Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

Is it Necessary to Track Social Media Communications in Your CRM?

We’ve had internal discussions recently on whether or not the new social media tools such as RSS feed, tweets or blog subscriptions, that circumvent traditional CRM database tracking present a problem to your marketing strategy requiring changes in your communication tracking tactics. Or do they represent a new order of marketing communications that one can leverage but not worry about recording in your CRM.

The trick is to balance end user needs for quick, targeted information with the firm’s desire to collect and track information.  We don’t have a perfect solution yet but my thought on the subject is as follows.  With regard to tweets, RSS feeds and blogs, I don’t perceive a need to track every single user.  Wed have lists of thousands of contacts and only a small percentage are actually important contacts to the firm with regard to business development and managing the client.  The rest are using the firm’s communication to to learn while the firm benefits from increased brand awareness. Both end user education and brand awareness are valuable marketing tools, but I don’t believe you need to worry about tracking them.

Rather you should spend you effort on tracking the qualified leads that are critical to growing and maintaining your business.  For marketing communications this generally equates to event management and tracking. These folks have responded to your offer for one-to-one education (in-person or webinar vs. newsletter, alert, blog, etc.)  These folks represent the first cut of contact qualification and they are the ones we need to worry about tracking in our CRMs.  From these you want to identify the truly qualified contacts and step them through the sales pipeline via other targeted marketing efforts of attorney business development activities.

As a practical matter we still manage thousands of contacts in our mailing lists for newsletters and alerts. But this is a achieve economies of scale in processing broadcast emails, as well as ensure consistency in meeting ethical and anti-spam guideline. In truth is all of our communication were switched to new social media with email subscription or following Twitter accounts, we would not lose any value.  Look at your lists and see if you can evaluate the worth of any of those contacts.  The ones that are valuable should be targeted and exist elsewhere in your system so that if you deleted the newsletter list you would still have the influential contacts in your CRM.  And your business practices should be designed to funnel in the non-tracked contacts, such as blog subscribers, into your CRM when they raise their hand to start the qualification process, such as registering for an event.

Now the problem lies in the fact that it is nearly impossible to politically to delete newsletter lists and marketers are established in their existing work process and will resist change that that threatens their daily work habits. But I believe in the long run this is the direction firms will follow as social media matures and firms become more sophisticated in allocating their marketing resources for business development tracking.  Think of the hours saved for marketers if they no longer have to push marketing communications to thousands of contacts that are not critically important to the firm. Instead they can focus their time and energy on the percentage of contacts that can make a difference to the firm’s success.

 I’d like to see what others think on this topic as we are in the midst of changing and shaping our policies during this social media revolution.  My opinion above is certainly not the only one out there. And it have been evolving over the past few months and will likely continue to change in the months ahead.

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Don’t Follow Blindly

Don’t follow blindly has always been good advice even before Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools. And it’s even more important these days where following or friending without a strategy can become a marketing nightmare.

I first became aware of the potential problems when I innocently used the word “p*rn” in a tweet on Twitter. I forget the actual message but it had nothing to do with the sex industry. Within seconds I receive several emails announcing new followers. So I clicked on the link to check out their profiles and was surprised to see that they were fictitious accounts set up for escort services. They are rather easy to identify as they feature provocative profile pictures, have a high number of folks they follow with almost no one following them, and have only one or two tweets they have sent out. The tweet will have a short URL that leads to their website promoting their services. Lately Twitter has been very active in flushing these folks out and I frequently land on a page announcing that the account has been suspended, “nothing to see here, mosey on.” If the account is still active I will actively block them.

Obviously these folks are using search software to automatically follow folks based on keywords. Not all of them are in sketchy industries. I have a friend that was tweeting about how much she and her family were watching the “NatGeo” channel. Almost instantly she received a message that National Geographic was now following her. I haven’t researched these tools yet but I suspect there may be ways to employ them for marketing legal services. I also suspect there may be ethical reasons why attorneys and firms shouldn’t use them as well!

So the first rule is to never follow blindly, always check out the account before you follow someone new. I know many folks are into trying to ratchet up their follow and following counts but you don’t have to play that social networking game. Remember your goal is to use these tools to brand yourself and drive your business development activities, not to win a “high score.”

