GPSOLO September 2010
A Lawyer’s Social Networking Tool Box
By Rodney Dowell and Erik Mazzone
Social networking sites are cost-effective venues for growing relationships and promoting your law practice. But it’ll be tough for you to get the payoff from these sites if you don’t put the right tools to use. Let’s explore some of the best tools for the “big three” social networking sites for lawyers: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Taming Twitter. Twitter ( http://twitter.com) is a great way to network with other lawyers and potential clients interested in a given practice area. Once you start following more than a few people on Twitter, however, it can quickly become chaotic. Some people only post once or twice a day, but others post 50 times that amount.
Organize your streams into groups. To view the posts (“tweets”) you really want to see, you need a way to organize your Twitter stream. Third-party applications that allow users to create groups make quick work of imprinting order on the chaos. These applications let you organize your stream by your relationship to the Twitterer (e.g., family, friends, work colleagues) or by subject (e.g., law practice management, New York Yankees).
Use Twitter to publicize your blog. Many lawyers have begun writing blogs to share ideas and develop business, and Twitter can be an excellent avenue for publicizing your blog. The authors of this article are both bloggers who track our respective blog stats somewhat obsessively, and Twitter is often one of the biggest sources of traffic to our blogs. Posting a short, simple tweet that says “New blog post at [insert blog name here]” followed by a link to the blog post is all that’s required. There are several third-party applications that automate the process of feeding these short updates, including the blog URL, to Twitter. Good choices are Twitterfeed ( http://twitterfeed.com) and Tweetlater ( http://twitter.com/TWEETLATER).
Figuring out Facebook. Facebook ( www.facebook.com) is a more complex social media site. Used wisely, it provides a means to extend your brand and demonstrate your ability to produce a deliverable service through relationship building. Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of Facebook.
Control where the information flows. Unlike Twitter, Facebook will open up your life (and your family and your old college friends) to the world unless you seize control. Consequently, you need to distinguish between those people who get to share your life and those who don’t. You do this by creating a “list” under the News Feed column on the left-hand side of your Facebook home page.
For example, you can create one list for “Friends and Family” and a separate one for “Professional” contacts. Once you’ve created a list, you can then restrict the list members’ access to certain types of information. Test your restrictions by going to the top of the Privacy Profile page, where you can use the “See how a friend sees your profile” button. Very enlightening.
Monitor your wall. Every Facebook user’s profile page has a space called a Wall, where friends can post messages for others to see. Set your account so you know what is being posted. Go to Settings, Account Settings, and then Notifications, where you tell Facebook to notify you about what, when, and where things are added to your Wall.
Remember Google in your privacy shield. Go to Settings, Privacy, then Search. At the Search menu, you can set your Facebook search visibility, which determines what content may be searched internally; separately, you can choose whether to allow search engines to see your Wall.
Feed your blog post to your profile. Facebook allows you to extend the reach of your blog by feeding your blog posts to your profile page. To do this, click on the Import icon on your page and insert the URL for your blog’s RSS feed.
Try a more business-centric focus. If you believe your Facebook presence should be more about your law practice as an entity than about you personally, you should use the Business Page feature. A Business Page is separate from your personal page and acts much like an interactive brochure on Facebook. It was designed to give a business the type of functionality that allows it to more effectively market its services but still interact with its “fans” through various applications.
An alternative to a Facebook Business Page is the Facebook Groups option. Facebook Groups allow for using fewer applications, and group members’ actions are not distributed on their news feeds. Both Groups and Pages allow you to advertise “related events”—a nice way to promote upcoming programs that you’re involved with.
Living with LinkedIn. LinkedIn ( www.linkedin.com) is targeted specifically to professional users. It offers excellent integrated applications for building your brand name and promoting your expertise, including the ability to create your own communities within the community.
Develop a great profile. Start off right by creating a powerful and well-written profile that emphasizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. You need to let the world know about your expertise and why other professionals want to network with you. Also, because LinkedIn is all about being a professional, be sure to use a professional photo in your profile. Although they may forget just what’s in your résumé, people don’t forget a face.
Get and give recommendations. One of LinkedIn’s nicest features for business development purposes is the way it facilitates getting recommendations from your connections, which then appear in a special section of your profile page. You want to actively develop your recommendations section so that your profile will be found more easily by people using LinkedIn’s Service Providers search function.
Actively participate in groups. Possibly the most dynamic area of LinkedIn is its Group section, where you can set up a topic-specific community within LinkedIn to discuss, advise on, and communicate about issues of common concern. You can also join an existing group and become an active participant to demonstrate your expertise. There are tons of existing groups to interest lawyers of all stripes, such as the ABA Young Lawyers Division group, the Legal Innovation group, and the SoloSez Friends Legal Marketing for Solo Attorneys group, as quick examples.
Using your time to the best advantage. Last but not least, remember that social networking never stops. So, to stay in the game from wherever you are, you should go mobile with Facebook and LinkedIn. Depending on your smart phone model, just go to the Apple Store ( http://store.apple.com/us), BlackBerry App World ( http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/appworld), or Palm Store USA ( www.palm.com/us/products/phones) for your Facebook and LinkedIn applications; all applications are written by either Facebook, LinkedIn, or the smart phone maker. The iPhone Apps have received the best reviews, but they all get the job done.
Rodney Dowell is the director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program and is coauthor of the blog “Mass. LOMAP: Law Practice Advisor” ( http://masslomap.blogspot.com); he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Erik Mazzone is the director of the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association and authors the blog “Law Practice Matters” ( www.lawpracticematters.com); he may be reached at email@example.com.Copyright 2010