Monday, February 23, 2009

Social Media Tools: Can They Bring In New Clients?

In 2008, social media tools hit the mainstream and really replaced online video and youtube as THE story about what was happening online. I'm not going to write a primer on what social media is (a good job is done here). But, I will share my brief thoughts on how I've tried to use this technologies and

Social Networking Sites

Facebook and Linkedin are cool products and definitely have different strengths. From an internet technology standpoint, I have to applaud their adoption rates, how quickly they built their user bases and how well their sites have seemed to operate. However, on a personal level, I've never found them to be very useful. And that's not for a lack of trying.
  • On Linkedin, my profile is 95% complete, I've got almost 300 connections, I've endorsed a bunch of people, I've been endoresed. I've even answered questions in the Q&A function and joined groups. I've seen *positive signs* - like a somewhat relevant cold-call/email from a few people in the space and a couple of "thank yous" from people's who's question I answered. But, I still haven't found any employees, partners or customers through linkedin. I'm hopeful, though I'm concerned there are some thorny limitations to the service, which I'll have to come back to.
  • On Facebook, I've uploaded the profile and responded to friend requests, posted some photos, etc. The facebook platform being opened up the 3rd parties is pretty interesting to watch - especially as you see some marketers exploit it rather uniquely. I've found some old classmates that I lost touch with, but that's about it.
It's pretty well understood that these sites are for connecting/re-connecting with people that you already know or have met and that the applicability to getting introduced to people you don't know is limited.

Twitter

I'm still trying to figure out twitter. Lots has been written about it, and the legal community seems to be love with it. Seems as though many twitter converts have all approached the technology with skepticism and then become converted. Here's an interesting Twitter overview for lawyers.
  • The most interesting thing that I've heard about Twitter is that it helps you get introduced to people you don't know (making it more useful compared to linkedin and facebook which are for the people you already know).

Lawyers Ability to Market with Social Media Tools

A huge part of the how useful these tools are going to be for you as a lawyer are going to start with the basics of your marketing plan. If you practice corporate law (or at a minimum, if your clients are companies), then I believe these tools will be of more use to you. At a minimum, they facilitate keeping track of your network and what everyone is up to. With a little work, you can easily push out information to people in your network and perhaps help build awareness among your broader network.

However, if you practice law that serves consumers (i.e. personal injury, divorce, etc), I'm not sure that these tools are going to help you find new clients. A couple of reasons come to mind: 1) if the problem is personal in nature (and legal), then I'm not sure i want to use my business network to find a professional - so linkedin is not the best answer. 2) Even if I was ok with posting my personal problem to my facebook friends and looking for advice, I don't think a few responses would suffice in my search for a qualified professional.

In the end, most of us are going to turn to a search engine to start our search for a local professional. .

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