Social media is among the hottest activities online. It comes in many different flavors: the “big 3” (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and many others. When done in a way that generates conversation and connections, blogging becomes one of the most effective social media platforms available. And yet, using any of these platforms takes time and effort.
The biggest question I encounter about social media is, Why bother? It’s a fair question, especially given the number of lawyers who complain publicly about the lack of results from marketing via social media. The three key reasons to use social media, however, also suggest how to use it effectively and why you should bother.
- Use social media to build connections. Depending on the platform you use, you may build collegial connections to serve as a sounding board for tough practice questions or you may build connections within your target market industry or individuals. As with in-person connections, social media contacts may refer clients to you, request co-counsel assistance, or point you toward opportunities that you might otherwise miss.
Isolation is bad for practice building. Social media allows you to build a wide web of connections that reaches beyond geographic limits, without requiring the time and travel required for in-person meetings. However, don’t assume that an online-only connection holds the same value as an offline connection. Take valuable contacts to face-to-face or telephone meetings so that you can cement relationships. You may also use social media to further develop offline relationships through repeated exposure.
Remember to put the “social” in social media. Engage and interact rather than simply shouting about your latest adventure.
- Use social media to build your expertise and develop others’ perception of your knowledge. Answer questions (exercising, of course, due care as you do so), share relevant articles or blog posts you’ve written, and share slides from helpful presentations. Doing so not only assists your social media contacts, but it also builds a digital footprint that helps others to assess your knowledge in your area of practice.
Even in the absence of interaction (for instance, the vast majority of blog readers will not post comments or otherwise interact with the author), creating and sharing content related to your practice elevates the perception of your expertise. Rather than being someone who simply recounts experience that suggests skill, you have the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and insight. If you use social media for this purpose, your top task is to curate information, selecting what’s likely to be most relevant for your readers, and to provide the “so what” analysis that goes beyond mere reporting.
- Use social media to let others “meet” you before they even decide to contact you. Social media creates the opportunity to build relationships that facilitate in-person relationships. For example, I recently met a new client face-to-face for the first time. Although we had not met previously, we felt as if we had because we’d seen each others’ social media postings and videos. Social media had given us the opportunity to experience one another without actually meeting, and our first face-to-face meeting had an air of familiarity as a result.
Especially if your clients may be a bit leery of contacting you, this opportunity offers significant advantages. Social media exposure gives the potential client the opportunity to get to know, like, and trust you without ever interacting with you. That familiarity with you (especially when it’s buttressed by evidence of your relevant knowledge and skill) creates comfort that may be lacking otherwise.
Social media has many additional purposes, but these three are foundational. If you’re using social media, you should be fulfilling at least one of these purposes and preferably all three.
What’s your social media plan? And how consistently successful are you in implementing it?