Old School Networking Gets a Hand from Today’s Social Media

Before I started my practice, I was not fan of networking. I was happy that I started my practice in the era of social media, foolishly thinking that connecting with people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn was enough to build a healthy client database. I imagined my name being mentally filed away in potential clients’ rosters based on my informative tweets and blog posts. It didn’t take very long for me to come back to reality and realize that if I wanted to make lasting connections, I would actually have to *meet* people. And social media was there to help me find relevant people to meet and make the process a whole lot more enjoyable.

Take, for example, Twitter. Over the course of a few months I developed a substantial list of people I followed, most of them based in the GTA and mostly in fields of law and technology. While I initially used Twitter as a means to keep up with developments in law and technology, I realized that it is invaluable in learning about different relevant events around the GTA. There is rarely a week that goes by when someone does not tweet about an interesting upcoming event, conference or trade show, some of them obscure enough not to be mentioned through traditional media channels, but still valuable in terms of developing good contacts.

Besides finding out about events, Twitter has opened up a whole new market for finding potential people to contact and meet with personally. I’ve met with quite a few of my Twitter followers either at events, or on a one-to-one basis. It’s not uncommon for me to get a DM (direct message, in Twitter parlance, which is a private message that isn’t part of your public message stream) from other lawyers or people in tech who would like to meet for a coffee and explore areas of commonality. Joshua Lenon (@joshualenon on Twitter), another solo lawyer on Twitter has taken this a step further with his #beyond140 movement, where he invites people from his Twitter followers out to lunch once every few weeks to go beyond Twitter’s famous 140 character limitation. This is a creative and fun idea for meeting new people who likely have the same interests as you, or are in your ideal client demographic.

A long standing tradition with Twitter aficionados is the “tweet-up,” where Twitter users meet at a local spot to get to know each other. These tweet-ups may or may not be the most effective use of your networking time, given the wide range of people who show up. However you can have limited-interest tweet-ups of Twitter  users with a common interest. A good example is #Beer4Bloggers, a group of  legal bloggers who meet every couple of months. It’s an informal way to connect with other legal professionals who are also using social media to learn about how they use the medium and also gain insights into their practices and make connections.

I’ve found using Twitter to be very effective in beefing up my networking opportunities. However, there are a couple of caveats. When it comes to networking with potential clients, the effectiveness of Twitter or any social media is highly dependent on your area of practice. A legal practice in business and IT law lends itself very well to using social media for networking. Today’s technology company is found on most social media sites, is internet-savvy and turns to the world wide web first when looking for services, networking opportunities and potential clients. This makes it much easier for a practice focused in this area to really leverage what the internet has to offer in terms of networking.

Also, leveraging social media takes time. You have to be committed to actually learn the culture of a social media tool such as Twitter to fully profit from what it has to offer. This means participating in conversations, sharing good information, listening to and promoting other users and being able to filter out noise.  I’ve been an avid internet user since it was born and social media comes naturally to me. However, you can learn social media strategies. But if you’re not committed to it, it’s best to find other avenues that better suit the way you work.

Real-life or face-to-face networking will never go out of style, especially in a service oriented profession such as law. Social media is a great tool to find opportunities to meet with people face-to-face and build up your networking profile. It has managed to convert me from someone who dreaded networking to someone who actually enjoys the process and looks forward to meeting new people.

22 comments
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MonicaNGoyal
MonicaNGoyal

I have to say I was a bit reluctant to take on another social networking platform, but Google+ is really very good. I also like the conversation aspect of it. The ability to create circles of friends, or followers or work colleagues seems promising. I hope this means that I only need to support one social media platform going forward, instead of managing twitter, facebook and linkedin.

econwriter5
econwriter5 moderator

Reading over the comments, one thing strikes me: people seem to think there's an "all or nothing" method to networking. You have to use social media, or you have to just get out and shake hands. But what also strikes me is that many want to find a balance. They get social media is helpful, but is not an "all or nothing" proposition. Same with putting palm-to-palm. To do that, you have to know where to go, and social media seems to be another way to find that kind of information out.

Social media seems to have also become a way to "break the ice" ahead of time, and turn less sociably-inclined (myself included) into more sociable ones.

All of this is good, and it will be interesting to see how it continues to play out, especially with Google+ added to the mix.

MarkCRobins
MarkCRobins

Excellent post Sapna I agree that twitter like all other forms of social networking will not
Replace face to face contact. However it certainly facilitates that contact coming to reality.
Today potential clients rely more on the Internet, google,twitter etc then ever before so being
Active there will enhance your practice. Thank you for this post

MonicaNGoyal
MonicaNGoyal

Sapna - Great Post! In my experience the in-person meeting coupled with online engagement has lead to building relationships with people that in the past I may not have. I don't know how many times people that I haven't spoken to in months says to me, I saw your tweet, or status update.

conniecrosby
conniecrosby

Thank you for sharing your experience, Sapna. I agree, being in social media has made me more social generally. In fact, I was a shy extrovert who loved to share in online forums (listservs, blog posts, Twitter), and my in-person personality had to catch up with my online personality which was far more gregarious. When people met me in person they expected someone chatty and outgoing.

It used to be that networking so often was done through existing groups and had a more clique-ish, "boys club" feel to it which was intimidating. With social media, especially in Toronto, it is now a lot easier to connect with people in person as well. I have never had such a busy networking life, with face to face events several times a week. Now it is just a matter of keeping up!

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Great post, Sapna. I'm worried that the generation that has "grown up" with social media, as well as students in college now, forget this fact far too often. Meeting someone in person is the best way to make a mark, not matter how well you can write a 140-character tweet!

aglaw
aglaw

Sapna, you make a lot of good points. Many people, myself included, will try and use online networking means as a substitute for in-person networking. I don't think that will work. Social media can be great to establish a connection, but there needs to be a face-to-face element to turn that connection into a business lead. This is something we all need to work on.

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  1. […] Ever wonder how old-school networking (we’re looking at you, Mad Men) is helped by today’s social media tools? Sapna Mahboobani of Small Firm Innovation explores the changing tides of networking and how we can all adjust and learn new tricks, but not abandon the tried-and-true tactics of the past. Check it out here! […]