Social media for legal, accounting and engineering: overcoming the fear of the unknown

I met with a friend last week who talked about his reticence to use social media because he doesn't want to put anything in writing that could come back and haunt him in the future. He isn't a lawyer but does work in the professional services space. It got me thinking that there are probably a number of lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals out there who feel the same way.

BUT (and it is a big but) social media is not about broadcasting your news or services to the world or providing 'technical' advice, it's about asking questions and engaging with others, looking for ways to help them out by answering their questions, and sharing valuable information that you (or others) have produced. Provided you do not misrepresent yourself or your capabilities and don't provide 'advice per-se' then you can look to leverage social media. 

If you're in professional services and are new to the world of social media, here are a few tips for how you can use it:

  • as a research tool – monitor what your clients and competitors are up to, what the current trends are, and what's important to your target market. Follow companies and people and consider using a monitoring tool (such as Manzama for those in law firms).

 

  • as a planning tool – build information from social media networks into your practice group, industry sector, client or personal plans. For example, if you have identified the telecommunications sector as one on which you are going to focus consider how you will engage with relevant communities via social media and how doing so can help you achieve your overall goals. At the very least join the groups that those with whom you want to engage belong.

                   

  • as an upskilling tool – there is a LOT of great information out there. By joining appropriate groups/communities and following thought-leaders on Twitter (as well as relevant hashtags) you can easily find a lot of this, without having to wade through masses of other stuff first. You can share this with your contacts/followers/fans and build some of the things you learn into your working practices. Good ways to find these people are through the search screen within Twitter, via the Advanced Search function in LinkedIn, through LinkedIn’s Signal (by following relevant keywords), and through relevant groups.

 

  • as a prospecting tool – by asking questions on topics you want to discuss and inviting people to download white papers, guides or reports in your area(s) of expertise you can identify, and connect with, prospects. People self-select the information they're interested in and so will only engage if these are topics that appeal to them.

 

  • as a relationship starter – this really follows on from the last point. Being active (in a targeted way) in the social media space is a great way to find and connect with your target audience. While you can build credibility and can start to build trust online, the real benefit of social media is in engaging one on one with others and in taking those relationships offline. For example, you may have enjoyed a discussion with another participant on a particular topic and so may invite them to discuss the topic further over coffee or Skype (depending on where the person is located).

 

  • as a reputation management tool – whether or not you are active on social media, people may be talking about you or your firm. If you are aware of this then you can choose whether or not you should respond to these comments. A really simple tool you can use is Google Alerts. As a minimum set Alerts up for your name and your organisation's name. There are a number of other free and paid tools out there.

 

  • as a profile raising and positioning tool – by joining groups/communities relevant to your area of practice, sharing content relevant to your target audience, initiating/commenting on discussions, running webinars, writing blog-posts, retweeting others etc you can use social media to help you raise your profile and position yourself among your target audience(s).

Social media are additional channels you can use to reach your target audience(s) and to help you achieve your business and marketing goals. Their interactive nature is what makes them so powerful – each participant can choose who, how, how much and when they engage. If you consistently engage via these channels and focus on helping others (rather than simply helping yourself) you will start to see increased engagement and, over time, you will notice how these tools are contributing to you reaching your business goals. 

 

I keep saying it but social media is not a silver bullet and it does often feel like noone is listening. However, its effects are cumulative and when you start to see traction it often builds quickly.

 

What, if anything, is preventing you from doing more in the social media space?

 

If you are a professional who leverages social media what advice would you give to others?  

 

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant