Looking back – Looking forward.
Social media and social networking platforms open up doors to new relationships and often work well as tools for marketing – broad distribution, top of mind impact, and exposure for expertise.
However, looking back on my social media involvement during 2010, these two uses actually had the least impact on my business goals.
Interestingly, social media was most helpful to me in 2010 when I was engaging with colleagues and friends with whom I already had an off line relationship at one point or other in time. This didn’t mean that I ONLY interacted with people I knew in the bricks and mortar world; in fact, I made several significant new connections in 2010 with people I’d only met via social media who became new clients, valuable resources, and generally great people to know. But overall, this was the exception not the rule. I received more new business from mining my known network and from using social media tools to deepen relationships with those in my network who are geographically distant. Realizing this is helping me focus my social media activity in 2011.
Focus on content and community.
Based on my experimentation with open networking in the very large marketplace of the social web, I’ve learned that the best use of social networks, and even my blog, is to “get together” online with people I already know using smaller communities; so I intend to do more of that in 2011.
Essentially my community interaction revolves around content, i.e. status updates, reviews, ideas, suggestions, quotes, links to what’s being read, and notes about what’s going on in lives, both personal and professional. For the most part, I care about what my established communities are talking about because I already have a sense of who they are and where they fit into my life. It gives our interactions focus. It allows me to contribute in a meaningful way. The content we share creates a sort of bond. Within this type of community we are all free to do business with one another and indeed we do. What really makes focused communities helpful to me is in knowing that being social online becomes something I want to do and not just another “marketing” chore. It’s authentic. And, when you’re doing something you like to do, the enthusiasm is noted by others and often translates to new business.
This is really important, I think, for law firms who are trying to make sense of how they can leverage social tools for the entity. Casting a wide net may have a place in the marketing mix, but finding or creating smaller communities to engage in is where they will begin to see the most meaningful activity and new business prospects.
Chris Brogan recently blogged about the importance of building your social media activity around an object of focus to stimulate content and community:
You need a campfire…you need that social setting that consists of: object of focus, group experience of that object, and then creative expression thereafter. In literal terms, the party is around a campfire. In more stretched out thinking, the party is around the creative content. It’s content, community, and marketplace, said another way.
Community intersects with business.
As more law firms (and individual lawyers) will be entering the age of social media this year they will be looking for beneficial ways to engage. I suggest you do yourself a favor, skip a couple steps and take note; human behavior doesn’t change: Humans seek connection – in both their personal and professional lives. Whatever community you want to penetrate, reach, influence, or start, the secret to successful social media engagement is to study human behavior. Humans connect around commonalities, interests, issues, industries, questions, answers, topics, opinion, politics; you name it. Study the behavior of your clients, “friends of the firm,” referral sources, and even partners and employees in far flung offices, whoever you wish reach, because the more aware you are of the fundamental human behavior at work, the more likely your online activity or social media strategies will feel natural and be valuable on numerous levels.
A community within the very large online social marketplace is the most viable source for doing business. The best way to create business opportunities using social media is to be a member of a community where you can engage others, enable relationships, and create trust. How do you do that? I’ve said it before and will say it again…in using social media tools we’re not doing anything different, we’re just doing it differently. In life, we chose our friends based on synergies – we share a love of conversation, family, sports, literature, politics, movies, travel, wine, etc. And, we gravitate toward certain people in our workplace based on like passions for the work and other commonalities like schools, neighborhoods, or even the charities we support.
Whether you are a law firm marketer building a social media strategy or a lawyer executing on tactics, devote your premium time to interacting with people you know and converse about what it is that they, and you, care about most; if you try to force interaction or push content that is not relevant, it just won’t happen. Think about your object of focus, build on the experience of the group, and your social media activity will become meaningful, natural and beneficial no matter what the topic or focus. It’s really quite basic. Oh, and lest I forget to mention….it’s been my experience in 2010 that engagement that leads to new business does not happen without consistent participation, i.e. work! Those who are new to social media, looking for a short cut or quick fix will be disappointed. Here’s to a great new year with social media!
And, here’s an excerpt from my recently published book, social.lawyers | Transforming Business Development, West, (2010 ed.), that tells the story of how community creates business.