cold-calling or cold-emailing, using InMail is better – LinkedIn claims that InMail performs 30% better than regular email, and since it is sent through LinkedIn, it won’t get caught in a spam filter. But most lawyers won’t be contacting people they don’t know through LinkedIn, and even with the claimed benefits of InMail messages, you’re more likely to be successful if you have a personalized reason for reaching out to someone and if you can make a connection to them through someone you already know. You can do this through LinkedIn introductions (you get 5 introductions with the free account and up to 35 with an Executive account), but you can also do it through regular email, in person, or over the phone, which is even better than doing everything solely through LinkedIn.
Premium accounts also offer additional search results and more saved searches than free accounts. Business and Business Plus accounts give you four additional search filters (Seniority, Company Size, Interests and Fortune 1000), and the Executive account provides an additional four (Functions, Years of Experience, Your groups and New to LinkedIn). Again, these additional filters may not provide enough benefits to most lawyers to be worth paying for the premium accounts, since the advanced search features are already fairly robust with a free account, allowing you to search by industry, company, location and more.
The Premium accounts will allow you to see more search results (between 300 and 700) than a free account does, but if you set up your searches properly, the 100 results you can see with a free account should be plenty. But take note that on a free account you will not see the full surnames of third degree connections or Group Members that are not within your first or second degree network – only Premium account holders will be able to see full information on third degree connections.
Free accounts allow you to save up to 3 searches per week, but premium accounts give you additional saved searches (between 5 per week and 10 per day). You can set up weekly alerts that will show you any changes to your saved searches on all account levels.
The Profile Organizer tool allows you to save and keep track of individual Profiles that you want to follow or keep track of. You can organize the Profiles into folders, add notes and contact info, and see a complete history of your communications with those individuals. This can be a helpful feature for those who use LinkedIn heavily and rely on it for information, for most lawyers, not having this feature will not hinder the vast majority of their LinkedIn usage.
Who’s Viewed My Profile
While basic users have access to a part of this feature, as with some of the other features, Premium users see more results and more information about the people who have viewed their Profile. But again, this will depend on the level of premium account you sign up for – some accounts will give you slightly more information than a free account will, but will still not give you everything.
According to LinkedIn, once you’re a Premium account subscriber, you’ll see the complete list of those who have viewed your Profile and be able to click through to see their full Profile if they are a first, second or third level connection, and you’ll be able to see full names and Profiles of all third level connections. With a free account, you get a limited list of those who have viewed your Profile, you don’t receive all of the information about the people who have viewed your Profile, and you cannot always view their Profiles. But some Premium account users have indicated that the information on Premium accounts isn’t exactly “unlimited,” and that some information is still hidden, making this feature less helpful. Also, keep in mind that individual users can change their visibility settings so that their Profiles remain private, regardless of what level account you have.
With a premium account, you will also see the keywords used most by those who search and find your Profile.
Premium account holders are given access to LinkedIn’s “Open Link” network; once you’ve activated this option, anyone on LinkedIn can send you a message, even if you’re not a part of their network. They do not need to have an introduction AND they don’t need to send you an InMail. Unlike InMail, which limits the number of messages that you can send depending on the type of account you have, the OpenLink network is unlimited – you can send and receive as many messages as you want. This may be one of the most valuable features of the premium accounts if you want to make new connections and make it easy for others to find and contact you. But be aware that you must actively activate OpenLink – it isn’t automatic when you sign up for the account.
As with all social media, what I’ve written above is likely to change in the future as LinkedIn evolves. For example, with a basic (free) LinkedIn account, you used to be able to see the entire Profile of anyone who was a first, second or third degree connection on LinkedIn. Toward the end of 2012, LinkedIn changed that so that with a free account, you can no longer see Profiles (or even full names) of third degree connections, and in some instances, you cannot see the complete Profile for second degree connections.
If one of the features listed above is attractive to you, check out the various Premium options for yourself by clicking “Upgrade” in the top right corner of your screen (below the thumbnail photograph of you) when you’re logged in to LinkedIn and review the different plans and costs. For the basic Business plan, you’ll pay $20/month if you pay annually or $25/month if you pay monthly – a small investment if you’re a heavy LinkedIn user or if you’ve been frustrated by some of the limitations of the free account and want to see whether a Premium account is right for you. But if you’re just starting out on LinkedIn and don’t take advantage of most of the free features, I’d recommend spending more time with LinkedIn on a weekly basis, building up your Profile, making Connections and participating by posting Updates and joining Group discussions first.