Today I’m going to contradict practically every social media consultant in the world. Most experts say that the key to developing business using social media is to engage people (i.e., be “social”).
I disagree with them.
More specifically, I think that this focus on being “social” drives home the wrong point. Being social is simply not the most important factor in developing business with social media.
So what is the most important thing?
Content. Insightful, carefully-conceived, well-written “thought leadership” content that is aimed at a well-defined market niche. This includes articles, blog posts, podcasts and case studies, among other things. With these elements in place you will be able to leverage social media — not for socializing but as a distribution tool to get your content into the right hands and to grow your practice.
Why is content so important?
Prospective clients are looking for experts who can help them solve their problems. This means that if you're hoping to generate business online, you’ve got to build your reputation online as one of the leading experts in your niche. The way to do this is to have a website (or blog) full of fantastic thought leadership content for your followers to read. Without good content, you will have difficulty generating business, no matter how “engaging” you are on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Is being social a bad thing?
Absolutely not. Engaging with people online is a big plus. And, if you have the time, I highly recommend that you do it. It will help you build relationships and encourage followers — both important factors in developing new business. It’s just not the most important thing.
I don’t think social media within the legal profession can be expressed as black or white. Even in non professional settings, social media just doesn’t work for some people. The same goes for lawyers: for some it can be a vibrant tool used to disseminate content (I agree 100% that content is king) to others who are interested in reading it, and for some it can seem like little more than a waste of time.
What’s certain is that I will not consistently follow someone on social media platforms if the content they write and share is not high quality and relevant to my interests. That explains why most of the people I end up retweeting or linking to are those who both write quality content and share it effectively with social media.
-Ben Buchwalter, Director of Client Outreach, Gillin Jacobson Ellis & Larsen
This is 100% accurate. Content is king. The sooner the hoopla over social media dies the better. I’ve done none of it. I don’t use Facebook for my blog. I don’t go around following tons of people on Twitter. While many people follow me, I don’t auto-follow back. Rather, I only follow those who I think have something interesting to say. The only “social media” item I use is LinkedIn, which I think of, not so much as “social media,” but a forum/messageboard – which me and all the other geeks have been using since we got on the internet back in the eighties.
Instead, I’ve focused on putting out what I personally thought (not what would be good SEO, etc.) were quality posts on a consistent (4-5 times a week) basis. I started my blog in July, it’s now the 51st most popular English-language legal blog in the world:
Social media is a small, small part of the puzzle. Of course, social media is easy, writing quality content is hard. As such, it’s not surprising that people emphasize the former over the latter.
I absolutely agree with your assertions about the primary role of content, but just as being “social” drives home the wrong point for social media, “thought leadership” is the wrong emphasis for content.
The most powerful content (i.e. the most shared and commented upon) is useful, provocative or entertaining. “Smart” usually comes with the package, but is not the main point.
I think it’s a disservice to legal marketing to continually push the vanity aspects of social media like “thought leadership,” which takes time and great effort to establish, when a blog or website can ramp quickly by providing immediate value to visitors with content they can use, not just ponder.
Hi Jay. Thanks for your thoughts. I think we agree.
In our definition “thought leadership” is any original content that helps to communicate one’s expertise in a particular area. Doesn’t matter the format — could be white papers, articles, diagrams, website text, blog posts, etc.
Worthwhile article just posted by JDSupra: Law Firm Marketing: Content or Conversations?
Excerpt: For my part, I value many of the friendships (a better word than ‘relationship’) I have formed online – and, without question, I understand that some of those friendships have helped business. But – and this is the editor in my DNA speaking – Content remains King.
The point surely is to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to deliver “social” messages to your followers, friends etc that link to well-written content, blogs etc. The number of law firms that bark commands on Twitter is astonishing. A lively, engaging tweet will get my attention far more than the block-we’ve-tweeted-as-much-as-we-could-in-our-lunch-break patterns seen by a lot of the firms that i follow.
Agreed. Content is king. Well, maybe not “content” because that sounds a bit lame — but good writing on subjects you think will be engaging and/or enlightening are a definite plus when trying to get people to read your blog and, perhaps, hire you. You can chum the waters all you want like a scatterbrained social butterfly, but without any actual substance to back up the chatter you are likely to accomplish nada.
[…] that might prove my point a bit further. There was a blog post by The Great Jakes Blog titled, “A contrarian view of social media for lawyers: You don’t need to be social”. I first started reading it and wondered what his view point was going to be and what it really […]
Sorry everyone, I have to disagree. I am not an attorney but have the opportunity to work with a number of them in my Social Media consulting practice and as part of the network we have established. Social Media IS about being social. But it’s how you define social that causes the conflict in my opinion. I just put up a blog post at http://www.theattorneymarketingnetwork.com if you are interested in reading more about my contrarian views to the contrarian post.
In a nutshell, most attorneys are smart, intelligent, and can navigate around the law quite well. So in the prospects mind, how do you DIFFERENTIATE? How do you build a RELATIONSHIP? How do you build TRUST? …all before they have ever met you? They do it by getting to know more about you personally and then they determine if you are a good person and someone they should seek. They do it by “word-of-mouth” as a general rule. Social media is nothing more than leveraging your “word-of-mouth” and putting it on steroids when you use it correctly.
Content can be found anywhere on the internet today and is more plentiful than we have time to read – so that is not the ultimate differentiator. It is the “experience” or presumed experience they will have if they work with you. This is the social aspect of social media, getting to know you better before they walk in your office. Once there, are they leaving feeling they have a relationship and could become your advocate? If not, then you are missing the mark. This doesn’t come from content – it comes from the relationship and the relationship is leveraged and developed faster, cheaper, and deeper than can be done using the traditional means available today.
Wait, wait. A Social Media consultant, someone whose entire business is peddling SM to the inexperienced, thinks that SM is most important?!
I must say, I am shocked, SHOCKED, to hear such a thing.
“Content can be found anywhere on the internet today and is more plentiful than we have time to read – so that is not the ultimate differentiator.”
This is true. What you’re leaving out is that most of it is crap.
Having GOOD content is the differentiator.
Building a layer of weak, superficial “relationships” via SM won’t put a shine on your content if it’s a turd. It’s very obvious to lawyers online as to which lawyers who blog who are doing it passionately, thoughtfully and accurately and those who are phoning it in and are trying to smear a veneer of SM-Web2.0-BS over it to try and make it look good.
I could care less if I have a online “relationship” with a lawyer via SM – I want to know if they know the LAW, if they are fierce-minded expert in their field, a serious professional who is collegial but also prepared to (figuratively) kick someone’s teeth in on my behalf if I need them to.
If I have the option of a dozen 128 character tweets back and forth with that lawyer or reading a dozen in-depth blog posts they’ve written that delve into the area of law I’m concerned about – I’ll take the latter 10 out of 10 times.
I can build a relationship with them later.