I was recently interviewed by AdvocateDaily for an article providing tips to lawyers on some steps they could take to become perceived as thought leaders by their communities. I thought I would republish the article here so that any of you who are struggling with this could share in the ideas as well. Here it is!
With social media platforms and other online tools becoming more powerful than traditional media, lawyers have a significant opportunity to become thought leaders right from their desks, says Toronto legal business development expert, Jane Southren.
“Creating content, in the form of social media posting, content sharing, writing blogs and articles, which is mostly done at your desk, and taking advantage of as many distribution channels for your content as you can find, can be much less time consuming, and as or more effective as a means of developing your profile as a thought leader, than staying on top of numerous speaking engagements over the course of a year,” says Southren, director of professional business development at Lerners LLP.
But, she adds, getting started on the path to becoming perceived as a go-to expert requires equal parts planning, curiosity and courage.
“Twitter and LinkedIn are great starting points to developing your proficiency at using social media as a tool to help you grow your reputation as a thought leader. And the first step is as easy as opening an account. You can then search around on your chosen platform for people you know, watch what they do, and use their example to help you figure out how to use the tool to build your own profile. Once you get some familiarity with the platform and how people use it, start trying things out – that is curiosity and courage in action,” says Southren.
The difficult part, adds Southren, is sustaining blog or social media activity – in order to do so, she says, you have to have a plan.
“You have to commit to whatever vehicle you choose and keep going to it. I can tell you from experience, it is sometimes really hard to sustain. But like anything else that you want to sustain, you just have to keep getting back on the horse every time you fall off. Eventually it becomes a habit.
“And once you have started down this path, it is essential to keep up on new trends and issues in your area and keep talking about them, whether through self-publishing, distribution though other new media and social media or through more traditional media and speaking engagements. It may sound trite, but in order to maintain your status as a thought leader, you have to continue to be a thought leader,” she adds.
One of the great things about social media, says Southren – which is quite different than traditional media and helps inspire lawyers to stay on top of it once they have started – is that engagement is measurable.
“Back in the day, lawyers would speak to the press about an issue and, if they were lucky, get a phone call from one or two out of the thousands of people who must have read the article. There was no real way to measure exactly how many people had seen or engaged with what they had said. Online tools, including blogs and social media, can often provide analytics that give you a pretty good sense of how many people engaged with your content. For many, having access to numbers demonstrating that people are actually reading what they have written (or recorded on video) provides strong motivation to continue delivering content.”
But while numbers are great, she says, “there really is no better evidence that you are influential and a thought leader than when others choose to follow you and get measurable value as a result of having done so.”
“One lawyer told me recently that she was in the process of finalizing a factum when one of the twitter handles that she follows posted a released-that-day decision relevant to her factum and she included it. But for that post, her factum would have not included that case, and it was helpful,” she adds.
However successful a lawyer is at using social media and other tools to develop a reputation as a thought leader online, says Southren, this type of interaction will not replace the face-to-face contact you get through conferences and speaking engagements, as a means of creating the relationships that will ultimately turn into work.
Ultimately, says Southren, lawyers need to use a variety of tools to become known as the lawyer that people trust enough to hire.
“Becoming perceived as a thought leader through effective use of social media is only part of the big picture.”