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A long time ago, lawyers earned new business by developing a reputation and building relationships. In the age of the social web, this really hasn’t changed at all … .
But somewhere along the way, many lawyers forgot about the reputation and relationship stuff. They went online and did a bunch of “stuff” that was at best silly, at worst, harmful to their reputation. Of course none of it led to new clients. So, many of them concluded that social media and the Internet are largely a waste of time and just don’t work for lawyers.
Social media isn’t broken. The way that many lawyers are using it is.
That’s why I’m recommending that you use social media as if social media didn’t exist.
You see, while the tools that lawyers have to develop relationships have changed a bunch, it’s still all about the relationships.
For example, when you go out into the world, do you wear a mask? No? Then why are you using stock imagery in your social media profiles?
Do you introduce yourself as “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer”? No? Then why is that your Twitter handle?
Do you start conversations with “free consultation”? Then why are you tweeting that?
Do you pay people to be your friends? (I know some of you are thinking, well, yes, sort of, but bear with me here.) Then why are you buying followers?
How many new people did you meet last year? If the success of your practice relies on relationships, creating new relationships should be near the top of your client development priority list.
How much time did you spend nurturing recently forged relationships? Meeting someone once is not a relationship. Relationships take time and effort.
How much effort did you put into solidifying relationships with your most trusted, reliable referral sources?
Online social networks can help you do all of these.
But let’s not be silly. I’m not encouraging you to stand on a busy street corner soliciting handshakes. Likewise, I’m not encouraging you to get on Twitter to @reply and mention your way to new friends.
Instead, start listening. Find people you know in real life online. Use Twitter Trends to see what folks are chatting about. If the automatically tailored trends don’t match your interests or are too broad, change them. If your potential client pool is a local community, change your trends to reflect that. This way, you can see what your local community is discussing. This is a much more effective way to begin a conversation and even forge a new relationship. Use lists to follow specific communities of people you know.
Maybe Twitter isn’t your thing. Try LinkedIn. Again, stay off the street corner. Don’t send out a bunch of unsolicited connection requests to people you don’t know.
Instead, find a group to join. It doesn’t even have to be anything related to law. (Imagine that!) Again, if you serve a local community, find local groups. If you grew up in the community you serve, try high school alumni groups, local sports teams and community organizations. Not feeling LinkedIn? There’s always Facebook.
In fact, I’d venture to guess that many people you know use Facebook with some regularity. Be yourself.
Also, create a business page to give your happy clients a place to sing your praises.
Your next clients will want to know what your current and former clients think about you.
You see, this is the stuff you should be doing even if social media didn’t exist.
Having trouble creating new relationships with social media? Focus on nurturing existing relationships. It’s a bit easier. You’re just connecting with people online who you already know in real life. If you’re not a complete jerk, these people probably want to connect with you online anyway. All you have to do is find them.
Unless your peer group consists of English workers who destroy machinery that they believe is threatening their jobs, you probably know people who use Facebook.
Pro Tip: Your family, friends and colleagues don’t like legal marketing either.
Posting about free consultations on Facebook is a sure-fire way to be unfriended or blocked. And, if your friends are anything like mine, you would gladly exchange the unfriending for the public ridicule that you’re likely to endure.
It amazes me how many lawyers think tactics like these are a good idea.
I know some of you are thinking, “That’s not the lawyer, it’s their social media consultant.” Yes, sometimes it is. But a lot of the time, it’s actually the lawyer!
Nurture your relationships on Facebook like Facebook didn’t exist. Socialize. Stay in touch. Tell a joke.
Wondering where the marketing advice is? I have failed you.
There’s really no doubt that the social web is changing the world. We are more connected, to more people than ever before. With this connectivity, expectations are shifting. We are expected to be more accessible. We are expected to be more findable. As a means of communication, online social networks provide a powerful, public and permanent platform.
Online social networks can be an excellent way for you to keep in touch with people in your professional network. They can also be a powerful way to meet someone new or access someone you might not otherwise be able to connect with.
And when these people you meet, socialize with and remain in regular contact with online and offline begin to wonder whether they might need a lawyer, you may find yourself in their consideration set.
BUT people aren’t on these platforms to read your thin self-promotional updates.
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