A few months ago I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at an intimate gathering of established small business owners and others who asked me to address the subject “How to Attract Clients in a Down Economy.”
I was flattered because only a third of them were lawyers; the rest were in the financial field, including trust officers at larger banks. This issue crosses professions.
But somewhere along the way they started looking at me funny. Let me explain.
Perhaps you are already conversant in what a blog is and how to comment, and perhaps you have explored Twitter. But as someone who is actively engaged in social media, I sometimes forget that I am in a small, yet progressive, minority within not only the legal profession but in general.
For this group, I was asked to facilitate conversation on the topic.
First, I went around the room and asked each person about his or her business and individual responsibility for attracting clients, as well as if the business had created a defined marketing plan to bring in new clients.
Three quarters did not have a marketing plan and felt mild concern that they needed to get new clients because they were seeing changes in their business. They really weren’t 100 percent sure if it was due to the economy. They understood they needed to do something different , just did not quite know what.
About two-thirds had a static website, some of which were business card style. The most advanced person had a website with a built-in blogging component which allowed updates but no commenting. Another was more hands on, attending trade shows and handing out a newly created educational pamphlet.
When I asked if anyone used social media they looked at each other and asked collectively, “What is social media?”
At that point, I might as well have been speaking Venusian.
Most simply didn’t know anything about blogging or tweeting or Facebook or LinkedIn, and those who did were holding back because they were terrified of making huge and costly mistakes without any guidance. Only one younger lawyer was actually on Facebook and slowly easing into Twitter.
Many lawyers want to use the Internet simply to attract clients, not to entertain the masses with their witticisms or criticisms and sensational posts to drive traffic. They seek out blogging and social media sherpas to advise them on these matters.
Their goal is to learn how to get into the game meaningfully, without destroying their reputations or making huge missteps.
For those who may not realize it, all blogging lawyers were once blogging newbies even though today they may present to you as a veteran. Like other veterans, I’ve crossed the river with guides who helped me.
This is my advice if you are interested in venturing into social media:
• Do not be afraid to engage reputable sherpas who can guide you through the use of social media so you do not make costly professional mistakes.
• Do not listen to people who tell you it’s easy, simply because it happened to be easy for them or more interesting to them, or because they are gifted writers and tripped over the finish line by happenstance and intuition. Yes, some things come easier to others. Know where you want to go to meet your own needs and then find the best way to get there.
• Social media can be a minefield. But failing to get involved sooner rather than later can be costly in time, money and lost opportunity. Learn what you don’t know from those who clearly do.
• If you think hiring a good and reputable guide to make the journey a little easier is a smart move for you, then do so. Ask around about people who can help you. It is easy enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is no shortage of people to ask.
You still have to be the “social one” in social media regardless of the platform. But at least you will learn how to do so with someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you are doing it correctly. That’s spending money wisely.
An attorney who started her own practice right out of law school, Susan Cartier Liebel authors the blog Build A Solo Practice, LLC ( http://buildasolopractice.solopracticeuniversity.com ) and is the founder of Solo Practice University(TM), a web 2.0 based educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students who wish to go solo. ( http://solopracticeuniversity.com )