All too often lawyers and law firms look at social media as another channel to distribute content. They miss the engagement and social aspects which fuel business development through social media.

Steve Robinson (@ctctillinois), a small business expert for Constant Contact, had a good piece on NBC Chicago today that will help you as a lawyer or law firm ‘Find the “Social” in Your Social Media Marketing.’

Robinson lauds those who have jumped on the social media bandwagon to engage customers, find new ones and get new business. But if you’re not getting the traction you hoped for, Robsinon shares six common reasons why and and what you can do about them.

His points apply well to lawyers and law firms. Here they are with a some tailoring to the legal profession.

  • Find your target audience. Before you set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook Business Page, research who’s participating there and ask your clients and their influencers (reporters, bloggers, association leaders) which forums hold their attention. You may find they like blogs and email as opposed to Twitter and Facebook. Once you determine where they are, follow them to their preferred destinations.
  • Focus your efforts. Identify the top two places where your audience is most active and fully engage them there as opposed to spreading yourself too thin across a variety of social media platforms. Lawyers and law firms often want to do a little bit of everything resulting in going a mile wide and an inch deep. Following relevant sources and subjects via reeders such as Google Reader or Flipboard; truly using LinkedIn; and blogging will enable lawyers to build relationships and enhance their reputation. Other social media tools can follow.
  • Identify the most active participants on your target social media platforms. Then initiate conversations, respond and repost their messages, follow their feeds, comment on their blogs, and cite their blog posts on your blog. Third parties have tremendous influence over your clients and prospective clients. If you can get these third parties (bloggers, reporters, business association leaders etc) referencing and sharing what you are saying online, your stature and reputation is only going to go up. When people get your name from a referral source, they’ll Google you and see positive references by the influencers to what you have shared via social media.
  • Balance social media with other marketing efforts. Social media should be part of a balanced marketing effort that includes online and offline activities. Leverage the enhanced reputation you are establishing by going to networking events, speaking to groups, or even asking to have coffee or lunch with someone you’ve met via LinkedIn or other social media. Share your blog posts via email to relevant clients now and again to show them you are thinking of them. Social accelerates relationships and reputation, but talking with and meeting people is needed.
  • Don’t mistake silence for disengaged. A lot of social media is built around listening and responding only when it makes sense. If you aren’t getting a lot of responses to your blog posts or items you share online, don’t assume that your audience has tuned you out. Ask questions, inquire about your followers specific interests, and reach out on a one-on-one basis.
  • Position yourself as an expert resource. This is what it is all about as a lawyer. Consumers, business people, and in-house counsel are looking for a trsuted and reliable authority in their field. Don’t be afraid to focus on a niche area of the law, industry area, or consumer issue that you truly enjoy working in or on. What may have taken 15 years or more, if ever, to establish a strong word of mouth reputation in a niche has been greatly accelerated via social media.

I’m with Robinson. Adjust your social media marketing efforts to be more ‘social’ as outlined here and you’ll see stronger business development results.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Sean MacEntee.