The other day, I added a "new" Friend to my Facebook network, someone I see maybe once a year at a professional gathering. I thought: This is great. Can it get any easier to stay in touch and up to speed on what's going on in her life so that the next time we meet we can immediately ease into a relevant conversation? No, it can't. I love what Facebook brings to the flow of my professional (and personal) life.
Does anyone still use a Rolodex?
Then I thought, how much better than the previous, one-dimensional Rolodex era! As a marketing director in the era of the ROLODEX, I would sometimes suggest to lawyers that they go through their Rolodex contacts once a week and choose someone to call up just to say,
"Hello, how are you doing? I was thinking about you and thought to give you a call."
This suggestion was more often than not met with three objections: (1) I don't have time (2) I don't feel comfortable doing that, and (3) what would I say after hello?
My counter objection went like this:
"But, you have to stay in touch with people who have engaged you or who can refer business your way. How else do you expect them to think of you when they DO need your services again or have been asked to recommend an attorney? Using your Rolodex to prompt a touch point is a simple method; please just try it."
While a few adventurous souls would give my advice the old college try, most would soon revert back to opting for the chance meeting at a lunch spot or charity event. Oh well. Can't say I didn't try, right?
Client Relationship Management?
Then came CRM (Client Relationship Management). It promised to change the amount of work involved in keeping tabs on our contacts. It's easy; you put contact information into the database, you time and date stamp every touch point, newsletter, or event invitation for that contact and mark it for a follow up reminder. An excellent system, only one problem, some systems are less than user friendly, adding an extra step to the attorney's workflow. (I'm not gong to suggest a law firm doesn't need a CRM - they do - but for other reasons, not personal networking.)
FACEBOOK for Lawyers?
Fast forward to social networking. When I first suggested that lawyers try moving their business network online to Facebook (not LinkedIn-the safe choice), I was met with three objections: (1) I don't have time (2) I don't feel comfortable doing that, and (3) what would I say? (Funny, same objections - what's the pattern here?) For most, the idea of a LinkedIn presence seemed respectable, but Facebook-isn't that for college kids? Well, yeah, it can be for young adults with wide social circles, but that's the beauty of it. The technology is place for developing and maintaining wide social networks and it is available for anyone to leverage!
With a little common sense, and little effort, you can post one to many communications, saving steps, letting your network know what you're up to-and it's totally acceptable.
PRACTICE POINTER: No one will think less of you because you are using Facebook! IN FACT, it may soon be just the opposite -
"Why aren't you my "Friend" on Facebook yet? Why don't we connect on Facebook? I'd love to keep in touch more frequently and since you're a thousand miles away, this is the next best thing!"
Genius! You can hone in on the people in your network, that are otherwise so easily neglected, by commenting on one of their posts. A simple "like" is all it takes sometimes. And, you can easily step it up to the next level with a one-to-one conversation via chat or onsite email when someone appears in your news stream that presents an opportunity to get more personal. All without leaving the site and fuddling with extra steps. (Note #1: Facebook is not the place to give legal advice - or anything resembling it. This is not the place to discuss a client's case or a judge's ruling - even in a private Facebook email or chat. This is strictly social!) (Note #2: Some CRM's are integrating your social networks now, and if so, you may do well to investigate and learn how to use them.)
Facebook is not the scary place that it was once thought to be-though there are some safe guards you MUST not ignore. By all means, don't act like a stooge on Facebook: Only share G rated photos and don't allow others to tag you in their photos that you do not believe represent your interests well. (If someone in your network does tag you-make sure your My Account/ Notifications settings are set to alert you to when you are tagged in a photo (see illustration)-simply go to the offending photo and remove the tag. They will not be able to add it back in even if they try.)
Also, don't share your birth DATE (your month and day is okay if you don't mind getting swamped with well wishes on your birthday!), lock down your profile and privacy settings to Only Friends, and don't post controversial links to polarizing articles that may compromise future business opportunities. Be wary of third-party applications and games -you really don't need them. AND, don't friend judges, or others who may come back to haunt you merely by association. (More Facebook tips here.)
Treat your engagement with others on Facebook a little like you would the people you interact with socially at the country club, neighborhood, church, synagogue, or your kids' school. Be reserved, but be personable. Otherwise, go for it! The results can be significant. I recently heard yet another story of a lawyer who picked up a VERY, VERY significant matter as a result of their activity on Facebook.
Facebook is a multidimensional Rolodex that you can fill with all the people you've encountered at various points and intersections of your life-you seldom know exactly where your next piece of business might come from. Make sure that your Facebook Friends are aware of your knowledge base, your accomplishments, interests, and yes, even what you were cooking on the barbeque at your Memorial Day picnic! It's okay. People like to do business with people they know and trust. Today, more of those relationships are budding on Facebook. What are you waiting for?
If you need help navigating social networks, drop me a note.
Read more on Virtual Marketing Officer
For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site.