I stumbled across a post on Google+ by Legal SEO consultant, Conrad Saam (@conradsaam), that anyone who believes that social media can be used by lawyers for business development is nuts.

More precisely Saam believes “Every Social Media Consultant is Lying to You.” Nice.

Saam then goes on at length to discuss social media at its shallowest saying lawyers are being advised to use social so they’d be found by a client doing a search on Twitter or Facebook. That’s nuts.

And that networking with authorities and influencers in your town is more for Chevy and Harley Davidson sales people than for professionals like a lawyer.

If Saam’s understanding of social is this limited, I can understand where he’s coming from. But with a more expanded view of what social, including blogging, is and how it is used I am confident he would see things differently.

The best lawyers get their best work from relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. Not advertising or overt marketing. It’s always been the case and always will be the case.

It was true before legal marketing was permitted in 1974. It was true before the advent of the Internet in the mid-nineties.

Heck, I bought plenty of advertising and did other marketing while practicing for 17 years. Nonetheless, my best clients and biggest fees came via word of mouth and relationships (someone referred a client to me or the client knew me).

When the Internet came my way in 1996 my best work as a lawyer came from engaging, via the Internet, my target audience of prospective clients, referral sources, and influencers. Again the relationships and reputation thing.

Social is all about relationships and reputation. If you’re not not nurturing relationships online, you’re going to lose opportunities for business. If you’re not building a reputation online that’s the equal of your offline reputation, you’re not getting that reputation in front of a lot of people that matter.

I am no social media expert so don’t call me a liar. I am just a lawyer applying a little common sense in an attempt to help good lawyers.

I am not sure what motivated Saam to say social media does not work for business development. It seems very short sighted to tell lawyers not to do what is working for so many lawyers today and what has worked for lawyers for decades – real and authentic engagement to build relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation.

I don’t view social and SEO as exclusive, nor do I discount the value of SEO for lawyers.  Do what works for you and what you feel you need to do.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ged Carrol