Last week I touched on what social media and social networking were about and gave a few examples. This week I want to try and focus on a few social media tools that I think will benefit attorneys in creating new and sustainable business.
Just a quick recap on the explanation of the social media and the way I see it:
A shared online system to communicate openly with others who have similar interests.
Right - so for this lesson I want you to remember the phrase "similar interests" as we believe that you should check every now and then to ensure you are seeking/communicating and networking with the people who have similar _business_ interests. Sticking to people with similar interests will put you right on the money with social networking.
Before I continue, we have spoken about social media and social networking and writing this article is difficult enough without making sure I have the correct term every time - so I am going to refer to both of these terms as "social media", whether we are talking about the networking or applications themselves.
So which is the most effective social media for the South African attorney? In fact which is the right social media for any person?
If you are a conveyancing attorney and were looking at finding new business - would you attend a business networking breakfast organised for Hotel Catering Management? The very same logic goes for social media - if your clients or prospects are in a certain online social media spot and you would like to network with them, you should be there as well.
So that really blows the idea of us telling you which is the perfect social media for everyone to use - it does make logical sense - you would need to talk to a few of your prospects and clients and ask them where they spend social networking time - if they are on Facebook, you should be on Facebook - if they are on Twitter then so should you be.
But don't stress, all in not lost. Let me share my experience of social media and where I have found the divide between business and pleasure. This should give you a good idea of where to start.
SMS - yes S..M..S!
More and more clients are starting to use SMS as a way to communicate with you and your firm. If your software applications can accommodate automated SMSs, make sure they are enabled AND make sure they can reply to that SMS.
If you are as bad with typing SMSs on a small numerical keypad as I am, then get yourself a full keyboard phone as your next cellular phone - you must be available to respond to SMSs.
This morning my spinning instructor at the gym told us to send ideas on improving the class to her on her Facebook fan page - Wow. And I bet when she receives an idea on Facebook she will be very keen to implement the idea, more so than if somebody had sent a request to the Virgin Active customer care centre comments box. Why you ask? It is more personal and it is there for everyone to see, so the response will be faster. Real time input and feedback - very important.
I feel that Facebook is more for our social relaxation - it is the best place to catch up with all our old school buddies, family and friends that we have lost contact with over the years.
Facebook Fan Pages (Business pages)
Although this is _very_ closely integrated to Facebook, it is all about promoting your business, community, group or any following where you want people to follow and read about your interests.
I am rather new to the Facebook fan pages, but I use it as a place to promote my business - those friends who have a similar interest will follow my fan page as well as my Facebook page, in general most people who will end up following my fan page will not be my friends from Facebook.
To get an idea, have a look at our fan page at http://www.facebook.com/Tech4Law and become a fan! Once you get more than 25 fans Facebook allows you to apply for a custom url for your fan pages. Your firm should get this done before you lose the URL for your company.
This has been a huge wake up call for me, there are so many "like minded" people on Twitter and the great thing is that they share relevant information all the time and in short 140 characters messages. Just about every tweet I see has a URL link to the article they are promoting, so if I am interested I can read more on the web site. This has become such a real time communications tool that people attending live seminars tweet the good ideas they pick up from the seminar to share with the world.
If I had to choose one social media tool, Twitter would be it. If you would like to follow us on Twitter go to http://www.Twitter.com/Tech4Law.
This is an organised, more structured and business orientated Facebook. The idea is to link to connect with business people you may have met through business. Although I have connected with many people I have done business with in the past and previous colleagues, I have not made use of the tool to do business. I think it works by reminding people who their business contacts are and to remember them when next wondering who should be approached for the next job vacancy you may have.
Google have launched a similar application to Twitter, called Buzz. I have registered, but did not find any reason to swap from Twitter to Buzz, even though they can pick up the Tweets from Twitter.
I am registered but don't use it.
The kids use it!
There are a number of other social media tools; I would be keen to hear what you use and why it is an effective way to promote business.
A last comment and maybe the most important message here. Do not hop onto any of the social media networks and expect to sit there and just reap the benefits as they fly past, for this communication to work you _have_ to take part in the discussions and share good content. If you do not participate actively, you will not see the full benefit and you will fall off the social media roller-coaster.