JBA Board of Governors member Giselle Carson
Are you on Facebook? MySpace? LinkedIn? Yelp? Do you Tweet, post, or blog? Are you confused about what these networking sites are all about? As the JBA Board Member Chair of the Bulletin and Communications Department, I invite you to read on!
Online social networking has recently gained momentum as an alternate way to stay informed and connected to friends, co-workers, business partners and clients. Participation spans all age groups and many organizations, including The Jacksonville Bar Association, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the Daily Record and the Florida Bar Foundation, have started their own Facebook pages or LinkedIn groups. For attorneys, these sites provide another online interface for people to locate you and keep in touch, and for you to learn about, and find, other people. Utilized well, they can be amazing resources for information, relationships, and visibility!
Social media is rapidly evolving. Here is a quick overview of a few of the most popular social media, networking and other sites:
Facebook is mostly social in nature; very interactive; and not just for college students. Over 50 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 26 and 65. Most posts on Facebook are between “friends,” fans, relatives and organizations sharing current events and interests. However, more organizations and professionals are using the site for business purposes.
Twitter is an up-to-the-minute “mini blog” that allows users to post short “blurbs” (less than 140 characters) about what they are up to. Individuals can subscribe to each Twitter user and are notified when that user “Tweets.” You can search for people by name and interest and subscribe to the tweets.
Thus far, LinkedIn seems to be the most popular site for professional and B2B (business to business) networking. Many individuals, professional networks and businesses have a LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is said to have about 52 million users, more than half of whom are college graduates with business decision-making powers. The site favors connecting with people you already know and allows for introductions from your existing contacts.
LegallyMinded (operated by the ABA), JD Supra, Law Link, Legal OnRamp, Legal Trends
These are sites that cater specifically to lawyers and provide a variety of networking tools and resources.
Although not exactly a social networking site, it is included because it is a developing venue for consumers to comment and review local businesses and find services and events. Business owners can create a free account and post offers and respond to posted reviews. Users of this site love the ability to learn more about a local business before patronizing it.
Why use these networks?
These virtual networks help you stay in touch with individuals all over the world with minimal time commitment. You can also locate contacts through mutual connections (ex. Courtney is connected to Dan and Courtney finds a professional contact in Dan’s list of connections and asks to be added to that mutual contact’s network and voila! A new contact is made through an existing contact).
In addition to building a database of contacts, these networks help people locate you and for you to learn about and locate other people through online search engines such as Google and Yahoo. If you have a LinkedIn profile and you use Google to search for your name and city, you will most likely find your LinkedIn profile appear toward the top of the organic search.
How do I use these online networks?
Here are a few tips to best utilize your online networks.
The “DO’s” of online networking:
Create a profile that matches your interest and the site style! If you are looking to network professionally, create a LinkedIn account and follow the on-screen directions. You can upload a photo, explain your practice areas and list your affiliations, education, and interests. The Facebook style is much more relaxed.
Request connections, find contacts and participate. Start building your network by locating colleagues, friends, family, business partners, organizations, etc., and initiate or participate in discussions. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of these networks and use them as a springboard for sales and aggressive marketing. Be cautious about who you accept to be in your network.
Link your LinkedIn profile to your online firm bio. This provides another venue for potential clients to contact you and obtain more information about you and your firm.
Stay posted on the latest information from The Florida Bar about online social networking posts. Rules regulating this content are changing based on the number of people using online social media as another way to market themselves.
Use the time you devote to these sites wisely. Uncontrolled, these sites can be a black hole of time. Reserve some specific amount of time daily or weekly to update your profile, create new contacts and interact with others, and remember to reserve time for face-to-face relationship building and to have a fulfilling offline life.
The “DON’T’s” of online networking:
Don’t post social content on LinkedIn and refrain from too much professional content on Facebook (unless your particular line of business lends itself to a more social site).
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the world to know. Once the information goes public, it’s out there and cataloged for an eternity. Legal issues involving privacy, monitoring, gathering and use of social networking content are evolving quickly.
Social media allows for an unprecedented level of dialogue and engagement. Consider using it to broaden your relationships, knowledge, experiences and business. Jacksonville is a great city to do business, be healthy and be a lawyer!