Social Media for Lawyers: Those Aren’t Trees, It’s a Forest

iStock_000012370311XSmall.jpgThis morning I spent some time on the phone helping an attorney for whom Twitter, JD Supra, LinkedIn, social media and all the rest were all brand new. Typical story: everyone had told him to get online, and so he was doing it – but had no idea why (or barely any idea how).

This particular attorney’s resume (and written work) reveals a smart, capable, and accomplished professional – no dummy – and yet our conversation was characterized by questions for which he felt the need first to apologize, like: “What does it mean to follow something? Why would I want to do that?”

You have to start somewhere. Where to begin?

As I see it, one problem with “social media” is that it can be over explained. I’m not alone in that opinion. A crowd gathers on a hill looking at a green brown mass in the distance. “Look at those trees!” “Those aren’t trees, that’s a forest!” “What we need is an arborist!” “No, let’s hire a soils expert!” “Trees are meant for climbing – everyone, climb a tree.” “Think of the risk!” “Firewood!”

Here’s what I told the attorney new to online marketing and social media – basic, beginners’ stuff, but it bears repeating because I think it holds true for all of us:

1. You’ll still get clients the old-fashioned way

If word-of-mouth referrals (from happy clients, colleagues, etc.) is how you get clients, it will still happen for you. In that way, nothing has changed.

What has changed is what happens next. To whit: Google. When your name comes up in lunch conversation (“Great lawyer you should contact…”) count on the likelihood that you will be researched, aka Googled. That’s where we live today, and so that first page of Google search results is your new resume. It’s where people turn to find out more about you.

When you get started on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, JD Supra, Avvo, and other such services, you are – for starters – taking possession of your name online. This is fairly easy to understand; the platforms tend do well in Google, and so – as you claim and fill them with the information that matters to your professional life – that’s what people will see when they search on your name.

End of story. In some ways, reason enough to invest the time in the first place.

2. Your written work will help you connect with others, your next source of referrals and work

There’s a harder group to reach online, and that’s people who don’t know your name but should: they have a need (or will have a need) that your service can meet.

Such people find you via Search online as well – not searching your name, but searching the issues and topics you have written about it. In this way, the myriad pieces of content that once collected dust on your hard drive now have a chance to make their way around the Web on your behalf, turning your readers into people who know your name – into people who know that you can help them with their issue, whatever that happens to be.

I have seen lawyers refer other lawyers to new clients via content they read on JD Supra; I’ve seen consumers and business professionals themselves reach out to lawyers and firms after reading timely and insightful content; I’ve seen editors ask for reprint permissions … meaningful content is without question one of the best ways to meet people who don’t know you but should.

Besides the visibility of good content in search, remember those social media (and other) platforms you signed up for in order to claim your professional name online? They also happen to be terrific places to seed the content that goes to work on your behalf. People won’t only find your writing in Google; they’ll also happen upon it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, places elsewhere. Cast a wide net.

3. Your work makes the introduction, now you make the connection

One of the terrific aspects of the “media” part of “social media” is that it helps get word out about your particular expertise – taking your message to places you might not otherwise get to, working on your behalf while you are busy elsewhere.

One of the terrific aspects of the “social” part of “social media” is that it enables you to meet people you were previously unable to meet – because of time, location, what-have-you.

Social media is a mix of the two. If you are sharing your content online, make sure people who read and appreciate it have the ability to connect to you as a consequence. In this way your readers can become part of your network – or, as we see so often, your readers can become your friends. And, important to those of you who are doing this for business development: your readers can become your next referral source … your next client.

Also see:

Please don’t hire a “Social Media Director”
Don’t Let the Social Media Tail Wag the Content Marketing Dog

Are you on JD Supra yet?