Second, evaluate the contact to see if he or she is relevant to your goals. Check out their profile and open the link to their website. Most folks provide the link as part of their profile. You can easily tell if they are a spammer or even a direct marketer using Twitter to promote their products or services. Don’t forget that you may have interests outside of business and chose to follow folks not related to the legal industry. I follow several accounts related to science and space, camping and Scouting. Just remember that anyone can see a list of who you are following, and that includes and escort services you may have robotically followed back. (This accentuates the blending of what’s business and what’s personal in social networking).

So why bother be so selective? At worse, your account may become the target of spam attacks. I know of one account where the owner routinely followed everyone that followed him. He did this as a social networking courtesy, “Ill follow you if you follow me.” His account is now flooded with direct message spam, thousands of messages. Remember that people cannot direct message you unless you follow them. It’s really no different that email spammers. Their goal is to gather your account ID so they can flood you with messages about their “offerings.” This poor guy has been working with Twitter to try to stop the torrent of unwanted messages but I fear he’s fighting a losing battle. His only recourse will likely be to abandon his account and start all over with a new one.

Having to erase your account is a marketing disaster. If you have been tweeting for a while you have built up a decent following of folks interested in your tweets. You lose all of them with a new account. Most of them you have no other way of contacting them other than through Twitter. Are you tracking your key contacts twitter ID and other social networking accounts? You may want to start so you can rebuild your following if you have start over. Another problem of starting over is that you lose your original ID. You have spent a lot of time branding that account. It’s how many folks on the net know you. Worse yet, it may even be your company brand and now you have to walk away from that account ID as it becomes unusable.

Twitter and social networking is still rather new but it’s growing up quickly. This is evident by how quickly the spammers have infiltrated its service. It’s a shame that we cannot just innocently tweet away on the internet anymore. But that’s the nature of the beast these days and we all must learn how to protect ourselves and our online identities. So make sure you practice safe computing with Twitter and don’t follow blindly.

I’m No Longer Two-Faced

Previously I reported on how I created two separate Facebook accounts; one for my personal social network and a second for a more business related social network. But after months of neglect I have decide to deactivate the business account. I found that it was just too much of a hassle to maintain two separate accounts, and I tended to gravitate to my “personal” account almost exclusively. With other social networking tools competing for face time (pun intended) I just stopped managing two different personas.

Throw In The Towel?

But I haven’t given up on the concept of Facebook being a valuable business development tool. But you must be very selective on who you friend and what you post. I would reserve Facebook to only those contacts you already know and have a strong comfort level that they will accept your personality. Because even if you are very cautious about what you post, you cannot escape the likelihood that some very personal information will eventually make it’s way to your home wall or someone else’s wall.

It could be as innocent as an old high school or college buddy posting and tagging pictures of you from some frat party. (Tagging is when thy click on your image and enter your name so folks viewing the picture know it’s you!). Or perhaps you and you family share comments about a birthday, graduation or other family oriented life event. There is nothing inherently wrong with that information, it’s just that it opens your personal life up to business contacts that you ordinarily wouldn’t share. There are some security settings where you can restrict what information is visible, but sometimes these settings can create a false sense of security. If you post a comment on a friends page, and then another person who is not your friend but shares your first friend comments on the same thread, he or she can see you comments. So you had better think twice before you post comments.

So Why Should I Use Facebook Anyway?

But the same issues that may lead you to be leery in “friending” business contacts can also be the exact reason why you want to friend them. You will gain insight into their personality. Collecting birthdays is an obvious benefit. But you can easily start to pick up on facts about family members, spouse & children’s names, school events, extra-curricular activities, likes and dislikes. If you pay attention you can harvest a wealth of information. Now you can leverage this information to initiate conversations or use to deepen relationships as you blend personal information with business conversations. Good salespersons are expert at this technique as are experienced rainmaker attorneys. That’s why lunch meetings, sporting events and other social gatherings are used to strengthen business relationships. With Facebook you can gather this information on contacts without expending the time and money on lunch or golf.

