Can social media successfully be used by lawyers to create an effective online presence for business development purposes? Absolutely. In this post and in next week’s post, I’m going to highlight some lawyers who have done just that. But first, let’s discuss the tremendous footprint left by social media on our culture over the last few years.
A phenomenon, not a fad
It used to be, back when I first started writing about the intersection of the Internet with the legal profession, social media was easily dismissed as a passing fancy. Most lawyers seemed to think it was an Internet-based fad for kids–something not even worthy of their attention.
Fast forward to 2012 and it’s clear that social media is a force to be reckoned with–and the legal field is not immune. Lawyers are mining social networks for evidence, the federal jury instructions have been amended in an attempt to reduce the number of mistrials across the country due to jurors’ social media posts, and lawyers are even losing their jobs because of their careless social media postings.
There’s no doubt about it–social media is not a fad. It’s a phenomenon that has affected the way that we communicate, interact, and conduct business. Because so many people participate on social media (as many as 1 billion people worldwide), it has the potential to be a great source of customers for all industries, including the legal field. The trick is to use it wisely.
While that sounds simple, it’s not as easy as it seems. But it can be done. There are lawyers who successfully use social media in a thoughtful and targeted manner. But to do so, you need to understand the various online platforms and then selectively interact online in ways that will best serve your interests. Here are some lawyers who have done just that.
Creating their own tribe
Seth Godin, marketing guru (and provider of deep thoughts via his blog and his books), discusses the idea of using the Internet to form groups of like-minded individuals by creating “movements that matter” in his bestselling book “Tribes.” While some lawyers, such as Venkat Balasubramani (See: Seeking: A Seth Godin Decoder Ring), often find themselves puzzled by Godin’s sometimes vague calls to action, Godin’s message about the value of creating communities is one worth considering.
Two great examples of online communities founded by lawyers immediately spring to mind. But first, keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that the primary motivation for creating these online communities was business development–no doubt passion for the community’s focus was the primary motivating factor. But I am suggesting that an inevitable outcome of creating a “tribe” is becoming well known and respected in your field, which in turn oftentimes leads to referrals.
First, there is the Macs in Law Offices (MILO) Google group founded by South Carolina attorney Ben Stevens. MILO has over 3800 members and is a very active forum made up of Mac-using lawyers worldwide. There is also a corresponding annual conference, MILOfest, an annual event that is organized by New Jersey attorney Victor Medina, another Mac-using lawyer.
Victor and Ben have successfully created a thriving worldwide community of lawyers who use Apple products in their practices. And to the thousands of people active in this community, Victor and Ben are very familiar faces and are well regarded as highly knowledgeable attorneys. If you don’t think this familiarity and respect results in referrals from their tribe, well then, I suggest you think again.
Similarly, Minnesota attorney Sam Glover, has achieved equal success by creating a tribe centered around his well known and well traveled blog, Lawyerist. Founded in 2007 by both Sam and Aaron Street, Lawyerist is a group blog that focuses on information relevant to starting and running a successful solo or small firm law practice. (Disclaimer: I post at Lawyerist).
Not only does Sam regularly blog at Lawyerist, he also manages and interacts in the corresponding group forum, the Lawyerist Advisory Board (LAB), which has over 4200 members. And, the Lawyerist Twitter account is nothing to sneeze at either, with over 13,000 followers.
Lawyerist, LAB, and the related Lawyerist social media accounts are considered some of the go-to sources for law practice management-related information and Sam’s astute and well though out advice and input is highly valued by the tens of thousands of lawyers familiar with Lawyerist. Like MILOgroup members, Lawyerist followers are a loyal, devoted tribe. And, to whom do you think this tribe refers Minnesota-based business entrepreneurs who are seeking legal counsel? If you guessed Sam Glover, then I bet you’re right.
More lawyer social media success stories to come
Of course, starting a thriving online community isn’t easy and it’s not for everyone. It takes hard work and a true passion for the subject matter that is the focus of the community.
The good news is that you don’t have to start an online forum for lawyers in order to create a successful online presence for your law firm. There are plenty of other ways to accomplish this same goal. And, in the weeks that follow, I’m going to highlight a few other success stories, including: 1) how one lawyer is using the latest social media darling, Pinterest, in a very creative way, 2) how a law student created a name for himself online and continues to do so as he builds a solo practice from the ground up, 3) how one personal injury attorney successfully created a blog that stands out from the crowd, and 4) how a BigLaw attorney has created a very successful niche using social media.