Tag Archives: leveraging Twitter

Professional services marketing & the used-car salesman approach to social media

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I was going to blog about some ways to engage via social media this week, but a couple of things have happened that have made me realise there are a number of so called ‘social media experts’  out there who are behaving like used car salesmen.

I don’t think this is in the interests of professionals and could really damage their reputations.

Yes, social media is new. No, there isn’t a defined way to use the tools. We’re all learning and we’re all able to try new things and that’s the exciting part. These media allow two way communication and enable us to initiate relationships online that we can then take into the real world.

So, I simply don’t believe that the used-car salesman approach is sustainable nor in the interests of those in professional services (in particular).

The inspiration for this post came from Robert Caruso @fondalo who has been writing a series of great posts on this very topic. In light of what I’ve seen recently, his posts have really resonated with me.

What is used-car salesman behaviour?

Basically, this is when people you’ve never met nor come across before try to sell to you via social networks, WITHOUT trying to build a relationship first.

In the last week I’ve come across two such approaches and one other issue:


I got an automated ‘thanks for following me, now recommend me to someone who might need my help’ message on Twitter from someone I’d never met. When I checked, they weren’t sharing any valuable information in their field via their Twitter feed – so why would they think a stranger would recommend them?

Maybe I’m just over automated messages but if you want someone to recommend you, you have to demonstrate your value first.

Otherwise, why should anyone refer one of their contacts to you when they have no experience of you nor your work.

If you’re going to use automated messages please focus on the other person and say something like ‘thanks so much for the follow, look forward to reading and sharing your tweets’ and make sure it’s set up correctly (see the other issue below!) – you only get one chance at a first impression – it’s up to you how you wish to be perceived.

Better still, ditch the automated message and send a personal one to key people with whom you wish to connect. Start to build a:



Being sold to on LinkedIn by someone I don’t know. Again, what’s in it for me? Had they sent me some useful content and allowed me to read more for myself it might have been a different story. I may have wanted to connect to them and to find out more (buying from them would still take a bit more time…)


I also noticed that someone I knew was following me on Twitter so followed him back. Within the space of 20 mins I got 25 automated ‘thanks for following me messages’. Something had clearly gone wrong.

I let him know and then unfollowed him until he got it fixed. However, two days later he stopped following me – automatically adding people to try to build followers? Definitely (following almost 2,000 people with 200 followers). Automated tools can be helpful but you do need to build relationships.

More followers may mean better exposure. But not if they couldn’t care less what you’re sharing. In a professional setting, I think it’s better to take a slower approach to growing your following, whether using an automated tool or not.

Social media is NOT a silver bullet

I don’t blame the professionals themselves. I just think they’re getting some really bad advice from social media companies acting like used-car salesmen. Who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s a silver bullet and you can quickly attract new clients via social media?

The reality is what damage does attempting to sell to someone you don’t know do to your reputation? How many of those who’ve ignored you have told others? Is it really worth even trying?

What’s a better approach?

You can absolutely approach others you don’t know but do so trying to form a relationship, not an instant new client. This morning I read a great  post by Seth Godin in which he said:

Don’t try to convert strangers into customers. It’s ineffective and wasteful. Instead, focus on turning those momentary strangers into people eager to hear from you again and again.”

He’s hit the nail on the head and, as usual, put it way better than I ever could. If you are using social networks as lead generation tools you have to form a relationship with the other person first.

This could be by sending them information they’ll value, inviting them to an event that’s relevant to them, asking for their input into something – there are an infinite number of ways you can do this. Turn yourself into someone they want to follow because you share great information and make it easy for them to keep up to date with developments in a particular area.

The point is that acting like a used car salesman and putting the sale first isn’t going to be a successful way to go about things in the long term.

If you’re not positioning yourself by either producing relevant content or curating content (effectively doing people’s reading for them) then why the heck should someone hire you over someone else who has?

You may get a few meetings in the short term but you’ll have to work hard to convert them – the prospect won’t have been able to assess whether you know what you’re talking about in advance and may not feel a driving need for your offering.

