Monthly Archives: May 2012

Social media for lawyers, accountants, engineers: replace fear of the unknown with curiosity

by Kirsten Hodgson

Are you sceptical of social media? And perhaps even a little afraid of the unknown? 

It seems lawyers, accountants and engineers have a huge desire to understand social media (and especially LinkedIn) but there's an underlying fear of privacy issues and getting it wrong. The good news is that the principles of social media are simple. Think about what you're doing. Don't post anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of your National newspaper and be mindful of your Law Society or Bar Associations rules, guidelines and ethics governing your use of social networks. Use your common-sense.

There's no doubt that the risks we hear about are real but, in talking to several lawyers who are heavy social media users, their activity has not been affected by these.

Social media is not for everyone. But if you're building a practice or looking to be recognised as a specialist in your area(s) of practice then you may really benefit from using social networks. It's okay to decide they're not for you so long as you're making an INFORMED call. Do you at least:

  • understand the platforms and how they can be used?
  • know whether your clients, prospects, referrers, peers, and other key influencers such as journalists are on them?

If not, you can find out by:

  • reading a good book on the platform(s) you're considering using.
  • attending a course run by a reputable person who you know uses the tool(s) you want to find out about well.
  • asking your colleagues or business partners who understand social media to show you the basics.
  • asking your clients, referrers, prospects and peers which, if any, social networks they use.
  • searching for those people you wish to engage online and seeing if any social profiles appear in the results.

Find out what's on offer so that you can make a sound decision about whether LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or another platform (or combination thereof) could help you achieve your business development and marketing goals and, if so, think about how you will use them.

If you decide they're not for you, that's fine. But you owe it to yourself to at least understand the phenomena of social media and how the tools could be used so that you can feel comfortable making that decision. 

What's your view? 

Photo courtesy of Tina Phillips @ www.freedigitalphotos.net

LinkedIn Signal: helping professionals to cut through the clutter

by Kirsten Hodgson

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that appears in your LinkedIn updates stream? 

Perhaps you want to see who's been sharing useful content, who's got a new job, or who's connected to who. 

It can be difficult when the information is all mixed up – particularly for those of you with larger networks. But it doesn't have to be. 

If you want to cut through the clutter and quickly find the information that's important to you then consider using LinkedIn's Signal. 

Signal is essentially a searchable news and information feed on LinkedIn. It's one of the LinkedIn features I use often – to see what content those in my network are sharing, to research clients and prospects, or to see what's being said about a particular topic. It allows you to quickly eliminate the information you don't want to see

How can I access Signal? 

Go to the 'News' tab on your LinkedIn toolbar and select 'Signal' from the drop-down list. You can then set up searches using a range of criteria and can save these so that you can quickly access the latest information in future. 

What criteria can I search by? 

Keyword – such as a topic, someone's name, a company name or an industry sector. 

Network – your updates, updates by your 1st degree connections (i.e. those people to whom you are directly connected) or your 2nd degree connections (those people to whom your 1st degree connections are connected). 

Company 

Location 

Industry 

Time – such as the past hour, past day, past week or past two weeks. 

School (read University)

Group 

Topics 

Seniority

Update Type – such as who's connected to who, shares, groups, answers etc. allowing you to quickly hone in on what you want to know. 

Additional tools – such as updates by category (i.e. type of update), updates by connection (i.e. showing activity for each person in your network) and your updates. 

If you've got a new business meeting planned, are responding to an RFP, want inspiration for your blog or an article you're writing, or are doing client, industry or practice group planning, take a look at Signal. It's easy to use (just remember to clear your previous search before conducting a new one) and can be an information goldmine. 

Do you use Signal? How has it helped you? 

What other ways would you recommend professionals use Signal? 

Social Media: Turning the traditional business development process on its head

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"By the time prospects call me, it's like half the work's already been done."

My virtual assistant, Justine Parsons, was talking about how LinkedIn is one of her primary sources of referrals and how it's shortened her lead times. She's an active LinkedIn user. She regularly posts interesting status updates, initiates group discussions and has conversations. She's helpful and friendly.

I met her on LinkedIn, liked what she had to say and engaged her. The lead time was short from her perspective – I emailed her via LinkedIn introducing myself and asking if we could talk. But I'd already been able to make a judgement call before she even knew who I was – by reading her blog posts and discussions/comments. Traditionally, I'd have asked around for a recommendation and then called two or three people to see who I thought was the best fit. In this case, I didn't have to – I already felt comfortable with her.

How is this relevant to you as a lawyer, accountant, engineer or other professional? 

Having conversations with others, sharing useful content and helping people out via social networks (and in person!) means you too can position yourself to win new work.

Imagine going into more new business meetings that are yours to lose rather than being on a level footing with two or three of your competitors.

You may still need to put together a proposal but much of the hard work has been done.

You've already demonstrated your capabilities/knowledge, and positioned yourself.

The prospect has articles, comments or blog posts they can point to that will help them convince others in their organisation that you're on top of your game.

Much of the purchasing decision happens BEFORE the prospect makes contact with you, meaning once they've spoken to you, they're often ready to hire you pretty quickly.

