A study released by the Pew Internet & American Life project on “status updating” on the Internet strongly suggests that, if you are not on the social networking bus, then you are potentially missing out on an ever-growing client base.
In a recent article in “Real Lawyers Have Blogs,” Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog writes:
“Some 19% of internet users now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others. This represents a significant increase over previous surveys in December 2008 and April 2009, when 11% of internet users said they use a status-update service.”
He goes on to write, “Of particular note for lawyers is that median age of those using Twitter and social networking sites.
- Median age of a Twitter user is 31, which has remained stable over the past year.
- Median age for MySpace is now 26, down from 27 in May 2008.
- Median age for LinkedIn is now 39, down from 40.
- Median age for Facebook is now 33, up from 26 in May 2008.”
These numbers leave little doubt about the popularity of social networking sites, and with the possible exception of MySpace, these services are not only being used by teenagers or “gen-Y’ers.”
Bolstering these numbers from Pew, yesterday Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg released an “Open Letter” to all Facebook members, which reads in part:
“It has been a great year for making the world more open and connected. Thanks to your help, more than 350 million people around the world are using Facebook to share their lives online.”
And, people are not just sharing random, personal information about their day-to-day existence. Social networking has expanded to include a variety of professional networking sites, most notably LinkedIn, but also including networks such as Ryze, Meettheboss, PartnerUp, Talkbiznow, Yelp, and Ecademy.
For lawyers, in particular, a professional networking site that has been around for a little while now, but often gets left out of many discussions is Avvo. Avvo is an interesting service because it gives lawyers an opportunity to post substantive articles that members of the public can view. By allowing its members to do this, Avvo is creating a platform for lawyers to demonstrate their proficiency in a particular area of law or with a particular legal problem.
A word of caution – each of these professional networks targets a slightly different type of member. Ryze, for example, focuses mostly (though not exclusively) on new entrepreneurs. Meettheboss is a networking service for upper management professionals.
If you embark on a plan to include social networking as part of your firm’s marketing plan, educate yourself about a site’s membership demographics. Visit the sites, conduct research into the sites, and perhaps read some reviews about the site and what it offers. Only through adequate research can you structure your firm’s brand for maximum benefit.
Sounds time-consuming? It can be. To help get you started, however, here is a handy list of online social networking sites I found on Wikipedia when I embarked on this same process. While not an exhaustive list, it does include most of those mentioned in this article.
I hope you find this list useful. If you find other useful resources along these lines, please share them with us. Also, feel free to let us know how your “education” is going by sending us comments.