photo-1418225162054-0f773a996f9eAlthough you may be expecting our final Two for Tuesdays post of the year to focus on content marketing, I’m actually going to take a surprising break from that today in favor of sharing with you a couple of networking tips instead (try not to fall over in shock).

This time of year is perfect for networking because we’re all thinking of fresh starts and how we can make new business development connections. And, of course, you’re all joining me for our January LinkedIn Challenge, right?

Since it’s easy to get bogged down in the usual ideas of “okay, so I have to go to more networking events?” and “do I really have to revisit my elevator speech again?” I’m always looking for new and unique ways to breathe some life into my networking efforts without having to get too uncomfortable. I happened to come across this article from HuffPo the other day through Klout – and a quick aside on Klout. Typically, those of us familiar with Klout have long thought of it as a place for egomaniacs, because it’s a service that provides you with a “score” for your social media activity. It’s also generally accepted that this “score” is not altogether accurate – while it does a nice job of feeding your ego, it doesn’t always accurately reflect the quality of what’s being shared, or the level of engagement happening, and a number of us in the social media space were more than alarmed when some companies were hiring based on someone’s Klout score.

But I’m starting to become a Klout evangelist – not because of the scoring, but because they’ve added in another layer of value. As you are scored on Klout, you become known for certain keywords. For example, I’m known for sharing things on “content marketing,” “law firms,” “law,” “legal services,” etc. You can choose what these are, and people endorse you for them as well (lawyers, be careful with that, of course). While I’m wary about that part, what I DO like is that it then gives you an entire section called “Explore,” where Klout provides you with articles and blog posts all related to those topics that you’re sharing about the most – it’s doing the hard work of finding relevant content for you. And you can then share this content (and schedule it to be shared) right from Klout – to a couple of different social platforms. I love that.

So I’ve added Klout to my series of pages that open when I start my browser in the morning, and I’m regularly checking that in addition to my networks for relevant news on the content that I typically post. It tells me what’s “hot off the press” and what’s “on target” (most relevant to my keywords), and then I can click on those articles to open them in a new window, and then share or move on. Really great stuff (and much more valuable to me than the scoring feature). So while you may still be on the fence about Klout’s scoring, it’s worth checking them out again to see what content they can dig up for you to be sharing and consuming, and using as inspiration for your OWN content!

Which brings me right back to today’s post – thanks to Klout, I came across this unique list of networking ideas from undergrads. It may seem as though any ideas undergrads today would have are too outrageous for lawyers to try, but I think you’ll like these ones and can comfortably add them to your networking repertoire.

Networking Idea One: Embrace Facebook

This is the one where I’m most worried about losing some of you, but bear with me, because I promise I’m not advocating anything too extraordinary.  Basically, I’m suggesting that you use Facebook in much the same way most of you should already be using LinkedIn. The HuffPo piece looks at using Facebook’s search for the purpose of making connections for job searches – I’ll share with you their comments first, and then explain how you can use it for business development instead.

We know personal connections can be useful during most job searches – whether you’re reaching out to someone you know for intel or applying to a competitive program where a referral could get your résumé towards the top of a heaping pile. As a college student, though, you likely can’t reel off names and emails of people in your extended network who are already working at the companies you’re eyeing.

Enter Graph Search, the nifty Facebook feature a college junior introduced me to last week.

After identifying specific internship programs, she explained that she’d been using Facebook to connect with current employees at those companies. To demo this process, she pulled up her Facebook profile page and typed “Friends of my friends who work at Dropbox” into the search bar.

Within seconds, her search surfaced profiles of four second-degree connections – i.e. people who she didn’t know (yet), but who identified as Dropbox employees and shared at least one mutual friend. Suddenly, she knew exactly who she could reach out to for a potential introduction.”

This idea works best if you already have a fairly robust Facebook profile (but you can also be doing this for second and third degree connections on LinkedIn).

For business development purposes, let’s say that there’s a company that you’d like to make a connection to, and you’ve either been trying for a while without success, or you haven’t attempted to introduce yourself yet. In Facebook’s search, type “Friends of my friends who work at ___ [company]” and see who comes up. That will let you know which of your friends is connected to someone already working at that company. The legal industry is a small world, and for the most part, we will already know someone who knows someone working at the company that we want to be introduced to. You can then follow up with a phone call (not an email) to the person that you know, and make the request for an introduction.

LinkedIn works similarly, with their second and third degree connections – I often will find that when I’m looking to be introduced to a firm that we may be interested in recruiting, I go first to that firm’s list of employees on LinkedIn, and it tells me right away which of them I have mutual connections with. I can then review that list of connections to see who I would be comfortable speaking with to get an introduction to the person at the firm I’d like to meet. Obviously, you’d also want to give greater weight to someone who has worked with you before, and could give the other person their perspective on working with you as a client.

Who says Facebook is all pictures of babies and puppies?

Networking Idea Two: Business Cards are Back

Lawyers, you’ll be happy to hear this, and I know some of you are already asking “when did business cards go away?”

But business cards are back – that’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t rely on your typical rectangular card anymore – people want and expect more. The HuffPo piece says:

My team has been noticing a throwback trend: Some of the most ambitious, tech-savvy undergrads we’ve met this year, whether on campus or in line at Starbucks, are using paper business cards to stand out and keep in touch. Yes, paper.

These cards aren’t just coming from student CEOs. They’re coming from writers and designers who want to share the link to their portfolios, or coders connecting you to their Githubs, or aspiring academics directing you to their online research, or photographers sharing their work via Flickr and Squarespace. It’s more than a business card, and better than a résumé; it’s a direct example of the work they are capable of.

I’ll add that the cards we’re seeing are anything but ‘old school.’ Some are miniature. Others are textured. Many actually include a QR code that recipients can scan with their smartphones – a useful way to bring offline connections back online.

There’s an inherent challenge in here for lawyers, because we’re in a service industry – it’s not really easy to provide a card with a link to an online profile of your work. But there are unique and interesting things you can do with your card to make it stand out:

  • Make the card itself stand out. I have a square card, with bold colors. I get comments on it every time I hand it out, and sometimes, I even get requests for my card just because it’s “cool-looking.” It’s an odd size, so it stands out from every other card that someone might get, and that makes it more memorable when someone goes back to the office and puts it into their CRM system. So, as the HuffPo piece suggests, find a way to make it different – go miniature, make it textured, make it square. Be bold.
  • Along those lines, why not try to link it in some way with your practice area? If you’re a tech lawyer, do a little research into what those in the industry are using for their cards – how are they communicating their message? If you’re an IP lawyer, do the same. As an immigration lawyer, could you have a passport image or stamp on one side of your card? Find a unique way to tie your card to what it is you do, so that when someone sees it, they don’t have to just read the words to remember what type of law you practice.
  • Go ahead and link to a “portfolio” of your work – you’ve already been creating a robust LinkedIn profile, with recommendations, articles, wins, etc. Put that as your main web address on your card – or the only address on your card. Don’t complicate things by giving people too much information, but send them to one or two places they can find you. Are you particularly proud of your firm bio? Send them there. My recommendation would be to create a trackable shortened link that you use just on your business cards for this purpose – it will be easier for people to remember, and you can better identify how many people are seeking you out based on your business cards (information that was previously not available to you, by the way).

As we head into 2016 in just a couple of days, we have a lot of opportunities to shake up our existing networking activities. What other ways can you reinvigorate your networking efforts for 2016?