Why Would A Lawyer Waste Time Studying Social Media?

Because I don’t want to look like an idiot!

(How’s that for getting straight to the point?)

I really do hope that someone out there will actually read my blog. When that actually does happen (that’s right, I am believing with faith), I suspect that the first question they will ask after seeing my posts about using social media is “why on earth would Shawn waste so much of his otherwise billable time learning about how to use social media?” And that is a valid question because I am a lawyer, not a professional blogger. So, before I write my next blog about … you guessed it: what I have learned this week about using social media, I decided to go ahead and preempt the inevitable question by answering it now. Because my professional life is driven by serving my clients, they are the ones I really have to answer to so I am writing this as though I am responding to a loyal client–though certainly no one in particular.

1. Social Media Is The Future: One of Us Needs to Understand It

First, I am firmly convinced that within the next couple of years social media is going to change the way business operates as much as did the use of e-mail, the fax machine, the mimeograph (haha–a copier dummy–you remember the ones from elementary school back in the 70s where you used to love to sniff the purple-bluish ink?), carbon paper, the telephone, the telegraph, and of course, the courier pigeon! You don’t believe me? Well just this past week I read an article entitled Email Use Plummets Among Teens (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/email-use-teens_n_820121.html) in which it was reported that e-mail use dropped 59% among 12 to 17-year-old age group and, for the 18 to 54 year-old group e-mail use is declining in favor of the use of social media for communications. Those teenagers who are driving you crazy now are your future customers and my future clients and my guess is they are not going to be exchanging many fax communications with either one of us. You and I are both going to be using this in our business and, if I’m going to be able to competently advise you on this issue, it probably won’t hurt for me to at least have a basic understanding of it as well–and the really good news is that you will not even be billed for my gaining this understanding!

2. I Am No Longer Counting on the Yellow Pages for New Clients

Second, while I love you and truly appreciate you as a client, our relationship is not monogamous. I know you have other lawyers and, quite frankly, I hope to keep gaining new clients. One of the ways I hope to accomplish this is by developing a greater presence out in the market-place and social media is a great way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that you are able to find me in the Yellow Pages but, to be quite honest, I have not opened a copy of the Yellow Pages in years and I suspect that most of my prospective clients are no different.

3. I Prefer to Learn the Ropes Before Making the Mistakes

Third, I know this is a topic that we have discussed many times before. Please understand that I am not pointing fingers that you but simply explaining myself. As I have explained to you a few other times, unless a situation requires immediate action (and most do not), it is usually best to take your time and study the situation, gain an understanding of how it works, plan out your strategy, and then begin executing your plan. That is, learn as much as you can from the work of others and their mistakes before going in and making mistakes of your own! Right now that is exactly what I’m doing. I have no delusions of my becoming the next great social media blogger nor would I trade the wonderful privilege I have of serving clients like you (despite the sarcasm dripping from every other line of this blog, I really do say this with all sincerity).

I love my work. However, I have a lot of learning to do before I become proficient at (A) understanding how to effectively use social media in the business context, (B) actually being effective at using social media in the business context, and (C) actually learn the ins and outs of blogging before I can begin blogging about topics that are of interest to you and your business (since you don’t seem to think this one is). Therefore, since I am taking the time to study this subject matter, I may as well share what I’m learning with others. Moreover, in the event you ever decide to bring your company out of the stone ages, I will be able to direct you to this blog and let you learn what I have learned and not bill you one red cent for the advice! See, no matter what I do, I am always thinking about your best interests.

4. I Really Don’t Want to Look Like An Idiot!

Have you seen anything in the news lately about Kenneth Cole? Oh wait, sorry, I got distracted … where was I? Oh, ok …

Fourth and finally, I really did mean it when I said I do not want to look like an idiot. One of the things I have learned is that there is an unwritten code of social mores in the world of social media and one little faux paux can have you branded as an idiot in no time. You understand what I mean here, right? It’s like we’ve discussed many times before, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure … oh, and speaking of a pound of cure, please don’t forget about that last bill I sent you a few months ago … the children need new shoes.