Enter What You Learn into Your CRM

Be sure to leverage your CRM as you gather this information. At the very least you should be entering bits of information in your email address book notes so you can refer to them when you plan a call or meeting. Ideally you should condense the most pertinent details in a shared notes field so that your colleagues on your team have good data when they make or receive calls. You don’t need to share everything as that may tend to be spooky if it isn’t worked into the conversation properly. You may have a valid conversation entry point as you can say “I noticed on your Facebook status that your daughter just graduated, congratulations!” But a colleague who is not on the contact’s friend list should never use  that type of data. But you could add data such as A favorite sport team or hobby. Then your teammate can lead with “John tells me you’re a big Notre Dame fan…” This also highlights the importance of identifying the source of your notes in the CRM, even your personal notes. You should always make note of the date and source of the information. This let’s you frame it’s use properly, such as referring to Facebook in the first example, or by allowing others in shared notes to cite their source of the information.

For example, for a personal note the entry may look like this:

 “5/27/09 From Facebook: John commented on his daughter’s graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology. He graduated from ND and is a booster of their basketball program”

Whereas the shared note may look like this:

 “5/27/09 from Bill Vannerson: John graduated from Notre Dame and is a boster of their basketball program.”

Documenting shared notes like this allows the reader to refer back to you if they have questions or need clarification.

Alsonote that you can also learn valuable tidbits by looking at the contact’s profile for what Facebook groups they are “fans” or “friends.”  Again, take the time to convert this knowledge into CRM notes so you have access to them in one central application.

At all times you should respect the privacy of your contacts and be extra careful with sensitive information. Misuse of this information, even if it’s made public on Facebook, can be disastrous you your relationship if the contact is offended or even scared by your approach.

Facebook has a valid business development role for attorneys, but you must

  • be very cautious on what you share about your life,
  • select your friends very carefully (some things never change),
  • be alert and pick up valuable relationship building clues, and
  • record what you learn in your CRM software.

So What’s Your Social Media Strategy?

By now most folks have heard the buzz on the streets about social media and social networking, and many have been jumping on the bandwagon in order to capitalize on the latest Internet craze. But why are you updating your Facebook status, sending tweets and adding entries to your blog? The ultimate goal is to develop and maintain relationships with those who can either provide you with business or provide you with referrals that can lead to new business. But as is often true with any new technology many folks are using these new tools like taking scattered shots in the dark without a clear sight on their target.

Most long-term profitable work comes from culturing a relationship with the client or prospective client where he or she has a high degree of comfort and confidence with the attorney’s ability and, equally important, their commitment to serve their needs. Traditionally attorneys cultivate these relationships via face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and e-mail. These tools still exist and are not replaced by the new social networking tools. Rather the new tools should augment these tools by:

  • Extending your reach to create new relationships
  • Extending you capability to deepen existing relationships

Think back to your Marketing 101 class and you may remember the acronym AIDA that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. This is referred to as the Model of Consumer Behavior, also called the Hierarchy of Readiness. This model can be applied to business–to–business marketing as it describes a basic behavior exhibited by all decision makers. The objective is to step the decision maker from the first stage, Attention, up through the final stage, Action.

AIDA

AIDA Flow

 

 

  1. First your communication strategy needs to cut through the clutter to get their attention. No one his going to become a client unless they know you exist.
  2. Once you get their attention your message needs to get their interest. You can yell, “Hey, you!” and get someone to turn their head, but you then need to get their interest so they will listen to your message.
  3. If you’re successful and have their attention and interest, your message now needs to create desire. This is where you communicate where your skills and services match their needs. And it’s convincing enough that they can envision themselves working with you.
  4. Finally, your strategy must include a call to action. You have expended your time and resources to get the prospect’s attention, raise their interest, and develop a sense desire so make sure you have a call to action in your strategy so you can take advantage of the primed situation.

Applying AIDA

Let’s apply the AIDA model to your social networking strategy. Remember, the objective is not to adopt social networking tools just to jump on the bandwagon. That would be like firing of random shots in the air without aiming. You need to evaluate each component and decide how to use them as part of your overall strategy to move the prospect from one end of the model to the other. So let’s plug in the various tools that are available and see how they might be used to develop business relationships.

Social Networking Functions Organized by AIDA Step

Social Networking Functions Organized by AIDA Step

Step One: Get Their Attention

Twitter tweets and Facebook & LinkedIn status updates are useful tools for getting folks attention. People add you to their for selfish reasons. Either they are curious about you and what you are doing or they want to build their network. Either way, you should leverage this behavior to your advantage and provide them with information that induces them to read what you have to say.

