The majority of legal professionals and law firms see social media as another pipe to push stuff out to people via the Internet. In many cases, it’s stuff that people don’t want. And worse yet, it’s coming at people in a way that ticks them off.

As a law firm leader you’re not looking to find more ways to upset your clients, prospective clients, and their influencers – bloggers, association leaders, reporters, publishers, and conference coordinators. You’re looking to engage these folks and build relationships with them.

Yet all too often law firm leaders are deferring to consultants, public relations professionals and marketing people with little understanding of social media who are doing the contrary.

Social media is not overly complicated, but it is different than traditional marketing. It’s about engaging people to build and nurture relationships. Fortunately for you as a law firm leader, that’s the stuff you have built your career and reputation on – relationships.

Brian Solis, author and globally recognized thought leader on new media, had an excellent piece in the Harvard Business Review last week which examined the reciprocity needed to build relationships online.

Solis presents a critical path for social media success: relevance + resonance = significance.

Relevance: how applicable your actions are to the community.

  • Be sure that your tweets, blog posts, LinkedIn updates, etc. are relevant to your audience.
  • Before you share, you need to know what your audience wants to hear: listen to what they have to say. Study your audience’s exchanges.
  • Join the conversation as a person, not as a static brand.
  • Ask yourself whether your actions within the community add value, deserve attention, inspire action, increase your reputation, and promote sharing.

Resonance: the degree to which your audience shares your content

  • The more relevant a tweet, blog post, update, etc. is, the more likely it will be shared by your audience.
  • KISS: Keep it Significant and Shareable.
  • Content created for the sole purpose of ‘going viral’ lacks perception and depth, and will ultimately under perform. Content created with thought and emotion will better stick with the audience and encourage sharing.

Significance: your influence, reputation, level of trust and value within a network.

  • Consistent relevance and resonance lead to significance.
  • Follow the principle of “pay it forward”– give in order to get.
  • Measure your significance through clients’ loyalty, evangelism and action.

You see that Solis is not talking of pushing content at one’s target audience, generating traffic to one’s website, becoming ‘the source,’ nor keeping your name in front of potential clients.

Solis talks of relevance and resonance. The stuff that relationships is made of. And relationships are what you’re after in your law firm’s business development efforts.