Dear Clients: How About We Find Some Self Confidence For You?

We all know the scenario: super hot girl with a heart of gold who would be any man’s dream girl but for one little problem. She’s hung up on a real dirt bag who treats her like trash, comes home drunk (if he comes home at all), lies, cheats, and even smacks her around here and there despite the fact that it was she who has paid his rent for the last three months and loaned him money that he spent on other women! People scratch their heads in amazement. Why does she put up with it because surely she could do better, right? Of course she could! But she won’t because she has no self confidence and is so comfortable with the misery she knows that she won’t even consider trying to make a change. It’s pathetic, isn’t it?

Of course it’s pathetic unless you happen to be one of those clients out there who has a little more in common with Ms. Super Hot than you may at first realize. Think about it. You, the client, are paying your lawyer hundreds of dollars per hour and tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to serve you. What that means is, in reality, it is you who is paying for the fancy office, custom suits, and even the sporty Mercedes! You do it because you’ve used him for years and do not know any other lawyers. Plus, according to him, he has forgotten more about the law than most people ever knew and really knows his way around the courtroom. He’ll gladly tell you that you just won’t find another lawyer who can do what he does … and you’ve believed it for years. However, despite all that you, and those like you, have provided for him by way of business, how are you often times treated?

It’s ok, I’m not asking you to answer out loud here. Just think about it because I already know the answer … your phone calls aren’t returned? No response to your emails either, huh? Scheduled meetings and appointments always leave you sitting there waiting … waiting for Mr. Important to make time in his busy schedule for you? You ask about the status of your case but the most he will tell you is “I’ve got it covered, what else do you need?” You try and dig a little deeper into the substantive and strategic issues but are told, with a sneer and voice of disdain, “look, this is what I do and I’m the best there is — I’m the lawyer here, just let me handle it – what? Do you want to handle this problem yourself?”

Hmmm … what was it you were saying about Ms. Super Hot when you were reading the first paragraph? :)  It’s ok … like I said, I already knew the answer. But what about you? What do you think about this?

Do we need to sit you down for a little counseling with R. Lee Ermey? I can hear it now:

That’s interesting. You know what makes me sad. You Do! Maybe we should chug on over to mamby pamby land and maybe we can find some self confidence for you – you jack wagon!  http://lybio.net/ronald-lee-ermey-geico/commercials/

Is that what you need, a little self confidence? Seriously, why do you put up with this kind of treatment? Is this the best service you buy for the thousands of dollars you are paying? Is he really that good? I mean, just as Ms. Super Hot eventually starts to believe her dirt bag when he tells her that he is the best she can ever do, do you really believe that about Mr. Important? Do you really believe there are not other lawyers out there who can do just as good of a job, but do it in a manner that truly serves you the client?

Or is it that you have just become so comfortable with the inconsideration you know and aren’t willing to take the risk of finding someone new because they may end up being even worse than Mr. Important? Is it something else? Who knows!

But whatever it is, do yourself a favor and get a handle on it. Don’t continue to go on like Ms. Super Hot–no client deserves to be treated that way. Let me offer you a little tip: It is without question that when it comes to your lawyer, the results he or she delivers is of the utmost importance. There are, however, plenty of lawyers out there who are very competent and capable of delivering the same kind of results you can get from Mr. Important–maybe even better. Moreover, of those lawyers, many will truly appreciate you and your business and put as much effort into serving you during the relationship as they put into wooing you to first get your business.

Maybe it is finally time for both you and Ms. Super Hot to realize that you have had it with being taken for granted and are ready to move on. All you need to do is get the self confidence to do it. So do it!!! (you jack wagon!)

