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October 19, 2011

Should you use social networking to develop new business? – Part 1 of 2

Of all the topics discussed in my new book on legal business development, the role of social networking in legal marketing is the most controversial.  Some experts believe that social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging and more are transforming the way lawyers develop new business, and that people who ignore the role of new media are making a huge mistake.  Others feel that the hype for these media far exceeds the evidence that they help lawyers to bring in new business. 

From a hard-headed marketing point of view, one of the biggest problems with social networking is that it is way too much fun.  It is easy to spend hour after hour catching up on the lives of old classmates and new online “friends” without ever coming close to closing a sale.

Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, there is one thing that almost every lawyer should do.  If you have not already signed up for a free subscription to LinkedIn, do it now.  This may not be as important as having a business card yet, but it is getting there.  Depending on the nature of your practice, people you know may look for you in LinkedIn and be surprised if you are not there or if your profile seems weak.  If you are not a fan of online tools, your marketing department may be able to do much of the basic work for you.

Being on LinkedIn will simplify staying connected with law school classmates and former colleagues, and that can be useful in marketing.  For example, at one social networking panel discussion, legal career coach Robin Hensley reported that:

One of her lawyer clients found out through LinkedIn that a law school classmate he’d thought was at a firm in Chicago had gone in-house at one of the companies on his target list. Another client, the local managing partner of a large law firm, discovered that the CEO of an Atlanta-based paperboard company he wanted to pitch was his old law school roommate. But her client hadn’t been in touch with his old friend in a decade and worried that attempting to reconnect would appear “cheesy.”  “He’s on LinkedIn, so he wants to connect,” Hensley told him. “Just send him an email…What’s the worst that could happen? Could you get less business?”

You may decide to limit your social networking activity to the simple step of creating a profile and using LinkedIn to keep in touch with people you know.  But if you decide to go further, there are a wide variety of resources available on the internet about how to use this tool more effectively, ranging from Amy Campbell’s LinkedIn for Lawyers: Top Ten Tips  to Five LinkedIn Tips for Lawyers,  and 100+ Smart Ways to Use LinkedIn  to How to use LinkedIn to build and expand your professional network.

An analysis of how to use social networking in your practice must always come back to three core questions:

  1. What is your marketing goal?
  2. How much time will you devote every week to pursuing that goal?
  3. Is social networking the best way to spend some or all of that marketing time?

If your primary goal is to enhance the business relationships you already have, you can stop reading about social networking and turn instead to the chapters in my book on Defensive Marketing  and Current Clients.  However, if you are looking for new clients, you have already read my book’s section on New Clients – Twelve steps to find them, and you have decided that social networking may play a role, read Part 2 of this series next week.

This post was adapted from my Legal Business Development Quick Reference Guide.

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