And you may have put a lot of people off. Perhaps this isn’t so important in a larger market but certainly in a smaller one or in a niche industry, people talk. I’ve certainly told at least 5 or 6 other people about the poor things I’ve seen, mainly because I was with them when these things happened. That’s a dangerous position for a professional to be in.

If you build relationships first then, by the time you do meet to discuss how you can help, half the work’s been done for you and the work is yours to lose. I’d far rather spend the extra time up front to build relationships and credibility and to begin to build trust than focus on old-school selling.

Consultative selling has to be the way forwards.

What’s your view? 

Social media YES’s

  • Build relationships
  • Share relevant content that you, or others, have created
  • Ask questions and seek others’ opinions
Social media NO’s
  • Outsourcing engagement (other things you can outsource but not the conversation)
  • Sending automated responses to Twitter followers – make them relevant to the other person
  • Constantly selling (it’s tantamount to cold calling)
  • Treating social media purely as a numbers game
What behaviour have you seen in the social media sphere that hasn’t sat well with you? 

Conversely, what have you seen that’s been really good? 



Lawyers & accountants: what do your social media profiles say about you?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Lawyers and Accountants - what do your social media profiles say about you?

There is one thing worse than being invisible.

And that's making a really bad first impression.

Frankly, if you were invisible at least you could start with a clean slate but there's no taking back those first few seconds when you first meet someone.

It's even worse if that first 'meeting' happens online and without your knowledge.

Yet this is what happens every day.

Take a look at who's viewed your profile on LinkedIn, what your Twitter followers get to see when they click on your name and what you say about yourself on your Facebook page. 

Are your social media profiles working for you?

If your profile doesn't clearly position you

Or, worse still, is skeletal

Then you're missing a trick and could be losing out on potential business. 

If you've made an informed decision not to use a particular network that's fine. Just make sure you delete your profile.

How can I set up a compelling profile?

If you are on a network then the first step to making social media work for you is to make sure your profile is as complete as it can be and that it clearly positions you. 

Answer the questions:

  • Who do you help? 
  • What do you help them with? 
  • What results have you achieved for your clients? 
  • What's unique about you that your target audience will value? Perhaps you are the only lawyer in your market with an MBA or you've written a book on a particular topic – if you can then answer the 'so what?' – what does this mean for prospective clients? Why should they care?

Include social proof where you can in the form of testimonials (if permitted in your jurisdiction), case studies, and links to your blog or other content repository.

Include information about your interests outside of work. A number of lawyers have asked 'is it really necessary to do so?'

I was recently contacted by a Barrister I did not know via LinkedIn. The reason he got in touch with me? We'd both run the New York marathon. He told me as much. Yes, he wanted someone who could help him with his marketing but the clincher was that we shared a common interest. Don't underestimate the power of that.

Let people know how they can contact you and include a sentence asking them to do so. There's little point in a well-crafted summary if you're not going to include a call to action. It's important to let people know you want to hear from them.

Some good lawyer profiles on LinkedIn, that you might want to check out, are:

Jessie Foley 

Callum Sinclair

Once your profile(s) is complete and you're happy with it, you're ready to move to Phase 2: Connecting with others – the topic for next week's post.

What are your top tips for creating strong social media profiles? 

My book 'The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Lawyers: Connect, Engage and Grow your Business' is now available from the LexisNexis store. If you're sceptical about LinkedIn, are unsure how it might be able to help you, or just want some practical tips you can put into action straight away, you might find it useful. 

A 5-phase process to leveraging social media in professional services

by Kirsten Hodgson

The wrong way to approach someone you've never met before

A couple of people have approached me in the past month via LinkedIn. Prior to this I'd never come across them but they both sent direct messages requesting a meeting. I accepted out of curiosity

Or perhaps it was my British reticence to say 'no' or, more to the point, 'why?'

Both meetings were predictable. The person told me about their business and their ideal client and asked if I could refer them work. They asked very few questions.

I walked away thinking they'd have to do more if they wanted a referral.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to refer work to others but they have to demonstrate their credibility first and I have to have built up some sort of rapport and trust with them. 

I'm not saying you can't approach someone you've never conversed with before on LinkedIn.

But there is a better way to go about it.

A better way to go about it

Focus on the other person and their needs.

