When professional firms start to use social media they tend to restrict access to a small group of people – often the central marketing and business development teams. And the first thing they do is broadcast out material about the firm to the world. A bit like how they managed PR in the past.

This doesn’t quite meet the requirements of being social though. And it often fails to prompt interaction. It also means that the people who really should be using social media in their marketing, selling and relationship management activities – the fee-earners themselves – are excluded from the process.

As firms become more familiar and confident with social media, they will then encourage their fee-earners to establish social media profiles, share content, engage in on-line communities and enter dialogues with clients, referrers, influencers and prospects. This is good but often takes place separately to the fee-earners’ other marketing, selling and relationship management activities.

So what is needed is an attempt to integrate social media into traditional business development activities – both at a central campaign level and with each individual fee-earner. This is easier said than done – especially as many firms will employ specialists in separate digital marketing and social media teams.

There are numerous blogs providing advice on how to integrate social media into a range of marketing, selling and relationship management activities so check the list of related links below.

If you are a fee-earner you might follow these steps:

1. Be clear about your overall business development aims

2. Analyse your target markets – examine which social media platforms they use. And how and when.

3. Develop your key messages – think about the relevant key words

4. Read your firm’s social media policies and take advantage of any training that it provides

5. Get your marketing people to help you build an integrated campaign plan that combines traditional methods (e.g. research, publications, media relations, newsletters, seminars, networking, sales meetings) with social media methods.

6. Build a content management plan that shows what content you plan to produce and share over the next six to 12 months that supports your main business development programme.

7. Ensure that you have up to date profiles on your chosen platforms – typically for the professions this will include LinkedIn and Twitter but increasingly Google+

8. Start connecting with your clients, contacts and referrers on relevant social media platforms and in suitable on-line communities (e.g. LinkedIn groups)

9. Allocate a set amount of time each day or week for generating content and getting it out through the right social media platforms

10. Allocate some time each day to reviewing the social media activity of your colleagues, clients, referrers, contacts and targets. Make the effort to like and share their content and add comments where appropriate

11. Use analytics and influence tools to assess the impact and effectiveness of your social media activities

In early 2014 my latest book “Rainmakers & Trailblazers: A practical step-by-step guide to effective business development for lawyers showing how their support teams can help” will be published and this shows how social media and other digital marketing methods can be integrated into the business development programme of a lawyer.