How Not to Suck at Social Media
Social media isn’t all that hard to do. Just sign up for an account, fill out your profile, and start being social. It’s easy to start, but it’s also easy to suck at it. This is especially true for most lawyers, who (along with plenty of other businesspeople, to be fair) misread social as marketing.
Here’s how to avoid sucking at social media.
Ignore the “experts”
You could be forgiven for thinking social media is complicated. After all, there are plenty of self-styled “experts” who insist it takes thousands of dollars and an exclusive coaching session to figure it out. This works, I think, because to many lawyers, social media is technology, and technology is complicated — the kind of thing you hire somebody else to do.
But social media is actually quite simple, and there is only one way to succeed: be interesting, and social.
Most consultants will try to give you a formula for “social media success,” which is a bit like handing you a joke book and then sending you to a cocktail party to network. (If you need to learn how to sign up for a Twitter account, fine. Hire your nephew or neice to show you.)
If you want more followers on Twitter, write a good book.
— Karl Pearson-Cater (@bigboxcar) June 19, 2012
Besides, almost nobody is famous just for having a Twitter account. People who are popular on Twitter are invariably popular in real life. You may not have Justin Bieber’s following — online or off — but you shouldn’t be surprised if your online audience looks a lot like your offline one.
Be yourself, but interesting and/or funny
In order to use accounting software, you need to have a basic grasp of bookkeeping, not filmmaking. Similarly, in order to use social media, you need to have a basic grasp of being social, not advertising.
In order to succeed at social media, you must be social. You must be interested in people, in making friends, and in sharing experiences.
You don’t need to be a social butterfly offline, but if you want to succeed online, it helps to have a little experience. But it is perfectly okay to be an introvert offline as long as you can be an extrovert online.
So be social, not someone who does the online equivalent of showing up to lunch with a pile of business cards. Spend as much time responding to what others post as publishing your own posts. You will meet more interesting people that way, and maybe even make a few e-friends.
And be yourself. Get rid of your @SpringfieldDUILawyer Twitter handle and just use your name. Nobody wants to make friends with a practice area. Have a personality. Above all, have fun.
What does success mean, exactly?
In this context, success means attracting an audience, whether that means blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or whatever. And not just an audience, but an engaged one — with people who are interested in hearing what you have to say. You can’t buy that with a coaching program; you have to earn it.
How does this get you clients? It may not. But you will have a much better chance of getting referrals than if you try to shovel advertising tweets at everyone. If you build an engaged audience, you will expand the number of people who know who you are and what you do. That is what makes a network of potential referral sources, after all.
But it does take a lot of people. For every offline lunch you have with a real person, it might take 100 Twitter followers or Facebook friends to result in a single referral.
Should you use social media?
If that sounds like a lot of time and effort for an uncertain result, it is. But then again, so is every “networking lunch” you schedule. If you do manage to build a good-sized audience online, you will have a lot more people who may refer you a client, even if each person is less likely to refer to you due to the more tenuous nature of your connection to them.
But social media does take time and effort — and it can take a lot of both. The best reason to spend time and effort on social media is because you enjoy it, not because you are trying to get clients (just as the best reason to blog is because you would be writing anyway). Nobody likes to be marketed to, but everybody likes their friends. Go make friends, and the referrals will probably follow.