In case you missed the news, in the virtual world, social networking through services like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others is crucial to marketing success. Even if you are not considering a virtual law practice, online social networks will help you grow your business in ways that print advertising certainly cannot. But, if you are considering a virtual law practice, building solid social networks and maintaining them is essential, particularly if you are targeting clients that are already comfortable working with online social networks.
Earlier this year, I conducted an informal poll of my network on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the top business-oriented social networking sites and was founded in 2002. In this poll, I asked respondents how many social networks they belong to and which they regularly contribute content. This latter half of the poll question is important because, in many cases, businesses will set up basic profiles on one or more networks, but contribute only sporadically or not at all.
The results of my informal (and badly-worded) poll show that the majority of the respondents (albeit a small number) belong to 1-3 social networks and contribute to them regularly. However, a healthy 20% of those responding fell into the 3-6 category. I can tell you from personal experience that keeping up with even 4 social networks is somewhat time-consuming. These individuals (who might be prospective clients for your virtual law practice) are probably spending a significant amount of time online, maybe even every day, and they are on these networks. You need to be on these networks, too, so these prospective clients are able to see who you are, learn something about what you do or stand for. The kind of exposure that social networks can give you simply cannot be obtained by traditional forms of law office marketing such as the Yellow Pages. This year, in a their report entitled “New Media, New Influencers & Implications for Public Relations,” the Society for New Communications Research stated that “social media is rapidly becoming a core channel for disseminating information.”
I will post much more about the topic of social networking. For now, here is a link to the poll I mentioned. In addition, here are links to some more information you might useful, particularly if you are just starting to learn about what social networks are out there.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites – this link takes you to a Wikipedia page that lists a large number of social networking services, with a brief description of the network and the number of users that belong to it.
http://www.slideshare.net/mickstravellin/universal-mccann-international-social-media-research-wave-3 – another popular study by Universal McCann which demonstrated that having a social network presence can have a major effect on your reputation. For example, 36% of the respondents in that study think more positively about a business that has a blog.
There is also a really useful tool called the Social Technographics tool which can show you how participation in social profiles varies by certain demographic information. This can help you target those social networking services that are most likely to attract your desired client. This tool can be found by following this link.
And, finally, for social networking targeted specifically at other lawyers, take a look at www.lawlink.com.
If you are already using social networks, which ones do you use most often? Are you incorporating business marketing into these networks, or are they mostly for pure socialization? If you are not using social networks, but would like to, what areas concern you the most and which may be preventing you from utilizing these tools to your advantage?