Offer something of value to them. Or thank them for something they shared and ask them a question.

For example, if someone approached me about a roundtable or webinar on a specific topic of interest to me, I'd go along. If they asked for some input into something (and said why they wanted it) I'd help. Wouldn't you?

While the aim of any social media activity has to be to build relationships one by one and to take these offline, there are some things you need to do first.

A 5-phase process to leveraging social networks

Here's a simple 5-phase process to leveraging social networks.5 phase process of LinkedIn


Phase 1 involves setting up compelling profiles that clearly position you, on each of the networks you use for work purposes

Phase 2 is about connecting with others

Phase 3 involves engaging with others and being active on each network on which you wish to have a presence

Phase 4 looks at taking relationships offline

Phase 5 covers measuring your performance

The speed at which you move through each of these phases will vary.

It is important to have all your ducks in a row so that you are well placed to take advantage of new work opportunities when they do arise. If your profile clearly positions you, if you are connected with people in your target industry sector(s), if you regularly engage and share valuable content, then others are more likely to want to meet you offline.

And you're more likely to get requests from people to meet up.

If you have a clear sense of what it is you're looking to achieve and if you measure how you're doing, using metrics that matter to you, you'll probably find integrating social media with your existing business development and marketing initiatives helps them to fly.

Over the coming weeks I'll be posting a series of follow-ups covering each of the 5 phases in more detail. Subscribe using the email subscription form above if you'd like to receive these articles by email. Alternatively you can subscribe to the RSS feed. 

My book 'The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Lawyers – connect, engage and grow your business' is due out on 31 July 2012. It's being published by LexisNexis. If you'd like to pre-order a copy or find out more click here.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this process? What else would you include? 

How has following a similar process helped you/your firm? 

Social media tips from Julian Summerhayes – What’s your USP?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Julian Summerhayes runs Brand You, a UK based company helping people become the best they can be: his strap line is “to become what we truly are.”

He works mainly within the professional services sector, assisting clients to leverage their talent to maximise client wins and revenue, mainly using social media.

Julian is a former lawyer who specialised in sports law and dispute resolution; he practised for 14 years. I started following Julian on Twitter (@Ju_Summerhayes) about 18 months ago and love his straight-up, practical advice and his clear passion for what he does.

I talked to him about his raison d’être and how he envisages social media helping professionals build and develop their personal brand (amongst a number of other interesting, service orientated issues – Excellence being Julian’s other big thing!)

KH: Tell me about Brand You?

JS: I had an epiphany one day. My passion has always been people – or the reason why some people make more of their talents than do others. I have been a long time student of personal development in the broadest sense (Napoleon Hill being high up as one of my all time favourite authors). I set up Brand You to help my clients – mainly service professionals – leverage their intellectual and creative capital to become the best version of their brand indentity/persona. Brand You is about passion. It’s about finding your unique voice, being different, memorable and making a lasting impression. It’s also about talent and managing your talent.

KH: When and why did you start using social media tools?

JS: When I was a practising lawyer I set up a sports law team acting for agents and athletes, which I loved; it stems from my passion for cycling. Lance Armstrong was an early adopter of Twitter and, because he was on there, a number of other professional cyclists also joined. I did too.

KH: How can leveraging social media help lawyers and other professionals to harness the power of their own brand?

JS: If someone is passionate about what they do, and if they have the patience to make a difference in their area, then they can think about how social media tools can help them to make a dent in their world. Social media isn’t an instant fix. I think lawyers (in particular) expect to do one thing one day and see an immediate return the next. For me, it’s about tapping someone’s passion, focusing on why they got into their profession and what they want to achieve and then using some of the social media tools and methodologies to make more of that passion. In a way it feels like I am helping people who have a message to share reach out and connect with their tribe.

One suite of tools will be right for one person, another suite will work for someone else and that’s the great thing. One person might say let’s do a blog and another person might put some videos out: It’s about finding your unique voice.

I think the key thing many professionals struggle with is the idea of a USP. I always say to people think about how you can sum yourself up in the smallest number of words that you possibly can. I try to tap into this and help people convey their passion succinctly. Using Twitter as an example, I’d ask what the difference between your Twitter feed and your competitors’ feeds is.  If you’re all dishing out the same news, the same reports of case law, and the same piece of legislation, why should people follow you?

