One of the hottest topics up for discussion at last week’s Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Meeting was social networking. From Twitter to Facebook, blogging and tweeting, it almost sounds like a foreign language to the uninitiated. The LMA even warranted its very own hashtag (#LMA) on Twitter to keep track of all the comments flowing through the twitterstream. My own affinity for social networking brought me to Friday’s breakout session, “Emergence & Benefit of Social Networking for Legal Professionals,” led by John Lipsey, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s Vice President of Corporate Counsel Services. The session turned out to be a broader look at social networking than some of the attendees would have liked, but a number of valuable points could still be gleaned. If you’d prefer to read my comments in tweet form, my tweets from the session follow this post.
Social networks involve reputation management: In a Web 2.0 world, you lose control over your own messaging, so a shift is necessary from attempting to control the message to managing your reputation and that of your firm. Because everyone has a voice on the internet, you never know where your next opportunity, or public relations crisis, will come from. As recent incidents have shown, what you say online can affect your career and is not easily erased. Similarly, what others say about your and your firm online can also impact your reputation. The key here is understanding that whether or not your are participating in social networks, the conversation is happening. So getting involved in social networking allows you some control over what is being said about you and your firm, and the ability to react to what others are saying. To monitor the conversation about you and your firm, John suggested setting up Google alerts for your name, your firm’s name, and considering extending these to specialized practice areas to keep abreast of what online chatter might be affecting your reputation.
Twitter is here to stay: As John said during his presentation, the conversations that happen via 140-characters on Twitter become tomorrow’s blog post and the next day’s front page newspaper article. Twitter can help you to understand the conversations around the things you care about, from hot topics in the legal industry and what your clients want, to things like your favorite sports teams and even tips for running. With Twitter’s growth rate at 1382% as of March 2009, it’s not likely to be going anywhere soon.
Use social networks to listen, collaborate, and showcase: To find the right networks, it’s important to identify the goal you have and then be in the places where the people who can help you meet that goal are going. Although John suggested setting up profiles on numerous social networking sites, that can be overwhelming and unwieldy. Doing a bit of research in advance to see which platforms are the most comfortable for you, and then choosing one or two networks to focus your time on is more effective. I focus on Twitter for building my network, Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family already in my network, and LinkedIn for my professional network. Your online profile on these sites is your online business card – what you do with it creates your brand and reputation.
If you’re new to social networking, you can learn at your own pace. To start, John suggested finding blogs that talk about the things you care about, and setting up an RSS reader so that you can get a sense of what bloggers in that space talk about. Find online profiles of people you respect to see how they’re representing themselves online. Create a Twitter profile, start following people in your field, and read what they say, look at what they link to (for anyone in the legal field, I highly recommend checking out Kevin O’Keefe’s LexTweet for a list of legal tweeters). When you’re ready to start using networks more interactively, it’s still possible to be conservative, if that makes you more comfortable. You can use your online networks to reach out in the same way you would use more traditional methods. Use Twitter or status updates on Facebook and LinkedIn to send out alerts you are also emailing to clients and potential clients. Comment on the ways new laws might affect your clients in your blog, and link to this on your social networks. Ask questions and engage in conversations. Look for needs that you can help to fulfill. Social media helps to turn traditional marketing materials into market intelligence that’s useful to clients, and by making it immediately available on social networking sites, clients have quicker and easier access to it. Social networks also allow you to open a dialogue with clients and potential clients, which can help you to gain valuable insight. For example, you may learn how to better help your clients based on comments you receive on your blog posts.
The key takeaways I got from John’s talk are to use social networks in the same way you’d use traditional networking methods – to listen, to collaborate, and showcase your expertise. Also, being a part of the conversations taking place on social networks helps you to understand what’s being said about you and your firm, so that you can manage your reputation as well as find out what’s important to your clients and potential clients. For me, one of the best ways to do this is through Twitter, which most of us in the room could agree, is not going away any time soon!
Social Networking Tweets:
In April of 2008, about 50% of counsel belong to social network, like LinkedIn or Facebook #LMA10:00 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Corporate counsel are 3x more likely to use their networks for professional reasons #LMA10:01 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
@holdencalgary It certainly has been for our network – little financial investment with GREAT return! #LMA10:06 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck in reply to holdencalgary
No surprise – what you have on your social networks (if not kept private) can impact your career #LMA10:07 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
In a web 2.0 world, you lose a lot of control over your own messaging – question is how to deal with less control & manage reputation #LMA10:10 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
How do you deal with sheer amt of info from alerts? Trial and error – don’t be too broad. Figure out your objective & filter #LMA10:12 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
So true: Today’s twitter is tomorrow’s blog post is the next day’s front page newspaper article #LMA10:15 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Most of the room has experimented with twitter, but only very few tweeting – we’re still in experimental stage #LMA10:16 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Twitter helps you to understand the conversation around the things that you care about #LMA10:17 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
If you’re afraid to tweet, you can just read what other people are saying until you get more comfortable #LMA10:19 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Twitter is “keyboard bravery” – audience member said it’s giving the bad kids who pass notes in class a voice #LMA10:20 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Our responsibility as marketers to anticipate and guide firms as new technologies happen – twitter not going away #LMA10:21 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Need to figure out what your goal in social networking is & then be in the place where ppl are going or seem to be going #LMA10:25 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
You can still be conservative in this dynamic new space – important for some of our lawyers, I think! #LMA10:26 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
It’s still important to be cautious when joining a social network – do your research #LMA10:30 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
RT @EsuziT: make sure social network data isnt being sold or used for some purpose you’re not comfortable with #lma10:31 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
RT @nancymyrland: #LMA Online profile is now your online calling card to the world. What you do with it creates brand and reputation.10:34 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
For a great example of a LinkedIn profile – check out Mark Beese http://bit.ly/S9rG #LMA10:35 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Why create a large network? It can help you to get a trusted referral when you see how you’re connected to someone (like on LinkedIn) #LMA10:38 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
You can decline invitations to networks if they don’t meet with your objectives – generally, the person inviting doesn’t know #LMA10:39 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Social media can help turn mktg materials into market intelligence – then it’s useful to clients & there’s a live immediate interest #LMA10:48 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
Yes – There’s a lot of satisfaction when you start something, and people respond, like on twitter or blogs #LMA10:53 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
My favorite thing – social networking is here to stay!! #LMA11:01 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck
RT @nancymyrland: Myrland Marketing Moment: Live-Tweet the presentations your prof’s are giving. Let ur clients know u will b doing so #LMA11:04 AM Apr 3rd from TweetDeck