A Participation Plan

Gyi Tsakalakis
August 2, 2010

"I don't have time to do social media."  "I set up profile and am getting zero results."  "Social media hasn't produced one client for my firm." 

These are some common complaints we hear from legal professionals about social media and social networking.  While I have little doubt that these statements are true for the attorneys that have made them, the very nature of the statements indicates a lack of understanding of the very nature of social media and social networking.

I don't have time to do social media.

This is a very common, as well as, legitimate complaint.  Your professional time is probably the second most valuable asset you have.  Can you guess the first?

While not having enough time is certainly a legitimate complaint, it's not a legitimate excuse for not participating online.  To me, saying that you don't have enough time for social media and social networking is like saying you don't have enough time to respond to emails, answer the phone, or participate in offline professional networking activities.

I set up a profile and am getting zero results.

You set up a profile and aren't getting results?  Weird.  Again, expecting results from setting up a social media profile is like hooking up your office phone and waiting for it to ring.  While you need a phone to talk to prospects, clients, and other professional contacts, simply having a phone won't make it ring.  Despite the fact that they contain your firm's contact information, your social media profiles are not advertisements!

I haven't seen social media produce a single client for my firm.

And how did you draw this conclusion?  Haven't received a client intake form from a twitter direct message?  No one has posted a request for a consultation on your facebook wall?  Your readers aren't leaving "call me I want to hire you" as comments on your blog?

I'm a big believer in return on investment.  "Believer" is probably the wrong word.  It's axiomatic that marketing and advertising investments should produce a return.  However, how you measure the return for any particular investment, can vary greatly.

For example, if you pay for online advertising, you should measure impressions, clicks, conversions, phone calls, and new clients.  If, over time, your advertisement does not generate more in terms of new business than it costs, then you should drop it.

On the other hand, there are many marketing investments that require more sophisticated measurement.  For example, how do you attach a dollar amount to a conversation that leads to a speaking engagement that leads to a new client.  How do you measure the value of being quoted in an industry journal?

Abandoning social media and social networking because clients aren't checking the "found you on twitter" box of your intake form is unwise.

A Social Networking Participation Plan

Once you understand that social media is a tool and not an advertising opportunity, it's time to understand how to use the tools at your disposal.  The only thing worse than not having the right tools, is using tools the wrong way.  This can be especially problematic when you're talking about tools that may impact your professional reputation, your most valuable asset.

There is a lot of information out there about using social media for your law firm.  Some great, some ok, some just wrong.  Before you buy books, webinars, or pay huge consulting fees for social media expertise, check out the free stuff first.

Even more importantly, create an online social networking plan.  Here's a very basic 3 hour per week plan.  Start with smaller and informed social media investments.  Here are some additional guidelines:

- Avoid the "auto" stuff.  Your law firm doesn't have an auto-dialer (at least I hope not), neither should your profiles.

- Focus on "with" or "at".  Don't "participate" at people online, participate with them.

- Listen.

- Be responsive.

- Be patient.

- Measure your efforts in conversations.  Don't even think about how many "friends", "followers", and "connections" you have.  Focus on the number of times you "converse".  Start by trying to have one online conversation per day.

- Take your relationships offline.

- If you do absolutely nothing else, understand how to, and then start blogging.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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