What you will see soon, I suspect, is lots of redundant accounts, lots of people who give up on it because they think that’s a waste of time, and a distraction.  Quite what they will revert back to, who knows!

There are professionals who absolutely hate what they do and social media is the last thing in the world that they need. What they need is some coaching, possibly some career counselling to say ‘Do you know what, you have this absolute passion for painting.  Why the heck are you pursuing law when you should be painting?”  People are not fixed to their careers – yes there’s a financial constraint if you’re a senior partner, you’ve got a huge amount resting on this but ultimately you won’t be happy and won’t deliver the best value nor the best service if you don’t enjoy what you do.

It’s a complex issue but in terms of the power of social media it’s about maximising the how rather than just the what.  If you pursue something that you are passionate about, then everything else will fall into place.

Some firms in the UK have really gone niche, but they haven’t done it from a passion point of view, they have done it from an economics point of view, which is actually wrong.  For example, they’ve got into spinal injuries claims because there’s a rash of these coming through. Is it something they’re passionate about?


Then why do it?

If you don’t have passion you can’t sustain anything for very long.  

KH: Assuming someone is passionate about what they do and they want to build their own brand, what do they need to think about before they start using social media?

JS: Less is more.  Just start with one thing and get good at it.  Get really, really good at it.  In terms of building your tribe, you need to be thinking about each platform having its own individual theme, ecosystem and way of doing things.

Try not to do too much.  If I was starting off again, frankly I’d probably only start with a blog and maybe Twitter but I wouldn’t end up as I did at one point, having about 40 platforms that I messed around with.  

You need to be quite strategic, you need to think about where your clients/referrers/fans are going to congregate.  If you’re in a private client scenario, you may not start with LinkedIn.  You may start with Twitter, a blog, a video.  It’s important that you understand the viewing habits of your audience. The book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research introduces the Social Technographics Ladder, which breaks users into groups based on their level of participation online.

In terms of ROI you can have that conversation but it’s pointless at this early state, I want to see how committed you are.  Are you going to master the two platforms, are you going to stay engaged, are you going to fall off the wagon after three months?

Social networks are just tools! They will evolve and change over time. Don’t get hung up on the tools.  Focus on the passion, focus on your messaging.

I follow the POST philosophy – People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. Focus on the people first.  Don’t worry about the objectives, the strategy will come and the technology is last.  I have a thing about it, strategy is execution. Strategy will come out as you do more stuff. The more stuff you do, the better your strategy will become.  I think too many firms spend hours and hours drafting a strategy.  Then, when they execute it they think ‘hmmm, maybe we should try something else’.

Do lots of stuff

Fail faster.

That way you’ll know what works through trial and error. Try different messaging, different content.  Don’t expect instant results.

I believe it’s going to be the quirky ones, the edgy ones, the rebels who are going to get noted.  Their service may be frankly no better than others but that doesn’t matter.  From a social media point of view it’s these quirky personalities that get picked up.

KH: Talking about client service…

JS: The thing that attracts me to social media is the collaborative spirit, which you just don’t get in many professional services firms. It is counter-intuitive. At the end of the day it’s about the client experience. Without the client you have no business.  What you should be thinking about is am I the best person for this job, if I’m not then who can I refer this work to who will do a better job than me?  

If you don’t do the very, very best job you can, clients are going to go somewhere else. Put your people first or equal first with your clients because with the people doing a fantastic job, marketing will take care of itself.  If you make promises to someone else and keep them, you will be doing well.

Social media for me is just a tool, an extension of who you are and if it helps you do your job better, great.  But don’t get wrapped up in it in thinking that people will go around and forget the fact that you provide a lousy service and your receptionist doesn’t answer the phone in a very polite manner.  Those are things that, for most people, make more of a difference than regular tweets.

What’s your view?

