Social Networking for Lawyers

Q: Do I really need to get into this or can I just keep doing what I am doing?

I’m one of those people who didn’t come to the social networking phenomenon early on. In fact, my initial view on it was more wait and see than anything else. I find that with new developments like this the best approach is to let others do the work for you to a degree rather than diving in and wasting time and resources before it becomes apparent how the new technology or innovation can be best used.

I also do NOT believe that if you are the greatest social networking marketer that you will necessarily be a successful lawyer and client base builder. However, what I can say is that it is here to stay, that your clients and competitors are starting to use it, and that it can and will generate business and add value now. How much value will depend on how much effort you put into it and the work that you do. The parallel I can most easily draw is to the internet and law firm websites and how they have grown in importance and significance over the last 15 years. Where we are right now in terms of the development of social networking is probably at about the point that firm websites started to take down the pictures of gavels and the scales of justice from their front pages... 

Q: That sounds plausible, but give me some concrete examples of how it can add value to my business.

Example number 1. Referrals from contacts

We recently had a law firm client in Adelaide ask us if we knew any lawyers in the Middle East who could undertake a due diligence for a resources client of theirs. I’m not sure of what this would amount to in legal fees. Let’s call it a gazillion dollars. Now, I have about 300 lawyer contacts in my linked in network. I recall adding one recently from a firm in the Middle East and I recalled that he was working in corporate there. As a former Adelaide lawyer he seemed like a good fit for my client’s client, so I logged into LinkedIn, took his contact details from there and emailed them back to my client. My client was chuffed, as was my contact on LinkedIn. 

Example Number 2. When clients move jobs

One of our clients’ HR Managers (yes, not a legal example, but I’m sure you’ll get the point) recently moved roles. They posted an update on LinkedIn with their new contact details and our consultant emailed them via LinkedIn to say congratulations on the new role. They then emailed us straight back with new vacancies from their new firm. 

Example Number 3. I want to form a relationship with a prospective client

Since we are talking about social networking I’ll keep it related and say it’s a large, growing IT business. Let’s give it a made up name... Something like “Adams Internet”. Now, presume you don’t know anyone at Adam. If you have 300 contacts on LinkedIn then you aren’t going to be too far away. When I looked up Adam from my contacts I found 4 of my contacts who knew the Principal of Adam. I’m sure one of them would have been happy to provide an introduction. When I did the same search with Santos I think I hit over 100 contacts or contacts of contacts who worked for Santos. 

Example Number 4. Career

If you want to be headhunted then one of the easiest ways of getting noticed is to get out there and network. Recruiters and law firms use this to identify potential hires. 

Key Sites for Lawyers

LinkedIn

Twitter

Own Site

Blogs

Facebook – more social in nature

Step 1 Getting Started

 Get a phone with a data plan (i-phone etc) and good coverage. A lot of it can be done from your mobile.

Start a LinkedIn Profile today. Put a photo on it and fill it out in full. LinkedIn have provided us with the handout you were given.

If you are able to influence your firm, get them to

Start a firm LinkedIn site

Start a firm Twitter site

Start a Blog, read a blog or comment on one 

Step 2 Decide on the benefit you want to achieve from Social Networking

Increased Relevant Networks

Increase business via receiving cold calls and referrals

Highlight your expertise

Increase you and your firms’ ranking on search engines

Keep your clients and referrers engaging with you and your firm’s brand via updates

Learn from your competitors by watching them

Keep in touch with networks when they move 

Step 3 Build Networks aimed at achieving those benefits

I’m going to focus on LinkedIn as an example as I think it’s the most easy and effective starting point. 

LinkedIn

Start by inviting each of the employees that you know at your clients’ business

Invite your key referrers, contacts and associates

Invite others from your work

Search LinkedIn by client name to find people you know and deal with at their businesses and invite them

Invite other professionals you know

Join some relevant groups eg the Young Professionals Group SA

Add LinkedIn and Twitter buttons to your email footer and websites 

Step 4 Use the medium to engage with your clients, networks and future clients.

Social networking is not much use if you don’t use it. One of the key things to remember is that it is highly leveraged. You can accomplish a lot in a little time. 

LinkedIn

Invite contacts you meet via networking or along the way to join your network

Start a Twitter account. Link it to Twitter and post relevant Tweets on LinkedIn

If you write an article post a link to it on LinkedIn

If you are travelling interstate let your contacts know on LinkedIn

If there is a new piece of legislation or law that might affect them, let your contacts know about it

If you see something very interesting let people know about it

Ask one of your clients to recommend you to others

Start a group. For example,

Let’s say I was a commercial IT lawyer wanting to build a practice comprising of the leading IT businesses, start-ups and larger international IT businesses operating in Adelaide or Australia. I might start a group called “Australian Legal Issues in IT”. (I checked and that one is free) I would start by inviting a couple of people from my own firm – numbers help get the ball rolling – and then I would invite clients and potential clients through mine and my colleagues networks. Adam would definitely get an invite. I’d then start a discussion. Let’s say something like “Did you hear about the change in Blogs, Twitter etc.

If you have the time and the inclination then a blog can be a great way of engaging with clients and potential clients in your field of interest. You can link the blog to your twitter and LinkedIn accounts and in the right firm your firm’s website. You then have a medium for self-publishing your articles rather than just seeing them for one month in the Law Society Bulletin. 

Facebook

p>I see facebook as more of a social tool than for marketing. That said, one of my employees was hired in part because he had 3000 friends on Facebook. He was running an events management business as an aside to legal practice and using Facebook as the sole marketing medium to connect with and contact his customers. Not always appropriate for a law firm, but it’s great for publishing photos after events, notifying people and staying in touch, so it would make an ideal way of building a positive profile as a potential employer and a great way to send a positive message to prospective employees. 

Website

I think that a firm’s website is a key part of its social networking marketing strategy and can act as a linking medium to all of the other tools I’ve mentioned. I’m part way through redesigning the websites of our two businesses to allow us to link them all and post updates on them in the same manner, ensuring that visitors to our site are engaged and convert more readily into customers. As an aside, the more social networking links that feed back to your site, the higher your site will rank in Google. 

Social Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

Remember that if you post it the world can see it.

Use it as more than a set of business cards – use it to interact with cpents and potential cpents

Make it a whopstic and pnked strategy. pnk feeds from Twitter to pnkedIn, get them on your website and have pnks to all of them going each way.

Don’t get confused into thinking it’s a whole new world of marketing. It isn’t. It’s just a whole new way of contacting and interacting with cpents and building profile.

Keep it targeted. If you don’t whatever you do becomes SPAM.

Spend 10-15 minutes a day on it. More than that and you are overlooking other critical marketing tools pke seeing people face to face!

Don’t panic. You haven’t “missed the bus”. The good news is that law firms and lawyers are rarely the first to innovate in areas pke this. However, competitors are getting their butts down to the station as we speak.

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