As I noted in my previous post, I attended the American Bar Association's National Solo and Small Firm Conference, presented by the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division in L.A. last week. In addition to speaking about good billing practices for lawyers, I had the opportunity to attend several of the other sessions presented at the conference. I 'live tweeted' many of these sessions during the conference, and I've composed a series of posts based on those tweets for my blog readers.
Kicking off the conference was a session on Social Media for lawyers, presented by Lisa Solomon and Niki Black.Lisa noted that social media provides "ambient awareness;' it keeps you on people's radar. She recommended that you 'be your authentic self' on social media and 'take off your lawyer hat' so that people can get to know you. At the same time, she cautioned against 'over-sharing' and reminded the audience that you should assume that everything you put online will stay out there - forever.
Lisa also noted something that I have experienced since having become more involved in social media over the past year - social media makes conferences more fun because many of the preliminaries are already out of the way. It removes some of the awkwardness because you already know one another through your online interactions. She likened online networking to a 'small town' feel where everyone knows each other - only now the network of contacts is national (or even international) rather than merely local. As Niki Black pointed out, social and professional networking are not mutually exclusive.
The presenters mentioned a number of popular social media outlets, and Niki Black noted that profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Avvo rank high on the search engines and will help you get found. Lisa reminded the audience about one of my favorites, JD Supra, which allows you not only to create an online profile, but to upload documents that can be shared. JD Supra does a great job of pushing out the content that's posted on their site, which means additional exposure for you if you participate. Niki reported several contacts and inquiries received weekly as a result of her online profiles.
Niki recommended Feedly.com as a great RSS reader for keeping current on blogs and other online content. An author and contributor to numerous blogs, she cautioned that although blogging is a great way to get to the top of the search engines, in order to be successful, you must like to write and to interact with others online.
Niki also advised that time spent on social media has tripled over the past year. Because it is so popular, even if you choose not to participate in social media, you must need to understand it and how others are using it.
Both presenters encouraged lawyers to try social media. Niki says, "Don't let the naysayers keep you away from social media. Ignore your fears." Lisa advises that you set up profiles on sites like Twitter even if you don't participate so that others can't use your name first. But Niki notes that, "social media is useless without goals." I couldn't agree more, as with any business building endeavor, you must first determine what you want to accomplish before you can develop an effective strategy for reaching your goals.
If one of those goals is to get known and to build your practice, social media may be a good tool to use. As Lisa Solomon stated in her presentation, social media allows you to communicate and collaborate online. To do so effectively, she recommends that you monitor the online conversation so that you don't need to guess what your target audience is concerned about.
Social media seems to be one of "the" hot topics this year, although there are still relatively few lawyers using social media on a regular basis, and even fewer who are using it in a targeted way. It was interesting to note how few attendees at this conference - including the session on social media - were using laptops at the conference. And, compared to other recent conferences I've attended, even fewer of those were using their laptops to engage in social media, as opposed to merely taking notes in a word processing program.
I look forward to following the progression of social media in the practice of law. In the interim, if you'd like to get started using social media as part of your strategic law firm marketing plan, please feel free to contact me to see how I can help.