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Social Media Virgins

Vivia Chen

April 6, 2011

GeezerFotolia Which is true: "I tweet, therefore I am," or "I tweet, therefore I'm a twit"?

It's a question that I often ask myself. But as a blogger, I can't afford existential angst. My mandate is to get The Careerist out there. So twitter I must.

But what about you--the busy (presumably middle-aged) lawyer who's survived just fine without social media? Why should you bother with stuff like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn?

The wisdom on the street is that you can't afford to ignore it. For one thing, it's competitive out there, and lawyers need to do whatever they can to brand themselves to reel in those precious clients. Another reason is that you don't want to appear totally out of it. If your client's granny has a LinkedIn account, and you don't, what does that say about you?

The big question is not whether you should embrace social media, but how to start. Adrian Dayton, former lawyer turned social media maven, offers some advice in The National Law Journal:

Craft a targeted bio on LinkedIn and Twitter. Often, lawyers don't know how to describe themselves in a succinct, catchy fashion. Instead of describing yourself as an "experienced litigator with 20 years of experience," Dayton suggests "Litigator to Fortune 100 companies" or "Highest trial rating of practicing lawyers in the state of Kansas."

Be focused about your target market. "Figure out who your ideal client is and find out which social networks he or she is most likely to use," writes Dayton. The corollary is that if your client or potential client isn't on LinkedIn and such, "it might not be worth your time and energy."

That said, Dayton adds that journalists are always "using social media to find leads for stories and to find experts to interview. Even if your ideal client isn't using social media, these highly influential members of the media are online." (As one of those "influential members," I admit I do look for lawyer sources online.)

Practice, practice. "Many lawyers never make it past signing up for Twitter or joining LinkedIn; after that, their accounts lie dormant like so many forgotten hula hoops," writes Dayton. He counsels that you play with the sites for awhile. "People who use social media a lot love to give advice to those just starting out," adds Dayton. "One way is to ask questions directly on Twitter or in your LinkedIn groups." (Fine counsel, but I'd ask the nearest 10-year- old for technical advice.)

Dayton might be scaring off lawyers when he proposes that they become "collectors" or "creators" of content on legal topics. That essentially means blogging, and I don't think most lawyers are ready for that.

So let's start slowly: Forget about Twitter and start a LinkedIn account and fill it with your friends, colleagues, and clients. (If you have LinkedIn, proceed to Facebook.) What will it net you? Well, you will discover who they're connected to, which might lead to another connection that can result in a business possibility. That's the theory, at least. At a minimum, you'll find some long-lost boyfriend or girlfriend that you didn't really want to find.

Readers, do you think social media is an effective business tool? Do you know anyone who's scored a client or job through it?

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist



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Who is looking for an attorney on Facebook?

I agree with all the advice except the comment about collectors and contributors being equivalent to bloggers. I love LinkedIn and consider myself a collector in that I frequently post links on my various groups to articles I have enjoyed (including many from The Careerist!) but am definitely not a blogger This is my way of sharing info and starting conversations; it is not scary at all and has been the source of many connections.

All good advice, particularly start with linkedin - do invest the hour or two up front to build a professional looking profile though.

An interim step I'd suggest is starting getting active on group discussions there - there are some great legal communities that are very active and create a lot of collective value. Similarly there are plenty that are pretty rubbish and are filled with self-promotional adverts, but it won't take you long to figure out which is which.

Blogging works really well as a way of positioning for thought leadership, creating contacts and building community, but you do need to be disciplined enough to spend the time to do it. The best advice I found for my blogging (http://intelligentchallenge.wordpress.com/) was in the blogging community rather than the legal profession.

Finally, I'm a big fan of Twitter, but it took me three attempts to "get it". Firstly I just used it to consume what other people were saying, which was fine but not hugely helpful. Then I used to use it simply for broadcast ("here's my latest blog post, please read it") - that doesn't work (unless I guess you are Seth Godin!). Finally, I started to interact with the community, sharing other content, contributing opinions and asking for insight. That's when it worked for me (@intchallenge). Hope that's helpful, and good luck.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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