Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Tag

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.

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.