On August 1, I co-hosted a webinar with Lee Frederiksen of Hinge Marketing that attracted over 450 registrants. The topic: Blogging for Clients: How Online Relationships Lead to Real-World Clients. I have no doubt that social media needs to be demystified based on the questions we fielded that day.

 …[A] business must extend it’s digital ecosystem into social spheres in order to remain relevant.  — David Armano

In fact, the published research that Lee presented based on 500 professional services firms “…demonstrates that firms with a higher proportion of online new business leads grow faster and are more profitable.”

With the stage set, here’s my recap of what I consider to be the key points for you:

  1. Listen before you engage online: this creates the situational awareness necessary to develop your own strategy
  2. As a professional, you get your best work from relationships and word-of-mouth: use the Internet to accelerate & amplify
  3. Cultivate your online persona in ways that are tasteful, elegant and professional: grandstanding doesn’t work
  4. For a more detailed explanation of my “7 big picture points” click here or call me.  I’m happy to guide you
  5. The question isn’t whether you do social media; the question is how to do social media well. More on this later

The real dialogue is you listening to your clients and the world around you and sharing your contribution…  — Lee Frederiksen

I urge you look at the Internet and social media — as not just another marketing channel — but as a communication ecosystem (thanks Jayne Navarre and David Armano). This subtle distinction is best understood by experiencing this ecosystem firsthand in your own way. This video by Erik Qualman provides a perspective that may help you deepen your appreciation for what’s happening online:

Please also know that Lee wrote a high-level recap of our webinar on his blog hereLindsay Griffiths of the International Lawyers Network also wrote a detailed 3-part recap about our webinar on her blog. Part 1 explores the economic case for online marketing while Part 2 focuses on developing strategy first and tools second.  Part 3 captures the Q&A at the end of our webinar.

Finally, as promised, here’s a link to the webinar recording and the slides Lee and I presented.

Take the first step. Start listening. Here’s some practical tips:

  • Seattle-based venture capital lawyer, Asher Bearman of DLA Piper, set up a Twitter account and listened to his key influencers for almost two years before he started his blog. He didn’t tweet or blog.  Now, he blogs and tweets.
  • Google alerts is a content monitoring service by Google that lets you monitor your name, company, industry, competitors and even your own name, etc. See how much you really know…
  • Download Zite and Flipboard to your iPad. These time-saving tools learn your preferences and become a personalized magazine for monitoring what you care about professionally and personally.
  • If you’re a lawyer or a professional catering to the legal industry, use the LexBlog Network as a listening tool for developments in law.  This network is comprised of over 7,000 law blog authors generating powerful, timely content.

Some nuggets to inspire you:

  1. The King’s Speech – A Trial Lawyer’s Stutter is a blog post authored by Dave Walton published on Hayes Hunt’s blog, From the Sidebar. Dave’s post demonstrates the power of being yourself to create trust online. That trust leads to real-world relationships.  Ask Dave and Hayes.
  2. 52% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. I’m reminded of that fact daily by my digital-native colleague, Kara McKenna. The world won’t wait for you to discover the power of the Internet and social media. You need to be where your potential clients are today not tomorrow.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet to make you irrelevant. If social networks like Twitter helped kick-start the Arab Spring upsetting a few businesses and business models won’t be difficult.

Lots of people are dealing with problems way worse than this. But it is still a powerful story with a universal message.  — Dave Walton’s quote in Philadelphia Business Journal article, The lawyer’s speech: Stutter turns out to be ‘great gift’

I’m sorry about the superficial, shallow, self-professed gurus with schemes, elixirs and SEO portions preaching that this “social media” thing is easy. It’s not. It takes hard work to listen before you talk. It takes moxie to begin with the end in mind and champion strategy over tools. It takes guts to develop relationships online.

But if you make the investment to strategically cultivate your online identity, the Internet will accelerate your relationships and word-of-mouth.  Over time, that will drive your business development.

Did you enjoy the webinar? This post? What was your takeaway? Did I miss anything that was important to you? Don’t leave me hanging.  I’d love to hear from you…