Social media for lawyers has become a 'hot topic' - suddenly everyone wants to talk about it. This month I'm talking to two separate groups of lawyers about social media, next week I'll be meeting with some colleagues to discuss some other programs and workshops specifically geared toward lawyers' use of social media, and next month I'm presenting to yet another group on the topic. Lawyers are asking what social media platforms they should participate in and why. But it's the 'why' that I want to address in this post.
Yesterday I was speaking with a colleague about lawyers and their use (or lack of use) of social media. We were discussing the reasons why lawyers, particularly those in larger firms, might be resistant to the idea of making social media a regular part of their day to day practice building efforts. We each identified very different reasons why we think it makes sense for lawyers to engage in social media, and why we are participating ourselves.
As a result of our conversation, I thought it made sense to reiterate a point I make often with my clients - before you begin using any marketing or practice building tool, you must define the purpose for which you are using that tool. You must have a reason for choosing to participate and identify what goals you want to reach or what results you expect to achieve.
Last week, during a presentation on social media I asked a group of lawyers how many of them were on LinkedIn. Almost everyone raised their hands. Then I asked them, "Other than putting up a profile and occasionally inviting someone you've met at a networking event to connect with you, has anyone done anything else with LinkedIn?" Not one person had. Most of them didn't know there was anything else to LinkedIn other than posting their profile and occasionally (usually haphazardly) inviting others to connect or accepting invitations they had received.
Why were the lawyers I spoke with on LinkedIn in the first place? Probably because someone invited them initially or because they heard that they 'should' be on it.
If you don't have a purpose for participating and you don't know what you want to get out of it, what are the chances that your participation will be anything other than a waste of time? Your purpose needs to be something more than "I heard lawyers should do it" or "Everyone else is doing it."
Just as with any other practice-building tool, in order to maximize the utility of social media, you should examine your purpose for engaging in social media. Once that purpose is well defined, you can create a strategy for your participation in social media that makes sense based upon the purpose (or purposes) that you have identified.
For example, perhaps your purpose is to use social media as a research tool, to gather information and ideas to help you improve your practice or to gain information about an industry or about your clients, while another lawyer's purpose is to use social media primarily as a platform to demonstrate their expertise or to drive traffic to their website. A third lawyer may consider social media the best way to network with others in remote locations, or to build a strong referral pool.
Each of these purposes may lead to different uses for social media, and different strategies to guide those uses. And certainly, those using social media primarily for personal reasons will approach their posts, discussions and connections differently than those using social media primarily for business reasons.
What's your purpose for participating in social media?