The Social Network, the movie loosely documenting the development and meteoric rise of the popular social networking site Facebook, was a fine Hollywood movie; I was easily pulled into the characters and the story. While I wasn't expecting anything deep or revelatory, there was one strong take away that the movie illustrated well. The Face Book, as it was originally called, was created as a tool to impress [girls] in real life and promote real life hook-ups. And that, essentially, is still how social networking works best - as a starting point or a touch point for real life.
I am often privileged to speak on social media and networking to groups of lawyers, law firm administrators, marketers, paralegals and others. I chat with them about how they are using the social web and try to learn more about their challenges and help them map opportunities. To my surprise, many perceive the social web as being a virtual world that is an entirely separate animal-that it's all about the virtual connection and any off-line spill over is just an extra benefit. I assure them that nothing is farther from the truth. Nothing has changed, really...
we're not doing anything different, we're just doing it differently.
I like to use the analogy that Twitter is like a cocktail party-the handshake that starts the conversation, Facebook is the country club where business and recreation mix, LinkedIn is a calling card, rolodex or chamber of commerce networking event, and peer-to-peer networks like Martindale Connected are like the Bar association meeting. When lawyers hear this, their eyes light up and the sense that this is a foreign virtual world dissipates.
Then they ask... "But how do you develop new business virtually? Most people want to know the lawyer before they hire them." That's true, they do and you don't exclusively develop new business in a virtual world. I explain that online networking and other social media tools are great for exposure, keeping in touch, and reaching a new or broader audience. The way we use these tools should work together with off-line meetings, phone calls, networking, and introductions from referrals. The fundamentals still remain...what you do with those "introductions" is no different than sending a follow up email after someone hands you their business card at a off line event, only its the other way around..."let's get together in Houston for coffee - I'll be in your town next week and we can talk about your company."
Watching The Social Network really sends this message home. What you do online can be pointing you to an off-line engagement. It's up to you to leverage the opportunity. To see how this works, here's an oldie but goodie story about Laura Guiterrez posted by Heather Morse on her blog The Legal Watercooler.
Read more on the Virtual Marketing Officer Blog.