Passively aggressive or engaged online?

You can’t have someone else do your push-ups for you.

For the last couple hundred years Lawyers have been dumping off as much of their work as possible to their underlings. Scriveners did the copying, secretaries did the typing, paralegals did the paperwork and now 3rd party legal service providers can even handle all the filing for Bankruptcy cases and other matters with copious amounts of filing. It’s efficient, it makes sense. As lawyers your time is valuable, so you outsource every task possible. Ever task except business development.

You can’t send you paralegal to the Yankees game with your best client, nor would you have your secretary call to ask for referrals. There are some tasks that need to be handled by the attorney.  Why?  Because business development is all about relationships and you can’t outsource relationships.  Social media is also all about relationships. This week in my Above the Law post I wrote about group blogs. One of the takeaways is that it takes dedication by multiple attorneys to make a group blog successful. Getting the attorneys involved can be a big challenge for law firms.

Speaking to law firms from Chicago to Sydney, I have been surprised to find out that many firms are missing the most important part when it comes to social media: attorney participation.

“We have a Twitter account!” Is the most common reply I hear when I ask firms what they are doing with social media.

“Why do you have a Twitter account?”

“We use it to broadcast firm news and highlight our expertise.”

These firms have it all wrong, here they have this dynamic tool for engagement, 2-way communication and relationship building and they are using it as if it were 50-year-old bulletin board.  Let me share a little secret with these law firms, you don’t build relationships by bragging about your accomplishments.

1.  First seek to be understand

If lawyers and law firms want to make an impact using social media than they have to become educated. Take a month or two and just watch- learn what other firms are doing and pretty soon you will get an idea of who is doing it right and who is blasting self-promotion blather.

2.  Build relationships

If you walk up to someone at a cocktail party and stick a business card in their face it can seem quite presumptuous, online there is a similar etiquette. Ask good questions and engage people in what they are sharing, this is a much better proposition that spewing out links to your website in hopes that somebody will click through.

3.  Give fire to the natives

For law firms to really be successful using social media, the lawyers need to be involved. Potential clients generally don’t want to talk to the business development director or director of marketing at a law firm, they want to talk directly to the attorneys. Put the tools of social media and blogging into the hand of the attorneys. (Note: this requires more trust in your attorneys than most firms have allotted.)

Some firms aggressively promote their articles through social networks. Multiple times each day in some cases, but if the content doesn’t resonate- you are wasting your internet connection. Through real engagement can lawyers can make sure that their content is being read. Use http://bit.ly to track how many people are clicking on your articles, monitor Twitter to see who is re-tweeting your articles and check web traffic and email opt-in rates as a result of each article. If nobody is reading what your are writing, it’s time to change tactics.

Don’t assume that because you “have a Twitter” your bases are covered. Get in there and join the discussion.

Adrian Dayton is a lawyer and author of the book Social Media for Lawyers. He currently writes a weekly column for Above the Law about Social Media for Lawyers. You can find him on Twitter @adriandayton

Comments

7 Responses to “Passively aggressive or engaged online?”

  1. Now that’s a good article Adrian. It is about building relationships. Some bloggers are really great at it. Kind of like that legal tease blog. It has a ton of readers and the content must be useful to someone. Law firms could learn from that.

    Do u think it’s a good idea for law firms or businesses to have their home (landing) page be their blog? I advised a business owner friend of mine to change her home page to her blog to help emphasize that it is about building relationships and not necessarily saying “Hey this is me, this is what I do”.

    My point was just that if they are on your site, they obviously know what you do.

    Was my advice wrong?

  2. Also…

    what is the point of twitter? I have an account, and can’t really figure out the utility of it. What are the common things that people use twitter for? Why doesn’t facebook or a blog do the same job? I generally use facebook and haven’t made much use of my twitter acct.

    • Great questions, there are tons of great uses for Twitter. Building relationships, sharing new blog posts, and research are a few of the most important uses. Just get on there and start talking to the other bloggers you follow. This is a great way to get going.

  3. Rusty says:

    This is an informative post. Social media among big law firms is crucial in this technological age. Your advice about social media is great; another reason for firms to get involved is for damage control. If a law firm is getting badmouthed in the field, facebook and Twitter are great places to clear that up.

  4. I think education about how lawyers build relationships online is essential. It is an unknown subject for too many of them so it does not get the attention it deserves. You are doing a great job of showcasing the importance of relationships online and how to create them.

    The internet (whether it be twitter, facebook, lawlink, linkedin) opens up our networking opportunities from county bar association luncheons to global contacts. Making relationships on the internet has led me personally to be published nation-wide, appear on podcast and radio episodes, and television as a legal expert, and so many other opportunities. It served as a very powerful marketing tool to open up my client base globally when I had my law firm in Florida and to position myself as an authority in my field. I now help other lawyers do the same so they can differentiate themselves in the incredibly competitive environment we face today.

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