And what do you say? Many people using these tools put too much personal information on almost every aspect of their day. Your target market doesn’t really care what time you get up or that you are brushing your teeth. But they will be interested if you are attending a business related conference, or if you are passing along a bit of news that’s important to their industry, or if you are sending a link to your new blog topic on a subject that interests them. These are the types of short, headline type messages you need to send. In fact, they play the very same role in your strategy as a headline does in traditional advertising. Your objective is to get their attention to move them on to the next step, desire.

Step Two: Generate Interest

Creating interest may take more time and is difficult to achieve with tweets alone. After all you only have 140 characters and even if you are succinct and pithy it’s not likely that you are going to get someone interested with a single message. Instead you need to rely upon a cumulative effect of your tweets and status updates, what I refer to as your message halo. The combination of a body of tweets, your public bio, profiles, etc. and by tactful linking to external web pages establish your reputation and cultivates a following. This is the beginning of a relationship.

As you continue to send out your message, you are developing a body of work, you’re message halo. Multiple impressions over time in a given discipline impart a sense that you are an expert in the field, provided your tweets and status updates are accurate and of interest. After a time your audience will anticipate your tweets and updates as the content they lead to has value to them. There are two important issues regarding your message strategy to this end.

One, you need to have a regular flow of content, not too much and not too little. You need to spend enough time that your name is in front of your audience but not so much that you are simply flooding them as that dilutes the impact of your message.

Two, you must restrict your message to content that matters to your business or relationship. Do not tweet that you are brushing your teeth. No one cares and it does nothing to drive the audience towards taking an action, which is your ultimate objective. That doesn’t mean that non-business related content should be banned. Business development is dependent upon creating relationships and allowing certain aspects of your personal life to come through your messaging helps build a sense of camaraderie. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of social networking tool is that you can become more personable with a large group of people at the same time, many of whom you may never have met. That is a powerful tool. So be careful and very thoughtful on what impression you make through your messaging.

Other tools hat help include leveraging the features of the social networking tools such as completing profiles, joining groups, uploading bios and photos. As the audience sees this information, they begin to develop an impression about you and your interests. All of this works towards establishing a relationship. So be careful to not be too personal if such information may be detrimental to developing a business relationship. This is particularly important with Facebook where you may let your guard down and post information that could offend or turn off business contacts.

Step Three: Create Desire

Now that you have their attention and they are interested in hearing what you have to say, your strategy needs to move the audience to where they desire to hear what you have to say. Tweets and status updates cannot do this so you must now leverage other aspects of your communication strategy to elicit this response.

You should take advantage of the firm content but you also need to personalize the subject matter. After all, your goal is for them to develop a relationship with you. Passing along a firm newsletter or an alert on a timely issue have value to your contacts but they do not reflect totally on you and your ability. To build a relationship you must demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Traditionally attorneys do this by presenting at events, writing articles & white papers and making presentations at conferences and firm events. These are still valuable tools and you should use social network tools to drive interested contacts your material. Your tweets and status updates should include links to these materials and registration information.

Another social network tool you need to incorporate is blogging. If you have your own blog you now have the freedom and flexibility to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise with less constraints associated with firm resources. But beware! If you do not have the writing skills or the dedication to provide timely content, then the use of blogs could backfire and have the opposite effect and drive folks away from you. You also must still conform to all legal ethical standards.

But if you are committed and possess decent writing skills, then blogging is were you can truly personalize the message and express yourself. You can demonstrate your knowledge but also connect with your reader on a more personal level working towards establishing a relationship. *There’s that “R” word again!) A blog has an advantage over the other channels in that it’s your blog and you are communicating directly to an audience.

Step Four: Stimulate Action

So the objective of your social networking strategy is to culminate in some sort of call to action that leads to either

  • Extending your reach to create new relationships
  • Extending you capability to deepen existing relationships

Typical responses would be to create an opportunity for a meeting, such as lunch, a telephone call, or an exchange of emails, sort of electronic conversation. In order to do this you must provide a means for the reader to contact you and specifically ask for them to participate. Salesman are taught to always ask for the sale and this is no different, ask for a response. The goal is to elevate the relationship from a non-qualified group of followers to a personal conversation that will lead to a business relationship. It’s these relationships that will eventually lead to new clients and increased business with existing clients.

