Information overload - no matter how important your issue is, no matter how desperately you seek answers - let's face it, wads of information presented in books or lengthy, annotated articles appeal to few individuals considering the fast-paced lives we all tend to lead these days. Seth Godin, popular business author, says that the internet has unfortunately taught people to read paragraphs and not chapters, and he is right!
What people really want is accurate, reliable information in a succinct format, from a trustworthy source.
Whilst many legal experts are more than able to provide this service, the truth is that age-old methods of marketing yourself as an expert in your field is no longer the best platform in light of the fact that technology is evolving at such a rapid pace.
So what is the best platform for you as a lawyer or law firm to market yourself effectively in this technological era? The answer is simple - you need to align yourself with social media that incorporates web 2.0 technologies.
You must have heard the buzz around it even if you haven't had the time to explore or research this in more detail. The benefits of marketing yourself on the Internet using social media platforms (like blogs and forums) are phenomenal and it is being proven daily. Why? Because this is the way the business world is moving and as harsh as it may sound, embracing change now (no matter how alien it may first seem) is the price of survival in the corporate world. At this point, let me share my business mantra with you: in business, there is no room for complacency!
What is social media?
This is an ideal platform that enables engagement and communication, through blogs and forums, among people hence resulting in a powerful network or community.
What are blogs then?
Blogs have often been described as an extension of a website; a website itself and sometimes even as an online journal or personal diary! I would say that it is a combination of all of these and in fact, the most under-estimated and under-utilised marketing tool in South Africa when matched with the legal fraternity.
Every lawyer should blog. It is a great way: to build your presence on the Internet, establish yourself as an expert; to have yourself seen as a trustworthy source of legal information by internet users and you can even be seen as someone who is erudite.
Blogging in the US legal sector is rife - it is seen by key role players in the legal market as a strong marketing tool. One firm in particular had this to say:
"Using blogs as a marketing tool is great for law firms. You provide a source to better expose your law firm in search engines and bring in new clients. It's a great opportunity for free advertising and why wouldn't you want another site out on the web promoting your business? We've been using our blog to drive traffic to our firm's website for the last 6 months and have seen our business increase tremendously."
Someone who is no stranger to the legal sphere in South Africa, Saber Ahmed Jazbhay, was up until a few months ago completely oblivious to the world of web 2.0 technologies, blogging and the like. Upon being mentored (somewhat) on how to get started, he too soon became a slave to the blogosphere. Saber says: "I am amazed at the amount of discussion and debate my blogs have generated. I have barely been blogging four months and already over 100 000 people have read my posts. Clientele is also up with many users posing questions to me in forums around legal problems they are experiencing and thereafter seeking comprehensive legal advice. It really is amazing!" [Saber's blog may be viewed at http://www.law24.com/blogs/]
You too can experience this
The culture and style of blog writing is quite colloquial, conversational and often personal. All this leads to a development of "virtual relationships" and then clientele. How? Let's explore a practical scenario. You meet someone at a store whilst standing in a queue and start having a conversation about a health problem you are having. The stranger is quite receptive, engaging and even offers non-partial advice. You then learn that he/she is a physician.
First the stranger was engaging, second, he/she was friendly and informal, third, he/she was quite knowledgeable. You are most likely comfortable enough to consult this physician going forward.
Blogging is no different! You, as a lawyer, position yourself such that you talk to your audience - a niche market to write for e.g.: a legal website offering legal information.
It has been proven through experience that people relate to you on a more personal level through your blog and are hence more comfortable to approach you because they will have already familiarised themselves with you.
Another important factor to take cognisance of is this: the number one starting point of all research takes place on Google. Google loves web2.0 technology and having your own blog just helps you rank high on these search engine results because all blog posts are indexed.
Position yourself as an expert in a certain practice area
A blog is the perfect platform to engage with potential clients! Converse openly and honestly about everyday legal issues facing the community and offer ways to curb them, offer practical solutions and advice that would enable someone to make informed decisions. Above all remember that blogging is all about magnetism and stickiness - you want to be engaging enough to attract the readership of your blog and you want to keep your audience interested enough to come back to read your posts.
Am I too old for this?
Absolutely not! Although many success stories emerge from younger age groups who employ these technologies in their daily business practices, all you need are the right ingredients to transform your business and develop your clientele - a bit of curiosity mixed with a willingness to learn and a splash of creative talent with words is the best recipe for client development.