I have been a solo construction lawyer now for a few weeks past 4 years now and have, hopefully, learned a few things through trial and error (hopefully more of the first than the second). Since beginning my solo practice on July 1, 2010, I've "mused" at my construction blog and become a certified mediator. Throughout my time, I have sought (with varying degrees of success) to keep a solid online presence.
When Kiffin Hope here at ALPS 411 asked me to give a list of what I think are good ways to establish an online presence for a solo practice, I was a bit flummoxed because I am far from an SEO or marketing wizard but thought that I'd give it a try. So here's what I've "learned" from blogging, Tweeting, and trying and rejecting more social media ideas than I can name.
First of all, most of these suggestions come from the firm belief that any online marketing (a presence that is necessary for just about any attorney) has to be coupled with a "real world" face to face presence with clients and potential clients. Aside from the obvious potential issues linked with the relative anonymity of the "cloud," I've never been one that was totally comfortable with purely internet based communication. Maybe I'm older, maybe it's my clients (contractors that don't want just an online relationship) or maybe it's just the fact that I like to hang out with the folks I represent, but I don't think that face time is dead.
That said, here are a few ideas that should help you build a solid online presence:
- Try Things: As I said above, I've tried and rejected numerous social media tools over the years. Most of these are free so try them and use the ones that work for you. One thing that works for me is that my Construction Law Musings blog is set to auto post to various social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook and the like).
- Write about Things You Like: People ask me about blogging. I tell them that I enjoy it and that is the key. Because I enjoy it, I can keep up with the updates and other posts. While Google and other search engines seem to like having updates (my blog usually pops on search results before my firm web page), it takes a commitment. As a solo my time (and yours for that matter) is precious, for that reason I know I wouldn't keep up with the blog without enjoying the writing.
- Do Things in the "Real World": If you can speak at, attend, or otherwise participate in offline activities relevant to your practice, do it. One, it helps build your credibility with those that need to see you and get a sense of you. Two, many of these off line events have an online presence. By speaking or showing up at these events, you can get an online and organic cross link.
- Use Social Media (to a point): Is social media a way to get your name out there? Yes. Is it the only or best way? That depends. Like a blog, social media use can be time consuming. If you have the time and a passion for sharing your professional knowledge and personal goings on through Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, by all means go for it. However, while I am the only one in my family with a Facebook page, I use that page as much as an outlet for my blog posts as anything. I use Twitter to share not only my work and ideas, but things that interest me and are related in some way to my practice or clients. On LinkedIn, my "presence" is much the same. Social Media is a good way to build your online presence, just don't let it take over and keep it professional when the "presence" is your professional one.
- Find a Few Things that Work for You: Not all outlets will be good for you. If you are a criminal defense lawyer and spend all of your time in various courthouses, you may not find blogging worthwhile. If you (like me) don't want to spend time updating all of your social media accounts but want to keep them updated, figure out the best online tool to do so.
All of those points said, the real way to build a presence is to just dive in. Get your feet wet and keep plugging. None of this will happen overnight, but if you keep at it, the benefits and presence will come over time.