In this article we learn how Smita Jamdar, head of education at SGH Martineau, has used social media to not only build her personal brand within her sector, but also to generate over a dozen new opportunities for her firm…
BDLN: We have heard from your colleagues that your use of social media (particularly Twitter) has been very effective in driving your personal profile. Have you had a particular strategy or have you simply had fun and let your passions shape your activity?
Smita: Definitely the latter. I’m an avid football fan and when I first started it was just to rant about the then Liverpool FC manager Roy Hodgson but then I realised that many of my clients were on Twitter so I followed them just to keep an eye on what they were up to. I’m rarely short of an opinion, however, so before long I found myself chipping in with thoughts of my own. I didn’t think about its potential to generate business from new clients at all, but instead just saw how it strengthened relationships with existing clients.
BDLN: A common challenge to social media for law firms is the return on investment (or perceived lack of it). Do you believe it has led to any business for the firm?
Smita: Yes, lots. The first one came about as a result of a blog post I’d written and tweeted. The owner of a start-up responded to my tweet, we got talking and within a few weeks we were working with him. I must have had at least a dozen more opportunities like that via Twitter since, and at least five or six have led to new instructions, not to mention countless speaking gigs and other invitations.
Recently I was at the Times Higher Education Awards and the Vice Chancellor of an Indian university was present. I was keen to meet him but we didn’t have a chance to talk on the night so instead I tweeted him afterwards. We got talking and now we’ve agreed to meet up when he’s next in London. That could be a really interesting relationship for us.
It’s not always easy to trace the source of each relationship so I’m sure there have been many more where social media has played a role. Ultimately it’s just one more way to keep the communication going, which is so important in our sector.
BDLN: Law firms are notorious for putting up barriers in the way of social media. Have you experienced this and, if so, how have you overcome them?
Smita: Not really. A lot of people in the firm get nervous about social media but nobody has tried to stop me. The problem is more often with the individual. I lead the education sector group, which includes around 90 lawyers, and I’m always telling them to create accounts and give it a go, but in spite of all my encouragement only about a dozen have done so. Most are too scared of getting it wrong or simply don’t know what to say.
To those who do embrace it in my group, I offer one piece of guidance: “Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be happy having your mum or a judge see, or the Daily Mail publish.” If you keep that rule in mind then you can’t go too far wrong.
BDLN: Another common explanation for solicitors not engaging in social is a lack of time. How much time a day do you typically dedicate to it and how have you managed to juggle this online activity with all of your other commitments?
Smita: Well for a start I’m a good multi-tasker, so I have no trouble sending the occasional tweet between other tasks. I also spend a lot of time on the train, which is perfect for catching up on social media. I think the biggest factor though is that I love all forms of networking and communication, so for me tweeting is a pleasure that I choose to make time for. That’s why it’s so important to relax and be yourself. You’ve got to enjoy it.
BDLN: If you were to give one piece of advice to solicitors struggling to make a start, what would it be?
Smita: I would tell them to stop drawing a distinction between networking and social networking. Everybody buys into the value of networking, whether it’s down the pub or at a formal event, but why is that any different to LinkedIn or Twitter? It’s the same. It’s all about relationships. The only difference is that social networking can be done at any time and from anywhere!