You can find out more about Julian and Brand You at www.juliansummerhayes.com


Professional Services Marketing: How the Internet Has Stolen Your New Business – And What To Do About It

by Kirsten Hodgson


A guest post by Gihan Perera, an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals on why it's so important for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to establish their authority online: 

The Internet has changed the entire buying process – and it affects you, even if you don’t sell anything on-line. Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, put it this way:

“Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … [but] now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle.” [emphasis added]

Customers still need to deal with businesses, but now they do it differently.

In the past, when they wanted to buy something important – whether it was insurance, real estate, legal advice or their next car – they would start by talking to a professional, preferably somebody they already knew, liked and trusted. This adviser would then take them on a journey, guiding them to the right buying decision.

That’s no longer the case. If you’re an adviser, you might want people to turn to you first, but they don’t. Instead, they first ask Google. And then perhaps they will ask their Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Or send a tweet to their followers. Or be guided by an e-mail newsletter or blog they read recently. At the end of this process, they might still choose to talk to you, but now the interaction is very different. Information is power, and the customer now has all the power.

Of course, some of your long-term clients do still call you first. But many don’t. That’s why you have to be there consistently in their minds, so that when they’re ready to take action, you’re the first person they call.

That’s easier said than done, because you don’t know exactly when the buying process started (exactly the point that Trailer and Dickie made in the extract I quoted earlier). So the only way to be there is to always be there.

Give Value, Get Business

One of my favourite actors, Steve Martin, when asked for his secret to success, put it this way:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

That’s the approach to take in your marketing, and it all starts with your expertise. The more you can position yourself as an expert (and even better, as the expert), the greater the leverage you have in your business.

You must do this, because if you don’t, somebody else will! This is not something you can ignore. Even if you already have a stable of existing clients, you need to generate new business. And even those loyal clients might be tempted to look elsewhere.

So how can you do this without giving away the farm or spending every waking moment on-line?

The Secret is Consistency

I spent a month in Auckland in 2010, and one of the simple pleasures during my stay was buying from “The White Lady”, a mobile hamburger stand that parked itself every night on a street corner near my apartment:

The White Lady is an Auckland icon, which has been in operation since 1948. Its most impressive feature is not its longevity, but its consistency. When I said it’s been there every night, I really do mean every night. It has a proud history of being open every night for decades, except for a few weeks in 1998 when Auckland suffered a major power outage.

Make consistency your goal as well. Success on-line is not an event; it’s a process.

Here’s a sample process you can use to consistently deliver high-quality material that establishes your authority:

1.       At the start of each month, find a topic of interest to your clients and prospective clients, and write a 300-500 word article on that topic.

2.       Post it to your Web site and blog at the start of the month.

3.       A week later, send it to your newsletter subscribers.

4.       A week later, post it to your Twitter feed as well.

5.       A week later, post it to your LinkedIn account.

6.       Repeat this process each month!

If you follow this process diligently, you’ll be taking the first steps to building your authority and reputation on-line with a blog, newsletter, Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result, you’ll be increasing the chance that you’ll be the first port of call when somebody is ready to take action.

Remember: Be so good they can’t ignore you!

Gihan Perera is an Internet coach for thought leaders, consultants and other business professionals. He's the author of "Fast, Flat and Free: How the Internet Has Changed Your Business". Visit http://GihanPerera.com and get free e-books, webinars and more.

What's your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

Social media for professional services firms – why fix what ain’t broke?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy Danilo Rizzuti @ freedigitalphotos.net

If your current marketing efforts are working, why should you even consider using social media in your professional services firm? 

It's a good question. 

Here are three compelling reasons why lawyers, accountants and other professionals should at least think about it: 

1. Managing your reputation - yes, it's important to know what, if anything, people are saying about you, your firm or your service online and it's also important that all your online profiles clearly position you, but a focused approach to using social media can also help you to build your reputation. 

Regularly sharing content (both that you, and others, have generated) that your clients, prospective clients and referrers will find valuable and that relates to your area(s) of practice, or industry specialisation helps to position you as an information source.

Helping others by answering their questions or contributing to discussions enables you to begin to build relationships with prospective clients you may not otherwise have met.

If you focus on a particular area, and combine what you do offline with what you do online, you have a better chance of positioning yourself in a certain space. For example, if you've presented at a conference you can share that presentation via social media or turn it into a blog post, article or video (and again share these via social media). You can invite comments to try to engage others. If you want to build your reputation then why wouldn't you use all the available channels open to you that reach those people you want to target? You just need to find out which social media platforms they use and focus on these.