Make sure you provide a business email or a link to your professional bio. Most blogging software provide for comments or even discussion boards. Discussion boards can be quite useful because in addition to elevating the relationship you are receiving feedback on a given subject matter from the contact. You are engaged in a dialog where you gain insight into their issues and problems, which you now have the opportunity to display that you understand their issues and can help solve their problems. One technique is to pose questions to your audience with the sole intent of inducing them to respond with a comment or add to the discussion thread. The purpose is to engage them in a conversation and develop a relationship.

Finally, a note about using social networking tools as a means to extend your reach and develop new relationships. Messages sent via Twitter or posted to groups on LinkedIn or Facebook are reaching an audience beyond your traditional in-house lists. Twitter also extends your reach if folks following you retweet your message to folks that follow them. So your message can reach thousands of folks who you don’t know and do not have a traditional means of identifying.

Social Networking tools alone will not get you a new engagement or expand the business you do with an existing client. They are useful marketing tools with some very unique attributes that should be melded into your complete arsenal along with the traditional firm resources and your personal, face-to-face selling. The goal is to leverage them into your mix and using the AIDA concept may be a helpful way for you to develop a comprehensive communication strategy. At some point if your social networking message catches their attention and raises their interest, and it just happens to be for on a topic that’s important to their organization and they desire help, then your call to action may get them to reach out to you so you can establish a business relationship.

A Call To Action

I’m very interested to hear from you your ideas and thoughts on this topic. Especially if you have worked with attorneys to incorporate this or similar methodologies into their personal marketing techniques. You can add a comment here or contact me directly at wvannerson@foley.com.

Starbucks Gets It With Relationship Tweets

I follow Starbuck on Twitter. This afternoon I received the following tweet:

Starbucks CoffeeWhiteStarbucks
Seattle-ites: Check out Hot Java, Cool Jazz tonight: 5 Seattle area HS big bands http://bit.ly/WY0HI … these guys are good!

By using Twitter they enhanced their brand with nearly 110,000 followers for virtually no cost. The bio on Twitter says its “Brad at Starbucks in Seattle, WA.” It could easily be a barista from one of there stores and not even be affiliated with the corporate office. I’m sure it’s not as the person twittering on this account also handles relies to incoming tweets on product info, complaints and favorite barista compliments.

Folks that follow Starbucks get quick, short answers to their problems and praise. This allows them to feel as if they know Starbucks. That even though they are communicating back-and-forth with short text messages, they are still “communicating.” There IS someone at the other end who is listening and responding. You don’t get that with emails that disappear into a bulk inbox somewhere. Or from a voice response phone program.

So how can an attorney leverage this concept for business development?

First, you need to get connected to the right folks that are on Twitter. And if you have contacts that are not but are tech savvy, call them and talk it up. Get them to agree to sign up and follow up with an email with instructions.

Second, you need to send tweets. Don’t send tweets about brushing your teeth or buying coffee (unless you’re sending a reply to Starbuck). Create tweets about the work you are doing. Re-tweet incoming tweets from news sources like AmLawDaily. Follow them and reply to their tweets. Remember that the whole world can see your tweets, so DO NOT tweet anything confidential or too personal.

It’s challenging to be pithy, clever and bright in 140 characters. But you don’t have to be all in one tweet. You are working to establish a relationship.  That means that your goal is to develop a body of work over time. Some of your tweets will be strictly business, while others will have a personal flavor. The Starbuck tweet about a band playing tonight in Seattle has nothing to do with selling coffee. But then again, it had everything to do with selling coffee.

A Tale of Two Tweets

A recent article on Cnet News, Nielsen: Twitter’s growing really, really, really, really fast, reports that Twitter is growing at a phenomenal rate of 1,382% over the past 12 months. I have to confess that I am one of the new users adding to that calculation.  This post relates the stories of two separate tweeting experiences that help demonstrate the potential power of social networking through Twitter.

The first experience was a Altman Weil webinar for law firms on managing RFPs starts. Tim Corcoran (tcorcoran), a Senior Consultant for Altman Weil, was sending tweets of highlights from the event. He wasn’t relaying a transcript of what was being said, rather he was commenting his observations of the proceedings.

