Are you introducing yourself to friends in your social networks?

J. Nick Augustine J.D., “The Law Publicist,” is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Inc. agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in legal marketing, public relations, and practice management. Nick shares career growth experience and tips for legal job seekers.

You already have a warm introduction to people in your social networks. If you are not calling them to say hello, you are missing an opportunity. Why are we connected if we don’t stay in touch? Quoting linguist, Avram Noam Chomsky, “We can imagine a society in which no one could survive as a social being because it does not correspond to biologically determined perceptions and human social needs. For historical reasons, existing societies might have such properties leading to various forms of pathology.” We are so connected by technology that we rarely talk to each other, impeding traditional social interaction, a human social need. Consider picking up the phone and calling to say “Hello.” Here is a five-step approach to growing your credibility in your social networks.

Step 1: Identify your contacts

Assuming you have Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – if you don’t we might be at an impasse – scan the people in your network and identify the people who look friendly and interesting. Your goal should be an introduction phone call to learn about them, spot referral opportunities, and to share what you do. When you are starting out, identify people who are close in demographic profile because it might be easier to have a short informal conversation.

Step 2: Organize your contact plan

What’s the reason for your call? Remember that people are busy. If you call to say hello, be prepared for some confusion. Few people still call to say hello. Identify an article, podcast or webinar that might be of interest to the person you calling. They might already have the information – no worries. Psychology tells us that people like feeling wanted and known; remember the value of professional courtesy when making contact. Best practices include an Excel grid or other contact management system that helps you track who you called, what they said, and if there are other opportunities to connect.

Step 3: Introduce yourself

I know it is difficult to pick up the phone and call a stranger. Write a short list of bullet points you want to cover. After “Hello” your next line is crucial to the tone of the call. Consider saying “Hello Jim, this is Nick Augustine, we are connected on LinkedIn (for example), and I am just calling you to introduce myself, as a professional courtesy.” Expect a pause while Jim thinks, “…huh, this doesn’t happen often.” Jim may be really busy and cut you off, but he will do so politely. If Jim is busy, offer to call back another time. You might also get “What do you want?” – most people assume you’re selling something. If asked, just reiterate, “We are connected on LinkedIn and I just wanted to say hello to the person behind the profile.” Try it. You just might earn a new professional friendship.

Step 4: Follow up on paper

Yes, I want you to kill a few trees (or at least run to your neighborhood Staples). Anyone who has listened to Jim Thompson’s appearances on my LawTalkRadio webcast knows, the best way to follow up is sending a hand-written note. Once you get your stationery and best felt tip pen, write your contacts a note – “Jim, It was nice chatting with you earlier this week. I am glad to stay in touch. I’m glad I know you practice ‘XYZ’ law because my ‘123’ group is full of potential clients.” You could also just say it was nice chatting, please stay in touch. At the end of the day, you are making an effort to get to know one of your contacts. Only good things can come from this.

Step 5: Repeat

Plan to call the receptive contacts again in a few months. Maybe you will send them in e-mail instead. Identify the people who were friendly and open to communication. Don’t tell them you will follow up or they will assume you want something. Never hypothecate! Be genuine! Back to psychology, the theory of ‘Spreading Activation’ (if I remember correctly from a 1997 cognitive psych class at Marquette) tells us that people have strong memories; the people about whom we feel positive are likely to hold a permanent spot in our mental file cabinet. When you stay in touch, over time, the people who like you will remember you – calling with a referral (or offer of some kind).

Have you done this before? Always curious about your experiences, feel free to leave your comment. Stand up and tell Noam Chomsky that you are better than he suggests.


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