Years after Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn debuted, social media remains a hot topic of discussion for lawyers and legal professionals. How should it be used? Which sites are best? How do you get started–or should you get started at all? We’re happy to welcome this guest post from Victoria Santoro exploring the value of social media. Victoria is a litigator with Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, P.C. in Boston, MA.
I’ve had enough people ask me if social media is really “worth it,” that I’ve given this question some serious thought. If you didn’t grow up with Facebook, and then Twitter, it’s perfectly natural to ask the question. But the answer, resoundingly, is yes. However, getting your firm engaged on social media certainly isn’t noteworthy. At this point, you’re late to the game. But it is noteworthy if you don’t exist online. Absence from various social media outlets will signal to referrers and clients that you’re a legal dinosaur, a relic from a prior era. This is something we can all agree would be bad for business.
More people than ever have access to the internet and, consequently, use social media in their daily lives. If someone is trying to discover information about you and/or your firm, what is the first thing they do? They run a search online! Let me be clear here: You don’t want to be conspicuously absent from the internet. Networking isn’t necessarily face to face anymore. No one wants to see a hard copy of your resume anymore either. Essentially, your online presence is your resume. You must be available, interactive and engaged with the community via social media. Otherwise, you’re taking a risk that you’ll be overlooked or, worse, forgotten.
I hear two questions related to social media for law firms with frequency. The first is, “do you really get clients from the internet?” and the second is “isn’t it a huge time commitment?” The answers will surprise you.
As to the first, do we really get clients from the internet? Directly, no. At least, not that I am aware of. But, I do know that when clients are evaluating our firm, a number of them have read my blogs, looked at our website, and checked out our Facebook postings. Whether it’s from a referrer, or some other source, potential clients want to be able to get information about the attorneys. Working with a lawyer usually means someone is going through a difficult period in their life and, quite naturally, people want to know about the lawyers they’re going to be spending time with. If you’re absent from social media, it’s one less way to connect with the universe of people who are interested in what you do.
And, frankly, why wouldn’t you want to shout your successes, both personal and professional, from the electronic rooftops? Social media is a way to expand that universe of people that I just mentioned. Connect with people in your field, build online rapport with them. If they come to your city, meet for coffee. Not being active on social media means missing out on these ways to connect in an ever more interconnected world.
As to the second question, is social media a huge time commitment? Yes. There are products designed to help you manage your social media presence but, unless you employ marketing professionals, social media will be a time commitment. But lawyers always spend a lot of time on important tasks! Generally, if something is crucial to your future, you invest time in it.
So, the answers to the two most frequently asked questions regarding social media probably disappointed you. But, consider this. At legal conventions or local events, people often come up to me and begin a conversation with, “I think I follow you on twitter!” (I promise, I don’t have that many followers, so this was originally surprising.) This has happened enough that I have fully embraced the value of my online identity and actively work to cultivate it, both as an individual and as a member of my law firm. The general public can have a glimpse into my personality and my work simultaneously.
It all comes down to relationships, and social media is simply another way to build them. You never know where your next wonderful client may come from, or your next lucrative referral relationship might appear. But it would be a giant mistake to willfully ignore the impact social media has on our world. There are a great many ways to get involved and I promise, if you stick with it, you’ll find new and exciting people to connect with, and connections are always worth it.