“An RFP is oppty for lawyers to demonstrate problem-solving skills. Why do many see it as fill-in-the-blanks exercise to delegate? #AWRFP”

These tweets remind me of the types of notes I might have taken had I attended the event, little nuggets of information to take back to the office. That’s a nice benefit. But more importantly from Tim’s perspective is that I now have a connection in my brain that he is knowledgeable about the subject of legal RFPs. That may be important to him someday should I ever be in the position to need such help or if I am asked if I know of someone as a referral.

It also points out what I feel is a highly overlooked aspect of Twitter and Facebook type of Social Network apps. You are socializing. A single tweet on its own will not win over a new client. But the cumulative effect over time creates an ongoing conversation of sorts that eventually develops into a relationship, and decision makers are more likely to do business with you if they have a relationship.

For example, I have met Tim a few times at LMA and LexisNexis events. And he knew of me through common contacts. But I really have never had an opportunity or need to reach out and communicate with him. My relationship with him is not close enough that I would ever send him an email just to maintain my “network.” We are not that close.

But if we follow each other through Twitter, we’ll  start to become more aware of each other and begin to develop a relationship almost as if through osmosis. And it doesn’t even have to be through tweets between us. Tim responded to a Tweet from a colleague who was visiting in Chicago and wanted to know of a good restaurant near her hotel and because I follow Tim I saw the tweet (it’s like eaves dropping in a way). Tim recommended she try Heaven on 7. That happens to be one of my favorite restaurants too!  Suddenly we have a point in common that I can save in my CRM so that if the opportunity arises I can leverage that information. (Tim, if you’re reading this, let’s grab some great Cajun food for lunch the next time you’re in Chicago!).

Over time as we build up a relationship via these incidental tweets and replies, he and I will develop a familiarity, a relationship with each other to the point where I don’t have to fabricate an excuse to reach out and touch base with him if needed.  I’m no longer that guy he met at a conference two years ago. I’m now the fellow tweeter he follows. He knows me, has a sense of my personality and opinions, and it won’t be out of the ordinary nor awkward if I contact him with a direct message (DM) or e-mail. 

And the effect isn’t limited to Tim. It has this same effect to all of the folks that see my message. Everyone following me will read my tweets. I’m building relationships with many people at the same time with a single 140 character message. Talk about efficiency in communications.

The second tweeting experience was part of Legal PR Chicago luncheon where they hosted a discussion panel on social networking. I found out about the event accidentally from a tweet of one of the tweeters I follow. I did not know anything about the event but was intrigued as I wanted to see how Twitter worked at another conference, having just experience the Altman Weil webinar. (This also points out that Twitter can be a useful channel to promote your events to folks not on your mailing lists.). What I really learned from this experience is that your tweets can be seen by people that are not following you.

I simply posted a quick reply to another twitter’s comment. It had not dawn on me that I was communicating to a much larger group other than folks that follow me. Afterwards, my office neighbor came by and said, “We saw you at the luncheon!” What I did not now is that when they decided to live tweet the event they also projected the event tweets on a large screen in the room. So everyone in the room saw my post along with my Twitter ID and profile picture! This is not the norm for events but it did suddenly make me aware that there were many folks following the tweets that did not know me and that by participating I was introducing myself to them. If they think that my contribution was particularly pithy, they can click on my Twitter ID to view my profile, and from there click the button to follow me. These events represent and opportunity to expand your network and reach new contacts.

So get involved and explore Twitter.  It’s one of those tools you really need to dive into to fully understand. It won’t be long before you figure out how to apply it  to your business development needs. And then you can rewrite your own ending to “A Tale of Two Tweets.”

“It is a far, far better tweet that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better network that I build, than I have ever grown.”

Facebook as a Business Development Tool

facebook_pic1Facebook is social networking tool that is quickly outpacing MySpace, one of the original social networking applications. While MySpace appeals to a younger audience, pre-teens to young adults, Facebook aims to attract a larger audience, including adults of all ages. Facebook is essentially a communal homepage where you post a profile and other users you have connected to as “friends” can follow your postings, such as a status update, photos and videos. Your friends can contribute comments to your postings so you have some resemblance of a conversation.

