This article was originally written in November 2009 for Plugged In Lawyer, a blog about social media for lawyers.
The book is about using free social media tools to transform personal passion into a successful business, and the book is No. 5 on the Wall Street Journal business best-seller list.
These are Gary V’s Five Commandments of Social Networking (as presented by WSJ Blogs) and yes, they all apply to lawyers playing in the social media sandbox:
- Treat it like a cocktail party. Social media is about conversations and relationships, not selling. Put on your marketing hat to create your strategy and action plan, but “change your clothes” before your guests arrive. Nobody wants to talk business at the party, but they’ll contact you when they have a need or refer somebody to you when they hear about a need.
- Don’t draw lines in the sand. This is one of my favorites and refers to making hard and fast rules that you and your business don’t belong on one social media platform or another. This comes up a lot with Twitter and Facebook. These platforms are overwhelmingly popular for a reason. Just accept that maybe you don’t understand the how’s and why’s yet, and observe for awhile. Be obstinate at your peril.
- Humanize yourself or your brand. Okay, I’m the first to admit that this one is hard for a lawyer. But then maybe we make it too hard. This is not about mindlessly sharing every last detail of your life. This is about thoughtfully considering who your desired audience is, and sharing a little bit about your personality to differentiate yourself from all the other similar experts in your niche. Hint: what you share might be different from platform to platform because the audience is likely a little different. For help, refer back to Laura Fitton’s advice on listening first.
- Understand the authenticity. Your clients and potential clients have big voices on the internet today and a lot of power comes with that. You have got to be out there listening and following your demographic. Whether you’re a deal lawyer or a divorce lawyer, your clients and potential clients are on the net talking about their problems and challenges. Are you going to follow the conversation so you can offer solutions, or will you let your more social networking savvy competitors do it?
- Interacting with potential clients and becoming part of the community is a real job. This is the “catch” to social media. It takes some time and it can’t be delegated to your secretary or junior associate, any more than you would send them to an offline business-oriented social function in your place. And you can’t create an effective marketing strategy in this new age if you’re not the one “listening” to the chatter in your space. It’s your business/law practice and it must bear your signature style or clients and potential clients will smell the inauthenticity and run for the hills. Nobody likes a bait and switch and those are becoming really easy to identify on the web.
Does this list sound too “out there” for you? The first time I looked at somebody’s Twitter stream running real time on her website, I thought there was no way I could ever learn this “new language.” I’m now 315 tweets into my new Twitter adventure and I still don’t understand that particular person’s style of tweeting, but I’ve learned by taking the plunge that there are plenty of other people that I do understand. I’ve made the virtual acquaintance of some amazing people at the Twitter cocktail party and I’m giddy with excitement over the sheer prospect of the people I’ve yet to meet. In the still immortal words of Nike, “just do it.” You will learn and it gets easier. And who doesn’t like a cocktail party?