Author and marketing consultant, Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan), wrote yesterday that ‘Social Media Isn’t Dead: It’s Boring.’ Brogan’s point being that social media are just the tools, not the object or strategy.

Social media are a set of tools. They’re not all that interesting to talk about in and of themselves. The “gee whiz” has left the station.

I’m right with Brogan that we ought not be just talking about the tools (social media), as most law firms are apt to want to do.

It’s boring to talk simply about the tools because the tools are just a way to reach people. We can argue the details endlessly (I don’t believe much in Klout, for instance), and we can announce the premature death of Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook and whoever. But it doesn’t matter. When we talk about restaurants (the tools), we mostly talk about the food (the content). When we talk about bands (tools), we talk about whether the music resonates (the content). When we talk about a good book (the content), we never ask what type of computer it was written on (the tools).

Should you put ads on Facebook? If that’s the worry point, you’ve got bigger worries. Is Pinterest worth your time? Who knows? Should you schedule your tweets? (Some of them!) What’s the company comment policy? Well, okay, that last one has some merit, but put it to rest and move on.

Jordan Furlong (@jordan_law21), Partner at Edge International and Senior Consultant at Stem Legal Web Enterprises, jumped on Brogan’s post yesterday saying Brogan was spot on – it’s not all about social media. Per Furlong it’s about the content.

If you’re thinking about social media in your law firm, what you’re really thinking about (or ought to be thinking about) is content marketing. Create good, legitimate, practical, reader-oriented content. When you’ve done that, go back and create more. Then more again. Don’t even think about designing a blog, opening a Twitter account, starting up a Facebook page, whatever, until you’ve figured out very clearly what content you’re creating, why you’re creating it, and who you want to reach with it.

Many lawyers don’t seem to care about content, and if that’s the case within your firm, that’s a problem. No law firm anywhere can succeed at social media without (a) a content strategy and (b) its enthusiastic adoption by a critical mass of lawyers. Any social media effort that launches without both these features will fail.

I disagree with Furlong that its all about content for law firms. If this were the case, the law firm with the most ‘good, legitimate, practical, reader-oriented content’ would prevail when it comes to business development.

Business development for lawyers and law firms is the same online as it is offline. It’s all about a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships. How do you garner these two? Networking – whether online or offline.

Networking is all about engagement. If you want to engage someone in your target audience, you listen to them. As Mom told you, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.

If you want to turn someone off, walk up to them at a networking function and start talking at them. Don’t listen and engage by talking when appropriate and about what’s relevant to the conversation. They’ll head off in a second, but remembering your name for all the reasons.

Think about a an online business development approach that focuses on content, as opposed to engagement. Isn’t that the same as a business development strategy that focuses on words and talking?

Content is important for business development. Content is the currency for online engagement. On Facebook content is a photo or text. For law firms, content may be a blog post or a tweet.

But until you’ve developed a social media strategy focused on 1) Identifying where you want to go, reputation-wise and relationship-wise, 2) Identifying your target audience, including influencers and amplifiers, and, 3)Listening to your target audience, you are not in a position to produce content for business development reasons.

Perhaps my friend, Jordan Furlong, and I are not too far apart. But when I hear it’s all about content marketing when it comes to social media, I get concerned we’re missing the boat – that being engagement to build one’s reputation and relationships.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Nufkin’s photostream.