Relationship building and communication are key to successful business development, both in terms of working with current clients and attracting new ones. Social networking is simply another tool that can be used to build and maintain relationships. While it will never replace face to face contact, social media, such as Twitter, is worth exploring for lawyers. But why?
- People hire lawyers they know and like: Social networking is another way for lawyers to show clients and potential clients who they are and to highlight their professional accomplishments in a way that is accessible. Along these lines, as Bob Ambrogi comments in his "Tweet 16" on why lawyers should use Twitter, social media allows you to:
"Mold your image: Those who post regularly to Twitter provide others a glimpse of their daily lives. That glimpse can help shape your public image. Do your posts paint you as a high-powered professional — now writing an appellate brief, now preparing for a deposition — or as a trivia-obsessed slacker, now breaking for lunch, now off for drinks? By thinking before you post, you can shape how others see you."Posting on a site like Twitter, or making your professional background transparent on LinkedIn, can make you approachable to clients and potential clients, making them more comfortable coming to you when they need help solving a problem.
- Clients want lawyers who are internet savvy: Having a profile on a website like LinkedIn and participating in the Twitter conversation is one way to show this. I asked my Twitter friends whether they agreed, and lawyer Jason Santarcangelo thought that client interest in social media is a great reason to tweet. He said, "Rule #1 Google. #2 Have friends-tweeting-a great place 2 learn from & connect w/others." Law firm management consultant Tim Corcoran added "Clients want to be understood. If twitter helps, do it." International business development and marketing consultant, Lance Godard, commented that "clients want lawyers who are smart/communicate well. If they can use twitter well, it's a good way to show that internet savvy." Twitter can do more than just connect people though. In Lance's recent 22Tweets interview, lawyer Ben Qualley said that he uses Twitter "both to interact directly with local people, and on a national level, to keep up with the ever-changing practice of law." He added, "I have learned so much in a short time from my colleagues on Twitter, and have strengthened local relationships." Not only can Twitter help to create a network of relationships, but it and other social media sites can keep you up-to-date on what's hot in the legal industry and what your clients might be talking about as well.
- On the internet, everyone can be the same size: Social media tools like Twitter can level the playing field for small to mid-sized businesses. As Susan Ward says in Web 2.0 Won't Eat Your Mouse, "The simplicity and user-friendliness of many of the new tools give small firms and solo practitioners an opportunity to catapult themselves into the forefront of the Internet Olympics, working smarter, faster and yes, stronger." Bob Ambrogi points out that even with only 140-characters, Twitter enables users to circulate firm news and press releases, acts as an online watercooler where participants can comment on industry news, ask questions, and share articles, and helps attorneys keep up on what's topical in the legal industry. Twitter can even be used to promote events for firms with small marketing budgets. With the current economic crisis, free tools like Twitter and LinkedIn can offer creative solutions to tighter and tighter budgets.
- Connect with colleagues, friends, college and law school classmates and build your network: While it might be awkward to call someone you haven't spoken to in ten or twenty years, it would be acceptable to send someone a quick email to connect on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, which could lead to business development. In Ben Qualley's 22Tweets interview, he said "A soft-sell has always been our approach. We are friends with many of our clients before they ever set foot in the door." Social media is an easy way of expanding your network of friends by connecting with colleagues and former classmates online. But Twitter can also help you to develop a new network, which can help you in your business. In the past few months, I've had the opportunity to talk with Kevin O'Keefe, LexBlog's President & Founder, who will be a featured speaker at the ILN's 2009 Annual Meeting. I've also begun working with legal thinker, innovational speaker and jack of all trades, Matt Homann of LexThink, who is helping us to create a unique experience for our 2009 Annual Meeting attendees. Nancy Myrland is assisting us with our internal marketing efforts. Through networking with these and other talented, passionate individuals, I am able to serve my network of attorneys better. Twitter has also been a source of referrals for some attorneys, and a way for them to increase their profile - Tony Colleluori learned of a CLE panel in need of DMV lawyers with high profile cases through a direct message he received on Twitter. Attorney Charles Thomas said "My whole practice just exploded when I got on Twitter!" With endorsements like these, it's easy to see how participating effectively in the Twitter conversation is a smart move to help your business.
- Twittering is mobile: Social networking can be done from anywhere at any time, so it's a flexible way to add to your business development efforts! Applications such as TweetDeck make Twitter more manageable for busy professionals, enabling you to weed out the chatter and participate in the conversations you're really interested in. Applications such as TwitterFon for iPhone and TwitterBerry for Blackberry, among others, allow you to tweet on the go, and never be far from your network. While most conversations happen during business hours, Monday through Friday, you can always find someone to chat to, allowing you to build your network at 3am while in your pajamas, if that's what works best for you!
Learning about Twitter, building your network, and effectively participating in the conversation does take some time, but the benefits far outweigh the investment!