By Kevin O'Keefe

Social media puts you in a different class : Partner–not vendor

20130822-221544.jpg Kevin McKeown (@kevinmckeown) shared an article with me this morning by Attorney and business owner, David Sussman (@Suss33), on why it is so valuable to be a fully engaged power user of blogging, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Sussman was challenged by fellow business associates as to why he was spending so much time on social media. Among other reasons, the one that rang home to McKeown and I was Sussman’s refusal to be considered a “vendor” to his company’s client partners.

Via blogging and other social media as a “value generator,” Sussman enhances his company’s image to clients and prospects.

We are reminded constantly that without value, we have no chance for business continuity. CEOs and “C” level executives want to be engaged and I refuse to be considered a “vendor” to our client-partners.

Sussman shared with his associates how using social media for less than a year has built his credibility and reputation. Radio Interview on implementing change. Corporate briefing interview on collaboration with a strategic partner. Speaking engagements to industry leaders on succession, growth and innovation.

I’ve been blogging for 10 years, posting more days than not. My goal is always to share what I’m learning with my added insight or commentary. I’ve been a bit of a Twitter nut for over five years, zealously sharing news and information from my RSS feeds. On LinkedIn, I’m sharing, connecting, and running my legal blogging group. I use Facebook to get to know better friends and business associates. And I am just getting started using Google+ in a meaningful way.

Is it worth it? It sure seems like it’s brought LexBlog the opportunity to serve an awful lot of good clients.

But Sussman nails something more important. Something McKeown has challenged everyone at LexBlog to be and for LexBlog to be to every client — a partner. My being a social media power user has by and large removed me from the “Vendor” category.

When I socialize among clients and prospective clients I tend to be introduced as a knowledgeable and caring person in the area of social media — and as a person who could help others with questions about social media.

Happened last Wednesday evening when a client introduced as such to a marketing professional with a local law firm. The person I was introduced to connected with me on LinkedIn the next day. She appreciated the information I shared that night and looked forward to bouncing some things off me in a few weeks.

Will her firm become a client of LexBlog’s? I don’t know, but I’ll take my chances. I also know if I were introduced as the CEO of LexBlog, a seller of blog and social media solutions to law firms, there is a good chance we would never have chatted. I also know that should LexBlog have the opportunity to serve her firm I’ve llaid the ground work for my teammates to serve in a partnership, not a vendor role.

Look at an experience Sussman shared as an example of his not being classified a “vendor,” where a competitor might be.

At a high level meeting with one of our top three clients, a senior executive introduced herself to me and said: “Yes, we have connected on LinkedIn. I read your blog. It is good. I get a lot of stuff thrown my way but I like your work. I read it.” We then talked about strategy and the future. They wanted to know how PFP can help them reach their goals as an organization.

As a lawyer, you may not be considered a “vendor.” But what makes you different than other lawyers as far as in-house counsel are concerned? What about small business owners and consumers? Are you considered a thought leader in your field by clients, prospective clients, business associates, and referral sources?

Sure, being a power user of blogging and social media takes time. But clients and prospective clients will develop an intimate level of trust in you as a knowledgeable, caring, and experienced authority in your field. They’ll want to talk with you as a business associate and friend.

You’ll have put yourself in a different class – a partner.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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