What is the Ultimate Goal of Social Media?

Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute

By Stephen Fairley

Recently, LexBlog founder Kevin O’Keefe and I had an interesting discussion on Twitter about the goal of social media for law firms. Kevin’s perspective is that the ultimate goal of social media for lawyers should be to build their presence and credibility in the community and among their peers. While that may be a good goal, I strongly disagree that it should be the ultimate goal. I believe the ultimate goal for using social media is to develop more leads and find new clients.

It’s true there are different goals with different attorneys. The pressure on attorneys at many larger law firms is, “If I don’t bring in new clients, I won’t make partner someday.” The pressure on solo practitioners or attorneys at smaller law firms is much more immediate along the lines of, “If I don’t bring in new clients, I won’t make payroll” or “If this marketing doesn’t pay off soon, we won’t be able to afford a family vacation this year.” These attorneys can’t afford to join a country club or coach youth sports with the hope that it may someday result in a new client. They need a specific plan of action that directly results in more and better leads.

In addition, many attorneys in larger firms are corporate attorneys who work with large clients. Industry recognition and credibility are of utmost importance to them. On the other hand, consumer attorneys are often more concerned about cash flow.


The goal of social media is lead generation and business development, pure and simple. How you get there is by building targeted relationships, providing solid content and consistently adding value. The point is, you should be getting new leads every month from your work on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

At our company, we don’t use social media because it makes us feel good or because we want to impress our peers or provide free marketing advice to attorneys. We do it for the express purpose of generating new leads and ultimately new clients! The way we achieve that goal is:

  • By providing excellent content on legal marketing every day of the week;
  • By connecting with attorneys in our target market;
  • By engaging with others in the legal industry on topics of interest to us;
  • By liking posts by our clients, so they know we are thinking of them;
  • By commenting on posts made by prospective clients, so we can engage with them;
  • By inviting interested prospects to visit our blog or website to download a free report or sign up for one of our free webinars;
  • And, by nurturing those relationships with regular, targeted communication.

Most legal marketing experts would agree with me that selling on social media is not helpful and will usually result in turning people off rather than attracting them to you. Where I part ways with many of them is on the next step to take. Many would say once you have developed the relationship on social media that’s as far as you should go. If the person wants your help they can always look you up. I take it one step further and use the opportunity to directly invite the person to:

  • Visit my blog;
  • Sign up for my free monthly Rainmaker Report newsletter;
  • Attend a free business development webinar;
  • Order an interview I had with a top attorney on best practices in building your law firm; or
  • Download a special report on how to create a better law firm.

Back when I lived in Chicago, I was involved in a different business and had a very well-connected business partner. He had deep roots in the business community and was formerly the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business. In fact, the primary reason I made him a partner in my company was specifically because of his knowledge and his connections. I ultimately found out that those connections did very little in landing us new business because he saw relationships as the end goal, not new clients.

While some may be tempted to misread me and believe I am being manipulative of my relationships, I can assure you that would be missing my point. I have relationships specifically focused on friendship (both on and off social media). I have relationships specifically focused on mentoring others and being mentored, but I am clear in my goal with the relationships I develop via social media on behalf of my company—it’s for the purpose of developing new business or referral partners.

“The best lawyers get their work via relationships and word-of-mouth. Always have and always will. The Internet and social media did not change that,” wrote O’Keefe in a recent blog post. Really? I could not disagree more! Outside of rural America, there has been no more powerful force in transforming how attorneys get clients than the Internet and more recently social media.

For many small law firms, the Internet is the great equalizer. They cannot compete on television with the mega-firms and their 7-figure advertising budgets and they certainly can’t afford to wait five years for a relationship to evolve into a new client. They are looking for the most direct route to reach and connect with clients who are looking for an attorney right now.

Many of the best lawyers do not get most of their work from relationships and word-of-mouth. It is outdated and inefficient views like this that keep attorneys from fully achieving the potential of social media. By the way, just because some attorneys get some of their business from word-of-mouth does not disprove the rule. Exceptions actually go to prove the rule. The sheer number of attorneys out there today, especially in consumer law, makes it virtually impossible to just grow organically by word-of-mouth. You must be much more proactive and intentional about your business development efforts than just letting your work speak for itself.

The Internet and online marketing (including social media) are the fastest growing ways consumer attorneys are finding new clients. Perhaps this is not true of AmLaw 200 attorneys, but it is why more and more small to mid-sized law firms are turning to the Internet and social media as a cost effective tool to grow their business. How do I know this? Because of our experience working with over 10,000 attorneys nationwide and because social media is the first topic I get asked to speak on by state bar associations.


Back in the day, you could build a good practice by word-ofmouth and networking, along with a little advertising. Today, lawyers can be found by having a decent website, being on social media, blogging and using these tools to build and grow a contact list, then marketing to it. Small firms need to define their ideal client, use the terms that prospects are using to search on the Internet and do the necessary marketing to make sure those searching online find them first.

Here are five rules that every attorney and small firm should know about social media; use them to guide your efforts:

1. Produce great content. The quality of the content you provide is directly reflective of how people perceive the quality of your law practice. When you put something out on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, it needs to be something your prospects and followers find valuable, informative and interesting. If you’re posting or retweeting another’s content – which is perfectly fine – make sure it meets your criteria for providing value as well.

2. Engage with others. If someone posts a comment or response to your article or post be sure you respond in kind. You have to give as well as you get. After all, the first word in social media is social!

3. Focus. Specializing your area of practice helps you build trust and authority, so focus in on messages that reflect what your practice is about. If you have multiple practice areas spend 80 percent of your time promoting the ones that make up 80 percent of your business.

4. Be authentic. Write for those people you want as clients, not for other attorneys. Let your personality come through in your posts. Don’t worry about what other attorneys think of your website or your blog posts. Focus on how your potential clients view your message.

5. Learn the culture. Each social media network has a different culture, and the most successful marketers know how to use it to their advantage. For example, LinkedIn is very professional and very different from the casual nature of Twitter. In general, focusing in on two social media networks is generally a good idea for most practitioners – figure out where your target market spends most of their time and be there.


It has been my experience that for the majority of attorneys in small to mid-sized law firms, online lead generation and lead conversion have dramatically changed over the last deca de. If the rest of the legal industry has yet to catch up, that creates an even greater opportunity for attorneys to use social media to generate quality leads and convert them into clients.


If you’d like to learn more proven strategies for using social media for business development, I invite you to attend a Rainmaker Retreat, our two-day law firm marketing workshop.