The Real Purpose of Social Media
Using social media for your business is not about potential customers finding you by searching on Twitter or Facebook. The real use of social is to grow relationships, establish expertise and increase trust from your current and potential customers so that your business’s circle of influence expands. After years of working on behalf of clients in a variety of industries, I can tell you that most companies (except for very well-known brands or celebrities) still don’t get their high-quality customers through blind searches on the internet, but rather through word-of-mouth referrals and previously established relationships. And social can help with this.
Think about the best customers you’ve had over the years. Most, if not all, have probably come to you not because of a web search or overt marketing, but because they were referred to you by someone who knew you or knew of your reputation.
A Little History, Personal and Otherwise
I first started working for law firms when I was 15 years old, in 1980. Even though attorneys were officially allowed to advertise as of 1974, word of mouth was still the number one referral source for new clients. The first call on a portable cell phone occurred in 1973. Around the late 1990’s, the use of the internet dramatically increased. More forward-thinking lawyers quickly established their online presence with websites and customized urls, but print, TV and radio still dominated as primary advertising mediums.
Fast-forward to today, where newspapers are becoming obsolete and few people listen to or watch commercials anymore. In 2005, the number of adults in the United States using social networking sites was approximately 6% of all adults. In 2013, that number was 73%, with roughly half of all Facebook and Twitter users getting their news through their social sites.
Back in 1980, my first job was working as a file clerk for a personal injury law firm in San Francisco, recording information through pen or typewriter. Fast forward to 2007, my role with law firms was dedicated to online marketing, which consisted of writing blogs, press releases and web content designed to help search engine visibility. By 2010, my role expanded to include social media set up, consultancy and management.
Although methods of advertising for lawyers have changed over time as well as the scope of my work, the importance of relationships and reputations in bringing in new clients remains the same and has always been the core foundation behind our philosophy.
Smart Marketing Includes Social
In today’s world, every successful and thriving business, be it law firm or otherwise, is finding ways to use real and authentic engagement through social media (which includes blogging) to build relationships and increase word-of-mouth reputation. A few years ago, having a blog and perhaps setting up a LinkedIn page or using Twitter was cutting edge. Today, businesses need to use social in smarter ways, strategically targeting potential customers, partners and influencers, such as bloggers, reporters, association leaders, etc. The real purpose of networking is the same as it’s always been, only the medium has changed.
My belief is that social media marketing is not about trying to be the most popular or loudest, but rather the most relevant and useful. Keep your social media efforts focused on finding and connecting online with the exact people you want to know, whether customers or referral sources, and building their trust by offering content they find of value on a consistent basis.