What I Learned In My First Week Using Social Media For Business

Last week I began a self-study crash course in using social media for businesses. I had to, right? I mean we are now fully engaged in this “New Economy” that is often said to be changing the way the world does business. I hope this really is the future because I have spent a week studying this stuff and let me tell you, it is fun! During this week I have learned a lot—as though I have been drinking water through a fire hose! And I know there is still lots more to learn but if there is one thing that I can say sticks out more than anything else it is this: if you want to effectively use social media for business, do your best to try and be a good genuine person who is honest, uses good old fashioned manners, and shows basic respect for others. Is this over simplifying it? Of course, but here’s the way I see it …

Out are the days of puffery, disingenuous promises, and outrageous claims that strain the bounds of credulity. In the old economy, marketers of goods and services would often perform focus groups to find out what people thought was most appealing about the goods and services they were peddling, prepare a few talking points of information they wanted the consumers to know about the product, then feed it to the consumers through advertisements with a catchy slogan that would make those findings stick into their brains (conscious or subconscious, it didn’t matter). That was it. It was a one way street where the marketers controlled the message so that the consumers heard only that which they wanted them to hear. That is, the consumers had no alternative to the hype they pushed which, most of the times led to disappointment when what was promised was not delivered.

The “Information Age” of the last decade or so enabled the free flow of information available on the Internet and that helped make the one way street into a four lane highway for consumers. Consumers were no longer limited to only the information the marketers wished to feed to them. Consumers who were motivated to do so became empowered to research goods and products and learn vastly more about them than they ever could before. This allowed those consumers to begin seeing through all of the hype and discover the truth about that which they were seeking. They no longer had to believe the controlled message that was being fed to them. This was a huge step in equalizing the playing field between the buyers and sellers of goods and services.

In the “New Economy”, social media has taken a step further the empowerment of the Information Age. Consumers are now armed with information and, by golly they are willing to use it! They are no longer willing to conduct business based upon the puffery, disingenuous promises, and outrageous claims that was forced on them so many times before. What they want now is no different than what all of us have always wanted, it is just that now they have the means to obtain it (or more of it, anyway). They want TRUTH.

Social media has now turned the four lane highway of the Information Age into an interstate highway. That is, consumers are no longer satisfied with simply having access to good and bad information. Other than arming themselves with that information, they have found that by using social media to engage in dialogues with prospective peddlers of goods and services, they have a much better chance of getting to know them, developing relationships with them, and ascertaining whether they find them to be honest and trustworthy based upon that dialogue. This is somewhat akin to asking to speak to the proverbial owner and “looking the man in the eye” like back in the old “brick and mortar days” in that it allows people to judge the character for themselves based upon their own instincts and perception. Moreover, by establishing this type of dialogue and relationship, those who are peddling their wares know full well that if they do not deliver as promised, the reviews will be scathing and many other prospective consumers will certainly hear about it. In other words, social media seems to have brought us back to the balance that consumers had before the era of one-way mass marketing, back to a time resembling that of face to face communications. This is powerful stuff.

Now, I must caveat everything I say in this blog with this caveat: at this point this is all academic for me. I am a true neophyte who has accomplished absolutely nothing through using social media for business! I have no first-hand knowledge on the issue and can only say what I have learned through the writings of others during this crash course. Well that plus a little common sense. Nonetheless, now that I am safely all caveated up, it seems to me that the main way to succeed in this type of business marketing is by forming relationships with and truly serving your customers. Real genuine service seems to be the key here, not just feigned interest until you can make the sale and, as a word of warning if that is how you do business, you had better stay away from social media all together! People know how to smell a rat and you can bet, when they do, they will let the whole world know about it!

So, in summary, what has this crash course taught me after just one week? How about this: (1) use social media to dialogue with your prospective customers and try to form sincere relationships with them; (2) treat your prospective customers (and others) with dignity and respect (i.e., like real people for goodness sakes!); (3) be honest with them; and (4) do not make promises that you can’t keep. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, pray that these rules will catch on with politicians!