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Social media for lawyers: Think of it as a nonstop cocktail party

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond

Want to party 24/7?

Social media perplexes many lawyers and law firms. They know they need to move in that direction, but the “how” escapes them.

The way to succeed with social media is to embrace the simple but effective rules of relationship-based, word-of-mouth marketing.

Or, to put it another way, just imagine you’re at a cocktail party.

In their book Social Media Marketing is a Cocktail Party: Why You Already Know the Rules of Social Media Marketing, marketing experts Tim Tobin and Lisa Braziel suggest that social media is more or less a never-ending, Internet-based cocktail party.

Mark Powers

Mark Powers

In a guest post on the Infusionsoft.BigIdeasBlog, Anne McAuley outlined her “cocktail party rules” for social media:

1) Survey the space. You wouldn’t rush into a cocktail party blathering on to just anyone who would listen; it’s no different with social media. Survey the space by learning about different platforms. Some may work better for you than others. Facebook is used primarily to engage target clients. LinkedIn is used for business-to-business marketing and professional networking. Twitter is commonly used for sharing links to relevant information. Google Plus does that as well, while also driving traffic to websites. Know which platforms are best for your firm and why.

2) Work the room. Get to know who is in your space. Identify and connect with the experts in your area of interest. Listen to what others are saying, comment and create a following. It’s called “working” the room for a reason: It’s work, not aimless, effortless drifting. And it’s well worth the effort.

3) Listen more and talk less. An effective networker at a cocktail party is a good listener and intent on learning more from and about other people. Social media allows you to listen on a big scale to your clients, referral sources and prospects, and even to your competitors. Listen carefully before you join the conversation. For example, lawyers using Twitter’s search function can search “need a lawyer” and literally listen to the people who are asking for their help. Start thinking of social media as a 24/7 focus group that you can tap into any time.

4) Tell, don’t sell. In a recent article he posted on Inc.com, Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, pointed out that you can now tell your stories through social media on a big scale, along with a picture, a 30-second video shot with an iPhone or a tweet. If your story doesn’t resonate, tell another one next hour or tomorrow. Traditional media storytelling requires an expensive public relations agency or a big advertising budget, but with social media there is no barrier to entry and little or no penalty for telling a story that doesn’t quite resonate with your audiences. Just try again.

5) Be authentic and transparent. In that same article, Kerpen said: “This is the hardest rule for older generations to appreciate, but the reality is that in the social media age there are few if any secrets anymore. The more open you are, the more people will trust you. And the more people trust you, the more they’ll want to do business with you.” That’s especially true of lawyers, whose entire relationship with their client is built on a foundation of trust.

6) Be courteous. Whether it’s an in-person or a social media contact, don’t forget to say “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” Be polite, attentive and responsive. For example, retweet or comment when followers engage with you or your brand. “Be prepared if and when someone complains about you on social media,” Kerpen advised. “Embrace it … and fix the problem. When you do that, you not only solve one customer’s problem, you tell the whole world that’s watching that you’re the kind of organization that cares about its customers.”

7) Be valuable. People aren’t interested in your law firm; they’re interested in getting help solving their own problems. So think about how you can provide value to your audience. Are you educating them? How can they benefit from your expertise? Can they gain insight from your experience? Establish yourself and others in your firm as thought leaders in your practice areas by providing useful information and practical guidance. When people have a need for your services, you’ll be top-of-mind, and they will come to you.

Michael Hammond is a founder of, and Mark Powers is president of, Atticus Inc., a Florida-based lawyer marketing consulting firm.

About Michael Hammond and Mark Powers