And if you want to monitor what people are saying about you, you can set up google alerts for free or can choose from a multitude of other monitoring and measurement tools out there – Ken Burbary's Wiki of social media monitoring solutions provides a comprehensive summary of what's available currently. 

2. Research and planning – if you're going to a new business meeting or you know there is an important RFP coming up for review, monitor social platforms. Viewing someone's LinkedIn profile, their recent activity and their company's activity can provide some really good insights. Again you can use monitoring software (for those in law firms check out Manzama) or you can go into relevant social media networks and search there. For example, LinkedIn's Signal is brilliant for this. 

If you are doing some key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning then searching the social media platforms can be really helpful. From finding out who you don't know within an organisation but need to, to working out how to get in front of those [directors] you want to target over the next 12 months; from understanding how your clients are using social media, to what their key focus is, social media platforms will quickly give you many of these answers. Often you'll be able to plan a way forward too, using your connections and/or groups to connect with key decision makers and influencers you need to reach. 

3. Boosting the success of your planned marketing initiatives - social media can help you increase your reach. For example, if you are running a seminar you can let your network know, share the details via relevant groups, tweets or your Facebook page. You can ask others to share this information on your behalf and include a link to your registration page, to attract more attendees.

If you've put together an article or blog post you can do the same thing. This can help you to amplify your messages. However, bear in mind that social media is about networking and engaging and, while it's fine to share information and content that others will find valuable, you also need to help others and engage with them rather than solely pushing your own messages out. 

A focused and intelligent approach to using social media for business development and marketing purposes, that's integrated with your other activities can also help you generate business enquiries and build a pipeline of leads that you can then nurture. Ultimately you can get new work…but it takes time, consistency and commitment. This is another post in itself and one that I'll tackle one day…

Why else do you think professionals and professional services firms should consider integrating social media in what they do? 

Or do you disagree entirely? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Social media as a professional development tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

My recent interview with Rick Shera highlighted that social media is not just a profile raising/lead generation tool. It's also a great learning tool. 

When I first started using LinkedIn and Twitter it was a bit of an experiment. I wasn't sure how social media could help me, my business or my clients but I quickly realised people were sharing some hugely valuable content in the professional services space and that I could learn a lot.

I now do about 80% of my professional development via social media – be it reading articles others have shared via LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc, attending webinars, downloading e-books/guides or asking questions of, and engaging with, others I've met via social media.

Like Rick, I now only subscribe to one or two email newsletters, getting the majority of content via my RSS feed (all in one place – hooray!) and I don't attend as many conferences/seminars as I used to because I can often keep up with them online and do my learning at times convenient to me.

This is one of the main reasons why I disagree with professional services firms blocking staff access to social media sites: They are such great sources of valuable content.

Provided you set clear guidelines, focus on what employees CAN do and how you want them to behave, I think you can give staff access. You can then deal with those who abuse this individually. If it's an endemic issue, perhaps you have a hiring issue or you haven't communicated clear guidelines (but I'm digressing – this is a post in itself).

How can you find those sharing quality information? 

- ask around. Who do others recommend you follow in your areas of interest? You can ask your colleagues, other members of groups on LinkedIn, your Twitter followers etc.

- set up hashtags for your areas of interest on Twitter (take a look at www.hashtags.org to find out which # people use)

- use the 'Who to follow' function within Twitter and type in your areas of interest. You can then take a look at the content those suggested are sharing and determine if you want to follow them

- join relevant groups within LinkedIn and Facebook and follow those sharing interesting information or making valuable comments

- look at who others are following (on Twitter)

- check out The Matte Pad's blog post: 5 ways to find clients on Twitter (you can also use these tools to determine who to follow from a professional development perspective).

What other ways can you find those who are sharing quality content? 

How, if at all, has social media helped you from a professional development perspective? 

Lawyer successfully leverages Twitter

by Kirsten Hodgson

There are examples of lawyers in the USA and the UK who have generated work from social media, but are there any in New Zealand?

