law firm social media marketing or relationshipsThe reason most companies and people have a challenge with their marketing efforts is that they’re trying to market and not own a relationship. This today from Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan), a widely recognized author, journalist, and marketing consultant.

Brogan writes that marketing is an action.

Getting me to sign up for a mailing list is an action. Having your CDs prominently displayed with a simple pricing placard is an action. Making just a tiny bit of eye contact when my cash goes into your little box is an action. That’s what people do. It’s part of it. You have to do all that.

While relationships are about ownership.

Last night, Rachel Gawell from The Ballroom Thieves reached out to me specifically on Twitter and asked if I’d be at their show coming up. I had somehow thought the show was on another night, so I would have missed it, even if I remembered. But because Rachel took the extra step of making a point of connecting with me, one on one, I’ll be seeing the Ballroom Thieves tonight.

But think about this: I’m just one schmoe in the crowd. Granted, I’m a schmoe with an audience, so let’s not discount that. But just scanning the rest of Rachel’s tweets, she’s doing the work. She’s connecting, reaching out, looking for ways to build up the other bands she supports, and help the venues she works in and beyond. She’s relationship-minded. And that’s how she uses the tools, to connect and keep relationship experiences flowing.

When I read Chris’ post all I could think of was law firms and social media.

Social media and social networking, whether it be via LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Google+ are all about relationships. Relationships with clients, relationships with prospective clients, relationships with referral sources and relationships with the influencers of these folks – bloggers, reporters, and association leaders.

What’s the big deal about relationships? Relationships are oxygen for a law firm. Without them, you’re dead.

Yet most law firms look at the Internet and social as a marketing opportunity, not a relationship opportunity. Rather than demanding lawyers play an active role in social and teaching them how to fish, many marketing professionals focus on doing the job for their lawyers – they market.

Some law firms even pay ‘marketing companies’ to blog, to push their blog posts at people, to run their Facebook page, or even tweet for them.

Sure, relationships take more time than marketing. Per Brogan:

Marketing is all you need if you’re selling a product anyone else can buy elsewhere. I wouldn’t put a ton of work into trying to sell hot dogs, for instance. Unless, of course, I wanted a relationship, and I wanted to be the best hot dog guy in the universe, the one that comes to mind the minute you mention hot dogs the way Joe Sorge comes to mind the minute someone says burgers.

Think about that. Marketing is all you need if you’re selling legal services everyone can buy elsewhere. You’re out hustling against every other law firm marketing department and law firm.

But law firms have some something special. Their people. People who care about what they do and are often very talented. These people (lawyers) need to get out and build relationships one by one through the net.

This morning I had a quick exchange with Mel Williscroft and Kristie Robertson of McCarthy Tétrault, a multinational law firm based in Canada and a client of LexBlog’s. Through Mel and Kristie’s engaging style of using Twitter at McCarthy, I took notice of the McCarthy twitter account and asked who was doing the great work on Twitter. Mel and Kristie responded it was them and thanked me for the shout out.

Mel and Kristie were building relationships for McCarthy and I was doing the same for LexBlog. Where it goes, who knows? But I’ll take that personal bond with a client any day over traditional marketing. And so will law firms.

Like Brogan says, “You can market, which you have to do anyway, or you can own some relationships.”

Image courtesy of Flickr by Robin Grant.