Networking is the cornerstone of many professional practices – the ability to educate others on a professional expertise, connect with peers, share experience and knowledge in an open and collaborative way and yes, to also attract new business. Social media offers many industries an opportunity to come together and become stronger together. This is an especially important practice for professions, such as legal, where networking is a success factor for generating new business.
Until recently, the legal profession has been slow to adopt online networking practices. Much of the hesitancy around using social media for professional networking in the legal profession stems from a general lack of awareness of how to apply the new tools and rules to time honored traditions of in-person connections. In the past, lawyers generally distrusted the ability of a computer-based system to form or support relationships. They had concerns about the legal implications of putting information in writing (online) and they often didn’t understand the protocols of online connections.
But the landscape is changing: lawyers are rapidly starting to use of social media such as LinkedIn, blogging and collaboration platforms such LexisNexis Martindale Connected which recently was a finalist with Leader Networks for a renowned SNCR award for social media excellence. (the case study in online at their site) Especially in this “special” economy, when travel budgets have been reduced, specialty focus is increasingly important, and who you know is a critical accelerant to closing new business.
A recent study Leader Networks conducted about Networks for Counsel supports that lawyers are starting to understand the benefits of using online collaboration to support (not replace) their current networking practices. In this study, over 600 attorneys were surveyed about their online networking practice and needs. According to the survey, legal professionals are starting to be “connected” through use of online social networking for personal and professional purposes; however, the majority of attorneys using social networking sites are between the ages of 25-35.
54 percent of attorneys reported being a member of an online social network such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook or MySpace; 33 percent of attorneys that are connected use social networks for personal use; 18 percent use them for professional use and 49 percent use social networks for a combination of the two.
As more and more attorneys adopt technology as an extension of the peer relationship systems and marketing channels, those that succeed will do so because they took the time to understand the rules of engagement. While there are many nuances to online relationship building that need to be understood, a general rule of thumb is – what works in the in-person world is generally appropriate online. Take for example, how to connect at a networking event – while generally a professional would not cruise a room introducing themselves to everyone there but never actually converse with anyone, random linking and connecting without following up with a dialogue online is not really effective for relationship building.
It is exciting that, as with most industry innovations, we are reaching the point where the tools are not as important as the practical applications of them. On Tuesday December 9th in Boston we will be having this conversation on a panel at an event hosted by the New England Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) called Social Networking: How will Online Social Networking Help Generate and Retain Business? Hope to see you there.Thank you for reading Building Online Communities for Business by Leader Networks. We are a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and B2B online community building.
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