It’s a very social environment and many people use it to keep up with friends and family. It is therefore not particularly well suited for business purposes. The personal nature of the wall writings and deluge of requests for little green plants and sea monsters are not conducive to presenting a professional presence. But many of your business contacts may be on Facebook and not other applications, so it’s possible that this may still be the best social networking platform to manage your relationship with them.

Facebook, like MySpace, has the capability of letting people connect and stay in touch with friends and family. I have connected with old friends I haven’t seen for years. As they post status updates to their “wall,” I get a chance to follow what’s going on in their life. Sometimes this is a bit more intimate than one would experience via other communication tools; e-mail, telephone and even face-to-face meetings. Your friend’s posts to other users appear on your wall and if that person is not part of your friends list, you don’t see the their side of their conversation. This stilted form of conversation can be awkward and you sometimes eavesdrop into some very personal comments that don’t make sense because of the one-sided conversation!

I quickly learned that I had both colleagues and business contacts in my friends list and that I need to be circumspect in my comments as my postings would appear on their walls. So I created a second Facebook account for my business colleagues. But this has proven to be cumbersome to manage. It was tricky to set up as I needed a second cell phone number to validate the account. And you must log out and login to switch identities depending what you want to say and to whom. And I have received friend requests on my personal account from business associates. Instead of accepting these I log out of my personal account, login my business account and send them a friend request. This is an extra hassle and time consuming and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort as Facebook does not have a huge potential for generating new business.

Facebook also supports groups. I created the Legal 1-to-1 group in support of this blog. The group provides two main features. One, it has a discussion board where you can post topics. This is an opportunity to collect information from your followers to see what topics are of interest to them, as well as their opinion on topics you have opined on a blog. Blogs to offer the ability to comment but a discussion board is far more flexible and dynamic. Two, as administrator I can broadcast a message to the group members. This turns my group into a list. My main purpose of broadcasting a message is to send alerts to them when I’ve updated my blog. Again, the goal is to bring readers to my blog where I can establish a rapport

So far I have been unable to entice any comments to the forum. But the group membership has limited numbers right now and I haven’t spent any real effort to promote the group so I would not expect much participation at this early stage. But that does raise another issue, you must view your social networking strategy as a campaign. You are basically marketing yourself. Therefore you should put together a marketing plan on who you want to target, how are you going to reach them, and how to you intend to qualify and convert those contacts into work.

My overall impression on Facebook is that it can be a useful tool for some business development activities but it’s social and entertainment bent relegates it to more an ancillary tool. Much of what you want to do accomplish in Facebook can be done with LinkedIn, which is more business oriented. There may be opportunities for connecting with prospects and clients that may not be on LinkedIn, but be forewarned that if you use Facebook for personal reasons, such as connecting to friends and family, that information you post can be easily seen by your business contacts as well. So I would restrict connections to only those with whom you already have a personal comfort level.

If you receive a friend request from a business contact with whom you do not have that comfort level, ignore the Facebook request and send your own LinkedIn request in response. You are under no obligation to accept everyone’s friend request. And by sending your own LinkedIn request your are still being social and remain connected to the contact. If the contact questions why simply explain that you do have a Facebook account but don’t really use it much but that you do follow LinkedIn more closely so you’d rather stay connected using that service instead.

I believe a tool like LinkedIn is better suited for a personal business development campaign than Facebook. Since we all have limited time to manage this effort its very difficult to manage a social networking communication strategy on multiple platforms. So it makes more sense to focus on LinkedIn because it has a broader reach in the business-to-business arena, is a more acceptable social networking platform to your target audience, and has the tools you need to drive contacts to your blog. Use Facebook sparingly for only those business contacts with whom you have a personal relationship as they will have access to your posts to friends and family that will provide them with a glimpse into your personal life.

NextGen_Law Magazine

A copy of the premier issue of NexGen_Law magazine came in the mail today.  It’s rather thin put out by Daily Journal Publications, although there is no reference to the magazine on their website and the magazine has no web presence of it’s own. That’s seems rather odd for a rag positioning itself as cutting edge. Anyway, I’ll post more info later when I learn more.

