Stephen Fairley (@stephenfairley) , CEO of the Rainmaker Institute, shared earlier this week that “The goal of social media is to engage with individuals in meaningful ways and drive them off the social media platform to your website or blog.”
I’m sure Fairley’s intentions were well placed and he’s not saying to sell on social media, but I couldn’t help but think of someone I’m in a conversation with at a networking event saying “Psst, over here. Look at this picture in my pocket.” Or someone sitting in a hospital foundation board leaning over to a fellow board member and whispering “Let’s get out of here, I have a brochure on my company I want to show you back at my office.”
For me, the goal of social media is relationships and an enhanced word of mouth reputation. Success being measured by whether my network of relationships is growing, whether I am establishing myself as a “go-to lawyer, and whether I am growing my business by retaining existing clients and landing high quality new clients.
The best lawyers get their work via relationships and word of mouth. Always have and aways will. The Internet and social media did not change that. Social media, including blogging, just accelerates relationships and word of mouth.
Relationships and a word of mouth reputation are established in large part through your legal work and social engagement. If you’re out their networking among people you get known, establish trust, and build a reputation.
If you’re a trial lawyer like I was, you get known by court officials, jury members, treating doctors, insurance people, and the community as a whole via the media. Word spreads as to your passion, care, and expertise.
Business development is why some of the better lawyers in every community across this country are active socially. Whether it’s bar associations, civic boards, industry associations, speaking engagements, country clubs, or coaching youth sports, they’re out there and involved.
Lawyers who are active like this have always grown their book of business. They did it without a brochure, advertisement, or website.
When people had a legal need they turned to someone they trusted. Whether it was a lawyer who could do the work or knew of a lawyer who could, or someone they trusted who knew of a lawyer to help or for a referral to a lawyer who could. Bottom line, the work arrived for lawyers who did offline social networking.
Is it really any different today? If a lawyer builds relationships and a word of mouth reputation via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or blogging, does the lawyer need to get the people they are interacting with off Facebook to develop business? Why would you even try when you are both enjoying yourselves?
I’m in agreement with Fairley that a blog and website, done well, can add to a lawyer’s credibility. I just don’t view social media as a means to capture the contact information of prospective clients, as Fairley tweeted in a good exchange today.
Sure, people may check out your website or blog after getting to know you via online social engagement. But they need not do so to become a client. In fact, they are apt to trust you as a result of your conduct and willingness to help folks away from your website, as opposed to by looking at your website.
Maybe I am old school and don’t understand how online leads and conversion work today?
But I have met and gotten to know hundreds, if not thousands, of some of the finest people you’d ever want to meet as a result of networking online away from my website. Never was my goal to get the people I engaged to leave social networks and come to my website.
I have learned a ton from the people I have met through this networking and our LexBlog business has grown by virtue of my relationships and word of mouth reputation.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. I just believe a lawyer ought to look at social networking and social media as relationship and reputation accelerators, not as something to get your prospective clients to leave to come to your website.
Image courtesy of Flickr by Liz Jones