What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School #15: How to Convert Virtual Friends into Real World Friends

If you read any reviews from the ABA Annual Conference, you may have noticed that social media is prevalent among legal professionals as a way to network with other attorneys, market their practices and share ideas in the legal community. As Donna Seyle recently wrote on her Legal Practice Strategy blog, “technology, economics, social media and the legal marketplace has rolled over professional traditional like a tsunami over beach tents.” She also pointed out that many attorneys today use technology and social media to align their professional selves with their authentic selves.

While social media does allow attorneys to share their personal side online, whereas a simple website might not, social media was also created so that professionals can build relationships that extend beyond the confines of the Internet. While many of your professional relationships are suited well for strictly web-only relationships, there may be times when you want to take those relationships offline to create partnerships or solidify good relationships. Here are a few ways to move your social media relationships from the virtual world to the physical world.

  1. Engage in real dialogue online. If you want to meet your online friend in the real world, you need to give that person a reason to take the time to meet you face-to-face. You could be Facebook or LinkedIn friends, but if you are one out of thousand, your online “friend” may not even notice you if all you do is “like” or “retweet” their comments and follow their status updates.
  2. Once you have established some common ground online, send your online friend a message to give that person your contact information and to request his or her contact info.
  3. Try to find more than just common ground with your online contact. Is there something that this person does well that you would like to learn more about? Do you do something that correlates to your online contact’s current projects? In other words, give your contact a reason to talk to you.
  4. Take the next step by making a connection. Give your online contact a call to chat (about the idea I mentioned in step 3) or shoot them an email to set up an appointment to talk over coffee or lunch
  5. Follow up with your new friend. In addition to keeping up your relationship the way it began, through social media, add your new contact to your holiday card mailing list, invite him or her to networking events, shoot them an email when you see an article that may interest that person.

While social networking can boost your presence online, attract new clients and generate referrals, it can also become a valuable tool for creating and strengthening your professional relationships offline.