Rick Shera, Partner at Lowndes Jordan is a start-up, internet and IP lawyer and occasional blogger, who has tweeted under the moniker lawgeeknz since February 2009. Over the past 2 ½ years he’s built up over 1,500 followers and is one of the most active New Zealand lawyers on the network that I’ve come across.


I interviewed him about tweeting, how it’s helped him in his practice, and what advice he’d give to other lawyers thinking about using Twitter.




Why did you initially start using Twitter?


I found twitter hashtags (#[subject]) and people putting weird @ signs in front of nicknames, turning up in email discussions, lists and general conversation amongst the early adopters who I deal with.  I was then at a conference where there was heavy use and almost had to get onboard or miss out on the conversations.  So, there was no conscious plan.



But I quickly realised two great advantages to me of twitter.  First off, it is an excellent way of following the start-up, IP and internet industries that I work with.  Legal and business model developments in those areas anywhere in the world will impact us here in New Zealand and many of my clients are internet based, global or going global.  I’ve now unsubscribed from most email and hardcopy newsletters and rely on twitter as almost my sole information feed.


The second thing which surprised me is how great a “trust engine” twitter is.  People make a conscious choice to follow you and see what you are tweeting.  If they don’t like it, or you miss the mark with the content or tone, they will unfollow you or just not pay any attention.  That’s quite different from email newsletters and the clunkiness of unsubscribing or anything else I can think of.  Even beyond that, if you are saying something that has value, they can reinforce that value by retweeting your message to their followers.  In doing so, they are effectively saying to all their followers (who may number in the thousands) “hey, this guy has said something that I think you might like to see”.  Professional services are generally obtained via word of mouth referral. Retweeting is online word of mouth referral.

How, if at all, have your objectives changed during the time in which you've used Twitter?


My objectives haven’t really changed – they remain information feed and direct engagement with people in the industries within which I work.  If anything, they have strengthened.  What I have done though is used twitter more to promote my blog, which adds profile.

What would you say have been your biggest social media successes to date?


Writing a blog post and having over 16,000 separate visits to read it.  That was largely driven by twitter.  Over 100 people tweeted the link to their followers, generating an instant targeted audience far greater than I could reach any other way.


That and the fact that I have had significant work flows from people I have initially met only via twitter.

Is there anything you've done that really didn't work?


Sometimes I post something and tweet about it but it just does not get any traction.  That can be a bit disheartening but there is a definite rhythm to twitter I think.  Before work and towards the end of a work day can get pretty active.  Not using hashtags tends to mean things get lost too.


The other thing to be careful of is time.  You need to take care not to blow out your time with all the interesting material that is on twitter.  Focus helps and, conversely, you can quickly dip in and out of twitter because it is so easy to use.

If there was only one piece of advice you could give to other lawyers/firms thinking of using Twitter, what would it be?


Don’t be scared.  As lawyers we tend to think that we must deliver pristine, legally perfect, pearls of wisdom every time.  If you are using twitter in a professional context then you need to take that into account of course. But, equally, in 140 characters, you’re not going to get a full blown legal opinion across, so if you’re trying for that then you’ll #fail.  People don’t expect it anyway – they just want to know that you’re an actual person and to understand your point of view.

And if you could provide any further helpful tips what would they be?


Keep your twitter name short.  If you use up 25 of someone’s 140 characters with your name then they are less likely to retweet your message, which means you don’t get the advantage of referral to all their followers. 


In the same vein, make your tweets memorable and short enough that others can retweet the whole thing.  It’s a skill I still have difficulty with. Maybe that’s a lawyer thing – we can be a bit wordy ;-)   The 140 character limit is interesting.  It’s actually made me a better writer generally because I tend to get rid of superfluous cruft now.


Plus make sure your profile tells something about you.  I never follow people if I can’t see who they are or what they’re about.


One more piece of advice – have fun!  #lawyersFTW! [that's 'Lawyers for the Win' for those unfamiliar with this particular hashtag, i.e. me!]


What do you think of Rick’s advice?


What other tips would you share?


Are you a lawyer using social media effectively? If so, and you’d like to be profiled,  I’d love to hear from you.