Far too many lawyers see blogging and other social media as way to garner personal attention and traffic to their websites.

A couple posts in the last week brought home the real power of social media  and social networking for lawyers – relationships and referrals.

The first post was from Rocket Matter’s Tim Baran (@tim_baran) who tells of his friend, “Beth,” who used both Google and social media to find a lawyer.

Because of the personal nature of her problem, Beth didn’t want to approach friends or post on social media asking for lawyer recommendations. So, she performed a Google search.

She quickly found a two-person firm that fit the bill – local and experienced. She found them because of their effectively optimized website, and knew they were experienced because of their videos on YouTube and interviews with the press. They didn’t have a social media or blogging presence, but that didn’t bother her since they had other, meaningful online activities.

She met with them and things started well. They were personable, somewhat affordable, and started working on the problem. Then things started to go south – primarily due to a lack of communication and tech savvy: they only communicated via telephone – no email or portal. And, they often failed to return a call. Deadlines were missed and blamed on the client for her lack of “being on top of things.” A year later, she was back to square one and decided to ditch the firm and find a new lawyer.

Beth asked Baran if he I knew a lawyer who could help her. He posted the situation to Facebook and received a few recommendations of attorneys who could help. Beth hired one of them and found the attorney much better equipped to handle her situation.

Baran’s takeaways:

  • Google search is effective in helping you find a lawyer. The lawyer you find might even be great – mostly because their website says so. Social media also helps you find lawyers who might be great – mostly because others say so. Much better.
  • A Google search offers anonymity when searching for a lawyer to resolve a particularly sensitive matter. But, be aware that you won’t necessarily get the best lawyer in the first few results, just the best optimized lawyer websites.
  • A lawyer doesn’t have to be a social media star for you to chose her as your lawyer but it helps to have a presence to allay concerns. It also raises her profile so others can get to know and recommend (or in some cases, not recommend) her.
  • Word of mouth still rules. Social media helps spread the word and a website or blog confirms it.

The second post is from Gyi Tsakalakis (@GyiTsakalakis) who explains the interplay between lawyer referrals and social media.

Tsakalakis shares, via a story from North Carolina lawyer, Lee Rosen (@leerosen), how traditional referrals have often taken place.

Brian is friendly with Steve (Steve really is made up). Steve is a divorce lawyer (“family law” in polite conversation). Steve is very good at what he does. Brian met Steve at a lunch place near the courthouse. They struck up a conversation and have been bumping into one another and having lunch from time to time for the past five years.

Brian likes Steve. He’s heard good things about him. He feels comfortable referring to Steve and trusts him to take care of his clients, friends, neighbors, and others. He gives out Steve’s number about once a month.

Historically, people met each other and nurtured relationships face to face. The web and social media, per Tsakalakis, has changed this for lawyers.

  • Every day, people are meeting new people through comments, updates and posts on a variety of online platforms.
  • Whether you initially meet online or offline, the web can be an excellent way to nurture your relationships with Brians.
  • If you want to meet Brians as a lawyer, get online, be yourself and start socializing.
  • Brians are smart and take their professional obligations seriously. Which means that they only refer people to Steves that they trust to take care of clients, friends, neighbors, and others. Smart Brians use social media to stay abreast of and connected with Steves.
  • Brians are a busy bunch. They’re not always going to be able to meet for coffee or lunch, they expect to be able to socialize and network with you online.
  • Brians expect to be able to find information about Steves on social networks in addition to search, where the fruits of your online social activity (speaking, others citing you, being quoted in media) will also be on display.
  • Diligent Brians like to see that other lawyers also feel the same way about Steve. They want to see happy clients singing Steve’s praises. They expect to see that Steve is active in his professional community, takes on a leadership role and perhaps even publishes and speaks on this subject matter. This is all reflected through and as a result of online social activity.

Don’t look at business development through the Internet as something new. Meeting people, nurturing relationships, and building a word of reputation – online and offline – are the key to garnering referrals

What’s new is the need to be social online to get those referrals today.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Kevin Krejci