20130927-123012.jpg Journalist and author, Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis), penned a nice piece this morning on the relationship versus attention economy.

Commenting on the difference between how newspapers and Google view advertising, Jarvis shares a lesson for law firms. Rather than seeking eyeballs and attention, law firms ought seek relevance and relationships in their marketing.

Google reinvented the advertising model, moving past attention as a proxy for intent (“if they see my ad I can convince them to buy my product”) and placement as a substitute for relevance (“men read the sports section and men buy tires, ergo we will advertise our tires in the sports section”). …Google understands that users have variable value that is increased the closer it can get to delivering relevance and intuiting intent through signals — search, location, context, behavior as well as consuming content — which come from having a relationship of mutual value with the user.

The last thing newspapers should do is continue to try to shovel their old relationships, forms, and models into a new reality. No, don’t just sell space for messages to advertisers (for they’ll soon wake up and realize the pointlessness of the exercise). Don’t try to recreate old forms in new devices like tablets. Don’t measure the value of relationship as page views or time spent. Don’t think your primary value is manufacturing content that you then try to sell.

Moving beyond Google and newspapers, let’s look at how law firms market on the net. More often than not, firms focus on attention versus relationships in their use of social media and social networking.

Nothing wrong with attention. Attention and visibility can be leveraged by lawyers and business development professionals to build and nurture relationships. But it’s relationships that are key in landing new clients and retaining/expanding work with existing clients.

Rather than measuring attention in eyeballs, measure the relationships you’re nurturing and developing. Through your strategic and effective use of social media.

You have the intellectual capital that can be shared via blogs, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Use it, but not to draw traffic. Use it strategically to build relationships with the people you want to get to know better.

A simple example is Twitter. As a law firm I could share content of my lawyers, our personal accolades, and weave in a bit of other’s content. I could then measure my success by the number of followers to our Twitter account.

Or I could prepare a Twitter list of principals and executives employed by my best clients or by prospective clients. By retweeting things they are sharing, replying to them, sending them a direct Tweet, or favoriting some of their Tweets, I am taking our relationship to a higher level. Preferably an individual lawyer is doing the Tweeting as it’s easier to build relationships person to person.

Another example is blogging. Don’t measure success by the number of posts, the number of email susbcribers, or the number of comments.

Go for relationships by asking someone for a quote for your blog. Cite in your blog something they have said elsewhere and let them know about it.

What’s better? Two lawyers identifying 20 people each they wish to have a better relationship with and doing something strategic about it in the next year or 1,000 more followers on a practice group blog or Twitter handle.

Score relationships. If you need to have a number, and why not, use a number from one to ten on the relationship today and see if you (a lawyer or business development professional) can move that number to an eight or nine a year from now.

Not my intent to get on a soapbox. I am as guilty as anyone in falling into the popularity by numbers trap. I can do much better in identifying key people with important LexBlog Clients (aren’t they all?) and prospective clients and using the net to build and nurture relationships with these folks.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Screwtape.