Of note to this blog is a piece titled Facebook for Lawyers.  In short, it comments on how Facebook is long on social interaction and short on business development. It likens it to an electronic cocktail party. I think this is a pretty fair assessment. It also mentions that you lose a fair amount of control over contacts. Although the article focuses on lack of control over ad placements. I don’t think that’s a big deal as potential clients and prospects are likely savvy enough to recognize them for what they are, especially if thet are familiar with Facebook already.

The cocktail party analogy is interesting because I think it’s not only accurate but a useful observation. In my limited experience in testing a business Facebook account I’ve come to find that there’s not a lot of direct business development functionality but there are opportunities for building relationships.

For example, one of my friends is a lawyer at my firm.  I really do not know him well and we connected as friends on Facebook based solely on our shared employment at the firm. But I noticed in several of his postings that he has an interest in wine, which is actually very common among attorneys I know. While on its own this information is not earth shattering, it can be a useful tidbit that one would store in their CRM notes on an individual, especially if the individual is not particulay close to you.

It could provide a nice intro if you need a social talking point at a meeting. Or if you were to plan a lunch or dinner meeting you could make sure your restauarant choice has a good wine selection. Or maybe you see an related news item or magazine article that you can share via email, or send a clipping in the mail.

Whatever shape the touchpoint takes the key is that you use the information to establish a relationship. It may not seem like much, but little friendly touches like this do make an impression (as long as they’re sincere).

So a key lesson I’ve learned so far is that a business development Facebook account can be helpful to glean useful personal insight on your contacts. This alone may not generate business leads but may help you develop a 1-to-1 relationship. My next post will cover this in more detail as I give my definition on legal 1-to-1 marketing

Does Teenager E-Mail Trend Foretell the Future of Marketing Communications

A recent Computerworld article “Is e-mail for old fogeys?” explains that while e-mail remains the killer app for most adults, usage among teenagers is dropping. Instead they rely on instant messaging, social networking sites and blogging. I’ve seen this with my own kids. I actually have to remind my son to check his email account for messages I’ve sent him. He and his peers are attached to their cell phone texting back-and-forth, they rarely use it for voice communications.

 

I see interesting social implications since the act of texting almost turns them into zombies, oblivious to conversations or the world around them. In a way “Social Networking” applications is an oxymoron as I see were it can actually retard true social interaction.

 

This trend as little impact for using these tools today for business development. However, it has serious implications for the future as it foreshadows a mind set of incoming attorneys. The report defines teenagers as being between the ages of 12 and 18, so no need to panic. But it would be prudent to look ahead. It will be curious to see if their behavior continues as they age and the way we communicate adapts, or if their behavior modifies as they age and enter the work force. E-mail is still the dominant internet application with 90% of adults using it (what are the other 10% doing???)

 

The next age group, 18 to 32 years-old, spend their internet time watching videos, downloading podcasts, using social network sites and creating profiles, and are likely to seek jobs online. This demonstrates their acceptance of applications beyond e-mail and simple web browsing. The use of podcasts and social networking sites is more germane to legal business development. But they are still not usually the age group of decision makers. It does perhaps have implications on how firms and their client’s teams work and communicate. Associates and their client counterparts may create and develop social interaction via Facebook, MySpace and other tools. It’s easier to post a status update or end a tweet than it is to schedule a lunch and break bread together,

 

But it’s my opinion that we will see a new phenomena with social networking tools. I believe that instead of the younger generation aging and pulling the adoption of these tools with them as they move into positions of power, that we will see the age bands above 34 start to adopt them as their own and pull the usage up into their work life. The incredible success of President Obama’s campaign to incorporate social networking to reach out to their constituency caught everyone’s attention. And his hard-line insistence on maintaining the use of his Blackberry will serve as a role model to all who wish to emulate his success and cast themselves in his image.

 

For better or for worse I sense that we are on the edge of a cultural change. The use of Internet 2.0 social networking apps as a mode of communicating will become the norm rather than an oddity. And I believe this change will fall upon us faster than most realize. I can still remember the speed in which e-mail permeated our workplace. Do you doubt this can happen? I can still remember the unbelievers saying it would never happen.  But it was only a few short years, months really, that the internet craze led by the killer app e-mail changed the way we do business forever.

 

It will be the same with social networking tools so we had better understand and incorporate them now as it’s much better to be ahead of the curve with business technology as it provides a distinct competitive advantage to those who lead.