Ask not what social media can do for you, ask what social media can do for your clients

October 11, 2013

social media graphicA couple of years ago when I was describing various aspects of my legal practice to an intern in my office, I told her, “I tweet professionally.” She laughed out loud. If this same conversation happened today, my comment may not have struck her as quite so funny. Social media use by professionals has become increasingly mainstream, with more and more accounts opened by lawyers and other professional service providers.

Many lawyers jump on the social media bandwagon after buying into the idea that social media is the next big thing for business development. While business development may well be a byproduct of effective social media use, I’ve found (over 2300 tweets in) that more attainable success comes from leveraging social media to provide value-added service to your current client base. Taking the following steps will lead toward a client-centered social media strategy where success depends not on the number of new clients you gain or even your Klout score:

Keep self-promotion to a minimum. While people expect a company’s social media account to be self-promotional, professionally slanted efforts by individuals that come across as such tend to get the virtual cold shoulder. Successful accounts share information that others find valuable. Unless you’re a rock star in your field (or just a rock star), to gain traction, the information you put out there shouldn’t be limited to yourself and your own business services.

Pretend you’re your own client and follower. By thinking of your clients looking over your shoulder every time you tweet, “like,” blog, or endorse, you’re setting up a valuable filter for content. What level of personal information do you want to see broadcast? What level of consultation would you want before some aspect of your working relationship was shared, even if you weren’t named? Keeping your clients in mind also encourages restraint. How would you feel if you saw tweets or posts at all hours of the workday when you’re waiting for a call back or a promised work product?

Be a giver but also a taker. Social media provides an endless stream of information and allows a user to customize the information flow by topic or source. The next step is committing to parsing and sharing relevant news stories and updates (while being careful not to provide direct legal advice and being mindful of any applicable state bar rules). In doing so, synthesizing related developments becomes almost second nature. The more information you synthesize, the higher your confidence becomes in advising and planning for your clients around new developments, current trends and best practices. It’s also exciting, inspiring and often humbling to see the amount and quality of information being shared daily. Take the opportunity to learn from and share ideas with other similarly passionate individuals and thought leaders in a field.

Seek inspiration, then step away from that smart phone. Let the information from others spark your creativity through a challenge to yourself. The overload of information out there can be a motivating factor: What can I add to this conversation? Ever Googled the topic of your planned blog post and found someone beat you the punch and posted something very similar to your idea? It can be deflating, so schedule time away from your information consumption to think creatively about how you can approach an emerging issue in your field and help your clients remain ahead of the curve.

Broadening your focus outside of simply finding new clients will allow you to create a social media presence that helps your current clients and makes you attractive to prospective new ones. You’ll also gain knowledge and confidence in your field, which makes the social media commitment worth your time and effort.