Social Networking- Successful Training for Lawyers

Many law firms are (finally) starting to take a serious look at social networking tools as an inexpensive resource for developing new business. (Note: This author points out that online social may be inexpensive in dollars but time intensive.  Time is $$. ) To conduct training sessions they are frequently using or considering using outside consultants.Teacher in lab coat Small

Since the ranks of self-anointed social networking experts grows daily and general law firm consultants are picking up on the basics, there are a lot more choices these days of who to hire for the job.

In my travels I have learned several things that I am happy to share and that might help you. Here are 10 things to consider when looking for outside counsel to introduce attorneys to social networking tools.

1.  At this point in the continuum, any consultant, legal or non-legal, lawyer or non-lawyer, management or marketing focused can probably speak broadly about social networking.  Anyone has access to tons of informational sites on the Web that offer tips and success stories.  A consultant would be foolish not to at least have a cursory knowledge of how the tools work. Knowing how to make them work effectively, however, is a different story.  You may be wasting your resources on more sophisticated counsel, so don’t assume your lawyers are serious.

2. Don’t invest your resources on expensive mass education and expect results. Probably 1-2% of the lawyers I speak with actually want to do the work. Raise your hand if you’ve seen that before.  Joining a social networking site and not contributing to the conversation is the equivalent of joining a trade group or association and not showing up for meetings or not working toward making new connections when you do actually show up at the annual boondoggle.  (see #6)

3. Generally speaking, and I have given presentations and conducted surveys at numerous law firms, the majority of lawyers just want to know what it’s about so they don’t feel left out or clueless.  So if you’re comfortable with a particular consultant and just need an overview I’d engage them whether or not they were a so-called expert. People learn from people they like.

4. Do some homework. If your lawyers just want to be in the know, go ahead and get anyone – including your self – to shed some light on the mystery.  You really only need a superficial knowledge. There are tons, and I mean tons of PowerPoint slide shows on and YouTube. Most are creative commons licensed, so you can use them for in-house training. Summer associates are also a good resource, and gives them experience in presenting information in a group setting.

5. If an individual lawyer is really serious and wants to make a commitment to Twitter for dummies_get involved, the first thing they should do is pick up Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter for Dummies. These books can be casually browsed, and readers can apply tactics one at a time as they grow into their networking experience. Once they get through this step, then you, the CMO, Director or Administrator,  might consider hiring a business development coach that has social media expertise to help them with specifics and nuances. Because……

6. The only really effective training –with traceable results –I know of is one on one or small group training similar to business development coaching or networking workshops. The bottom line here is that the individual lawyer is responsible for their networking life. If they want it to translate to business, they will benefit from a business development coach that knows how lawyers get business and knows how to navigate the online space.  A good coach will help them identify objectives, find placement, work on positioning, build leads, and coach them on deepening relationships.

7. If your firm initiates a policy, then training on that policy is critical. A policy-based session will teach best practices and ethical behavior. That is not, however, going to teach lawyers how to use social networking for biz development. It may solve the mass education requirement, but again, using social networking for biz dev is best handled on a case-by-case basis.

8.  The best reason to use social networking and other social media tools is to increase exposure for an expertise and get found by search engines so people searching for you can find you. Search results from social media sites deliver content, not marketing speak from the corporate Web site.  Social sites are huge and thus they return early in results. This approach takes a lot more than an introduction to social networking. It’s an integrated approach. This is strategy that only someone who is in the trenches experimenting and trend-spotting knows how to do well. Return on objectives is very important to success and success is important to stick-to-itness. That’s where I’d invest my money.

9. Small group training with a strategic focus is another great option. Find a small team of doers and build a strategy around their activity. This is not something the casual consultant may be able to help you with and you might want to find an outside specialist.

10. Meanwhile, even before you’ve got a critical mass or a strategy, you should be auditing your footprint and managing your reputation online. Be aware, though, managing your footprint requires a different skill set. It requires a focus on stats, research methods, and technical tools. It is not about business development coaching. They are two different and complimentary components of new media. The general consultant is probably not your best choice if you choose to undertake such a program.

What have been some of your experiences? Have you hired an outside social networking consultant for training? How did it go?  Were they really great? Did they light a fire? How many attorneys in your firm are serious networkers – online or offline?

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