Law Practice Today | February 2013 | Technology/ABA TECHSHOW
February 2013 | Technology/ABA TECHSHOW 2013
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Eight Things to Learn from Social Media Rock Stars

By Larry Port


Forget all the hype, including the nonsense business guru Guy Kawasaki once said about Twitter being the most important branding mechanism since TV.  Social media, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the like, are nothing new anymore.  Some people have embraced it from the beginning, and others have shied away from it.  Still others shrink in fear from the notion of wading into what seems to them to be a strange and scary environment.

Ultimately, we can learn from lawyers who, in my opinion, rock social media the most to understand what it is, what it isn’t, and how it can affect your practice for the better.

  1. It’s Just a Conversation

At its core, social media is a way to talk to people.  It’s a form of engaging and communicating with other people.  Its power resides in its ability to transcend distance and the amount of people to whom you have access.  The lawyers who have a great presence in cyberspace understand this fundamental concept.

  1. You Can’t Build a Practice on Social Media

Let’s get one thing straight:  anyone who tells you that Facebook or Twitter is going to magically create a zillion potential leads is either a snake oil salesman or has taken medicine that is only legal in certain states.  The truth is that having a LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook presence can raise awareness about you, or serve as a starting point to discover more about your practice.  And if you have a solid practice already, then your social media activity will leave a trail of breadcrumbs back to it.

  1. You Can Increase Your Leads

Since you’re communicating with other real, live lawyers, you’re building relationships on social media just like you would from a networking group. From that perspective, once you build and establish trust, you may find yourself referring out cases or receiving referrals from your online friends.  In addition, broadcasting your original content through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn creates more site traffic, which translates to more people being made aware of you.  More website visitors equals an increased likelihood of one of those visitors becoming a lead.

  1. Don’t Get In Fights or Flame Wars

Most likely, you have opinions.  And as an attorney, you’re most likely adept at expressing them.  Now, combine your feelings about certain subjects with an environment where you’ll find people in strong disagreement with your views.  Throw in a lack of face-to-face interaction and you have a breeding ground for vitriolic conversation. 

Always remember that you’re almost never going to change anyone’s mind.  Keep in mind that because of the impersonal nature of written communication, people can misinterpret comments or tweets, especially ones where humor is involved.  Unfortunately, no one can see your facial expression or body language when you write a tweet.

  1. Represent Yourself Truthfully

Social media has kind of an honor system in which you’re supposed to represent yourself at face value. And when you don’t, eventually you may have some unpleasant encounters with people on Twitter or Facebook who call you out publicly.  Those of us on Twitter for a while have seen a number of attorneys attacked publicly for stretching the truth about their area of expertise or resume.  So if you think the way you represent yourself online might fall into grey area, kill those claims.

  1. Tools Can Help

For your status updates and tweets to be read, you’re going to need to spread out the timing of your content so that you reach a wide range of people.  Odds are, you’re not going to be able to be online at any and all hours of the day, and even if you were, the constant monitoring and participation with social media would cut into your billable time.

Tools like Buffer (Bufferapp.com) allow you to schedule your commentary so that it goes out at different times throughout the day. Queuing the content for distribution also is easy, as Buffer has a plugin for most browsers that lets you quickly get any news article or web page you see ready for dissemination.  Buffer can be configured to connect to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

  1. The Best Way to Start is to Dive In

How do you get started with a social media account?  Don’t try to master all of them at once.  Take time to establish your presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter sequentially so you’re not overwhelmed.  It sounds overly simplistic, but it’s the truth:  the best way to get started is to sign up for an account if you haven’t already, and jump right in.  Connect with people you know or respect.  Use search to identify people in practice areas that might be complementary to your practice. Follow conversations to find people you might enjoy engaging.  And remember, if you don’t enjoy the platform, you won’t use it.  So try to develop a couple of tried and true friends you connect with on the platform to encourage you to use it.

  1. Don’t Worry About Having Thousands of Followers

You’ll encounter people on Facebook with thousands of friends, followers on Twitter, or connections on LinkedIn.  That’s wonderful for those people, but it’s not necessary to build such a behemoth following.  The only way to build such a huge following, if you’re not already famous, is to spend a lot of time strategically following a lot of people. 

Finding a lot of friends, contacts, and Twitter followers can be a full-time job and once you get above 500, the business return is minimal. According to inbound marketing firm Hubspot, inbound leads increase for business-to-consumer Twitter users when they have between 100-500 followers.  Once you exceed 500 followers, the leads actually decrease, according to Hubspot’s report, The State of Inbound Marketing.

Conclusion

If you’ve been waiting to get involved for one reason or another, the past five years has been instructive.  Whether you’ve been on the sidelines, or dipped your toes briefly, now’s a good a time as any to hop in.  The tools and platforms themselves are more mature than they were, and the initial promises have been in some instances proven, and in some instances squashed. 

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About the Author

Larry Port is the founding partner of Rocket Matter, a law practice management software company. You can contact him on Twitter (@rocketmatter).


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