That's what smart use of social networks can do for you.

12 ways you can engage using LinkedIn

Once you've got the basics right (profile set up with good content), and you've found and started to connect with others (clients, referrers, prospects, colleagues and peers) you're ready to engage.

Using LinkedIn as an example, here's what you might do:

  • use your status updates to ask questions, share articles and other content that those you are connected to will find interesting, run polls etc.
  • comment on, like or share a status update one of your connections has shared.
  • send a direct message (via LinkedIn email) to one or multiple connections with some information they will find valuable.
  • put two of your connections who might benefit from meeting one-another in contact.
  • start a discussion in an appropriate group – you may want to ask a question, share some content and ask for views/comments, offer a free guide or White Paper etc.
  • comment on a group discussion someone else has started – answer their question, give your opinion, respond to someone else's opinion in the discussion thread, point them to some helpful information.
  • like a group discussion that you've found valuable.
  • invite someone with whom you've engaged in a group discussion to connect (let them know why they should do so).
  • answer a question in the answers section.
  • if you've signed up for an event on LinkedIn, invite someone who is attending the same event as you to meet up at the event.
  • start, vote or comment on a poll.
  • give recommendations to others who have done a good job.

Provided you are clear about why you're using social media, who you want to engage and the topics you want to discuss, you can position yourself in your area of expertise, remain front of mind with existing clients and attract new prospects.

If you want to make it easier for people to choose you, leveraging social networks can help.

What's your view? 

If you want to know how you can use LinkedIn to achieve YOUR business development and marketing goals, then my book 'The complete guide to LinkedIn for lawyers: connect, engage and grow your business' will be available from June 2012. I'll post further details shortly.

Should I allow comments on my professional services firm’s Facebook page?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Short answer: yes. 

That is, if you want to see any benefit from Facebook.

Otherwise you're just using it to talk at people. When you should be aiming to engage them in conversation in order to build relationships. 

One question lawyers, accountants and other professionals frequently ask me is "But what if someone says something bad about me?"

Chance's are, if they are going to do so then they already are. But you're just not aware of it.

Wouldn't you rather know and wouldn't you rather they did it somewhere where you have the opportunity to respond in a professional manner? 

You may find people say great things about you too.

Dealing with client complaints on your Facebook page (or anywhere public) is pretty simple. It doesn't require an exercise in point-scoring, nor is it about who's right or wrong…

…it's about protecting your reputation.

You don't need to get into a debate online. Often it's enough to say "I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I'll call you now to discuss how I can put things right". You can then resolve the issue offline. 

Others can see you've done something about it and will know you listen and respond to your clients.

If the comment is incorrect (e.g. based on misinformation) you can set out the facts or direct the person to the full story (on your website). Others can then view this too, which will work in your favour as it will help to stop further rumours.

Bottom line: don't be scared of negative feedback. It often means the person still cares…and it gives you a chance to demonstrate your professionalism.

Would you rather know about comments your clients may be making about you and have the chance to respond? Or not? 

What's your view? 


3 criteria that separate a good from a poor LinkedIn Group

by Kirsten Hodgson

Determining which LinkedIn groups to join comes down to what you want to use them for. If you want to keep up to date with what's happening in your industry you'll want to join groups where your peers congregate or that are focused on a particular sector. If you want to find and engage prospects, you'll want to join groups to which they belong. 

Every group is different and what works in one group doesn't necessarily work in another. For example, asking a question in some groups is a great way to start a conversation but in others sharing a link to a blog post works well. 

Despite the plethora of reasons why people join groups I believe there are 3 criteria that separate good LinkedIn groups from poor ones. 

  1. A narrow enough focus - so that you find the majority of the discussions interesting. I have joined a few country specific groups because a lot of the people I want to engage are also there but the discussions are on such a broad range of topics it can be hard to find those that are relevant, and new discussions tend to get lost. 
  2. Good moderation – in terms of clearly establishing and communicating group rules, moving advertising and promotional posts into their own area, removing spam and, if moderating content before it's posted doing so on a regular basis, otherwise the posts go out of date. One of the groups to which I belong could be really valuable but unfortunately content only seems to be moderated on a monthly basis. This means there are no new discussions for ages and then suddenly there's a glut as they are moderated. This means content gets lost and there's no incentive to check into the group at any other time. By the time discussions are posted many of them are out of date. 
  3. An engaged membership - there is a lot of value in groups where people regularly post content and engage in conversations. There are other groups where people post discussions but these receive few, if any, comments. Sometimes it's because the posts are interspersed with spam and so fewer people check the new discussions but sometimes it could be because the people you want to connect with may be listeners rather than active participants and so, even though you might think your attempts to engage people in dialogue are a bit like bashing your head against a brick wall, they may not be. People could be reading your posts but just not commenting. 

If you can't find a LinkedIn group for your area, you might want to start one – for some great tips read Tom Skotidas' recently published article on how to use LinkedIn groups to engage your B2B prospects, build brand and generate leads. 

What other things do you think separate valuable from less-valuable LinkedIn groups?