Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Saturday, April 17, 2010


Although I was not one of the first Facebook users, I do consider myself to be an early adopter of social media. With friends spread out all over the US and the world, I started using it from a personal perspective, to keep in touch with people. Then, when I joined Twitter in April of 2008, I started to see how social media is also valuable for business – I figured I would use it to keep up on industry news, raise the profile of my company, and see what other legal marketers were talking about.

While I do use Twitter and other social media channels for all of that, I quickly learned the most important thing about social media: it’s all about relationships. Some people might say that I’m biased to look for that as a theme, because my company, the International Lawyers Network (ILN), is an association of law firms worldwide, and it, too, is all about relationships. But I’ve been especially struck by this theme over the past few months as I’ve traveled to both legal industry and social media conferences.

One of the things that has been drilled into me during law firm client panels since I joined the ILN five and a half years ago is that "clients hire lawyers, not law firms," essentially saying that it's all about relationships. This was backed up again by a client panel I attended while at the Legal Marketing Association’s conference in March, where the panelists talked about how important chemistry is when choosing a lawyer to hire. But this principle doesn't just apply to law firms - everyone makes purchasing decisions based on chemistry. For example, if I'm looking for a new web designer for our group's website, I'm going to want to work with someone I trust, someone who understands my personality and how I work, as well as what I want to communicate through the site. Where will I find those people? My starting point is always my personal and professional networks – I ask other people that I trust in the industry who they’ve worked with and who they think will do a good job by posting a query on our industry listserv, putting a call for help out on Twitter, and even asking my networks through a status update on Facebook and LinkedIn. That gives me a short list to do my research – for that, I’ll go online and Google the companies. I’ll visit their websites and see who their clients are, and then take a look at their clients’ sites to see if they fit in with my company’s style. I’ll check to see if they have a blog so I know what they’re talking about and maybe I’ll even see if they are on Twitter. I’ll look for an individual at each of those companies to connect with online at LinkedIn. And that’s when it comes down to chemistry – who can I work with? Of course, I’ll set up phone calls or meetings if they’re located nearby to talk with them about my project, but checking out their online profiles first can give me insight into the type of culture at the company, the personality of the person, and whether we can work together. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention finding out if they have the appropriate skills – it’s assumed that when I get to my final list, everyone on it will be talented. So the differentiation is about their relationship with me, not their abilities. This process applies both in my personal and my professional life and I've talked to others who feel the same, so when working with my own clients, I always try to think about how I would want to be approached.

If I’m talking to my networks and doing my initial research online, most likely, a lot of other people are doing the same, so I have to ensure that my company’s online profile and relationships are solid. We have a website that’s regularly updated with our member firm news and links to our blog, where I talk about issues in the legal industry that my audience wants to hear about. I don’t just push out news about my company – I’m trying to engage with my audience in each post, to give them something of value, and get them to think about the topic and contribute to the discussion. I use Twitter to point people to my blog, but again, also to engage. I read what people are talking about, ask them questions, pass along their blogs and comment on their posts. Some of these people are now on my list of Facebook friends, where they get an even deeper insight into my personal life and get to know me beyond my professional role. On LinkedIn, I connect with other professionals, both in and out of the ILN and share news with them, participate in our ILN group by starting discussions, asking questions, and providing relevant content. By making myself and my company relevant and valuable to our audience, I raise the profile of the ILN and position the group to be top of mind when someone in that audience needs assistance, either from me or one of our attorneys.

But you don’t need to wait until you need to hire someone or you need someone to hire your company to network and form relationships with people in your own industry. I have gained and continue to gain so much from the relationships I have formed with other talented, passionate people in the legal marketing industry and last month’s conference showed me that very clearly. Social media also played a large role in enhancing my experience at the conference itself, and was best explained by legal marketer, Heather Milligan, in a post on her blog, The Legal Watercooler. By connecting with people through social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and then taking those relationships offline and meeting my contacts in person, I am able to build friendships that inspire me professionally, support me personally, and give me a collective expertise to draw on among people I already trust.

I came away from the Legal Marketing Association conference and more recently, from Social Fresh Portland, with a lot of good ideas and excitement about future projects thanks to the sessions and the people I interacted with there. But overwhelmingly for me, my greatest takeaway has been about the relationships - whether you're connecting online through social media, in person at a conference or cocktail party, or over the phone, it's all about engaging people and finding that right chemistry. Not only can it lead to business (and it doesn't have to), but it enhances my life in many other intangible ways.

This is a guest post by Lindsay Griffiths. Lindsay is a marketer and an events planner for the International Lawyers Network; an association of 91 high-quality, full-service law firms with over 5,000 lawyers worldwide.  She is officially a runner, and blogs about her running career at "Run Lindsay Run". You can contact Lindsay by tweeting her @ LindsayGriffith
 (If you wish to publish a guest post on Ami’s Space; drop me an email at amitha@ this domain)

Related Books on Amazon
Invisible Bridges: Building Professional Relationships for Results

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