Those of you who follow IPWatchdog.com and have read my articles, know that my favorite topics to write about are Brand Building, Marketing Strategies, Having a Web Presence and Social Networking. Recently I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the APLF Annual Meeting in Chicago as an expert on Social Media. Topics on day two of the event included Round Tables on Law Firm Operations Basics and Standing Out From the Ordinary, as well as Value Matrix for IP Work and the Implications of Patent Reform and ended with Social Networking for the IP Lawyer; For Profit or Pleasure? So how can attorneys use Social Media to their benefits? Following are ways in which attorneys and other professionals can show expertise, build credibility and ultimately enhance their overall business strategies using Social Media.
One of the biggest myths surrounding Expertise is that in order to be considered an expert, you need to know more than everyone else about the topic at hand. In reality, you just need to know more than or at least be able to educate those within your target audience to be considered an “Expert” on the subject. The question becomes, with the vast number of businesses and attorneys turning to Social Media today, how does one stand out in the crowd? Perhaps the single most prominent way to stand out and Demonstrate Expertise and Build Credibility using Social Media, is through regular visibility while sharing your knowledge with others. In the brick and mortar world, regular visibility means getting in front of people through networking events such as Chamber of Commerce Networking Events, Business Meetings, Conferences, Trade Shows and Tip Trading and Referral Based Groups such as Business Networking International (BNI). But in the electronic world, regular visibility means more than just being at all of the local events within your industry. There are several ways to accomplish this.
First you must Target Your Market. Know who you are trying to reach and do your research on the best ways to reach your target audience. If you are seeking to reach mostly non-industry specific business professionals, LinkedIn and Ryze would be two good choices for you to get started with. You can even use these and other professional Social Media sites to search for groups within your specific target market. Depending upon who you are trying to reach there are also industry specific networking sites such as IPAlly for those within the Intellectual Property industry.
Once you have narrowed down your target audience, the next step is to create profiles on each of the Social Networking sites you have chosen to use. Be selective and do not just join every site there is to join. You want to choose enough sites to reach your broadest audience, but you need to choose few enough to actually keep up with them. Your profiles should be complete, personalized with a current photograph and should be kept up to date and fresh! Most Social Media websites offer you the ability to use Third Party Applications, which typically come in the form of standalone programs or small plugins that add functionality to your existing Social Networking sites. These applications come in a large range functionality and are used to promote your company within your respective profiles. However, you need to be selective as to what information you provide through these third party applications as personal information has sometimes be leaked to data collecting companies and used for marketing purposes.
If you host a lot of events such as trade shows and webinars, you should feature a calendar on your profiles. This will allow your readers to keep up with what is going on within your firm or business. If you want to feature PDFs and Power Point Presentations on your profiles, you will want to add a plugin such as Box.net or some other Adobe reader plugin to allow your readers to access that information with ease.
As you set up your profiles, take note to the functionality featured within each social networking web site you choose to feature a profile on. Do you have the ability to see what others are saying about your company, products or services? Use these functions to see what others are posting within those sites about you. Search the internet for reviews of your business, products and services as well. When you find comments, whether they are good or bad, respond in a timely manner while maintaining your professionalism. The worst thing you can do is to get into a flame throwing match with a critic. Send personal messages directly to the one leaving feedback about your company if you can. If you cannot get that information, leave a discreet and professional post stating that you would be more than happy to address their concern if they would like to contact you.
Now that you have created, completed and personalized your profiles, and have looked to say what others have to say about you, you need to Start Building Relationships. Start making connections with other members of that Social Networking Site. Ask others that you know to introduce you to others they know. Send and Request Recommendations of colleagues, clients and customers you have done business with. Look for and join groups that are specific to your industry and what you do specifically within your industry. If you do not find a group that meets your needs, then create new groups of your own. Finally create powerful events such as webinars, educational conference calls, and online meetings to reach out to others within your industry and allow others within the industry to reach out to you.
Remember to only do as much as you can keep up with. Do not spread yourself too thin otherwise it will simply place you in a category you do not wish to be placed in. In order to establish yourself as an industry leader, you need to specialize. You can either know a little about a lot or know a lot about a little. Personally, I’d rather the latter. One way you can truly show your expertise and build your credibility within the business community is to ask and answer questions. Many social networking sites feature a Question and Answer section such as LinkedIn Answers. Here you have the opportunity to pick and choose the questions you wish to answer. And offer to speak at engagements. If others do not know you are willing and available they may not ask you.
Finally, get writing and get published. I do not mean you need to write a book. If you use Twitter, tweet regularly on topics that interest your target audience. If you have a blog or a website of your own, or better yet both, post new and interesting topics to your blog or website daily or even weekly. When you post new things, always refer back to previous items you have written through links you feature within your current posts. Use plugins within your profiles in order to tie your social media profiles with one another. And finally offer to be interviewed for articles on your area of expertise and ask to guest write for other blogs within your field. The point here is that you want to be seen wherever you can. The decisions you make in your Social Media Campaign can lead to either Opportunity or Failure online. Check out my series of articles on Social Networking starting with LinkedIn Chapter One. If you would like to see my entire Power Point presentation on this topic, it is available for review on my LinkedIn profile. And if you are looking for someone to speak at one of your events on the topic of Social Media, please do not hesitate to contact me to see if I am available.