Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Powerful Networking Synergy of Martindale-Hubbell Connected and LinkedIn

In Beta, Martindale-Hubbell Connected is Valuable Resource

There have been a few highly-regarded squeaky wheels blogging in order to get their oil from M-H Connected as LexisNexis slowly rolls out the social networking for lawyers website (currently in Beta), but let’s face it – all online social media tools have their quirks, and dealing with those is part of being a cutting-edge early adopter.

I was ranked #23 on LexTweet before Twitter mysteriously wiped out half of my follower/following connections, LinkedIn scrapped who knows how many hours of work by changing their group policy out of the blue, and who can even think of writing a how-to book about Facebook when dealing with the new interfaces is a constant re-education process? It is an imperfect world and social media websites are not always an artful example of the inclusive, transparent and democratic values that many associate with “the internet.”

I admit that I used some of my social media connections in the legal community to get my second M-H Connected application approved, but let’s focus on the important part – Martindale-Hubbell Connected is a super social networking resource for lawyers, particularly when used together with a strong lawyer network on LinkedIn.

Although the Compliance Building blog calls it “sparsely populated,” as I log into M-H Connected today my screen indicates a membership of nearly 3500 lawyers.

Certainly 3500 people is not an incredible number, but one should remember that these are lawyers - a group who are widely regarded to be slow to embrace the worldwide frenzy over social media. After all, my modest personal network of 4000 lawyers is still “The World’s Largest LinkedIn Lawyer Network” and until many more lawyers not only set up profiles on social media websites, but actively network using online social media, any group of attorneys over a couple of thousand is a pretty substantial online lawyer networking resource.

However, rather than the sheer number of lawyers on M-H Connected, the social network has considerable value because of the kind of lawyers in the network rather than the volume. Although there are many exceptions to broad generalizations, it appears to me that many of the lawyers on M-H Connected are the kind of lawyers who wouldn’t be caught dead on MySpace, who don’t spend much if any time on Facebook, but who may have entered their rolodex into the professionally focused environment of LinkedIn.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using “cross-over connections” on various social media websites in order to enhance my knowledge of the people in my network, and my interaction with them. I love getting my LinkedIn connections into my Facebook network, so that my connections can learn more about me, and so that I can interact with them using the multimedia tools Facebook offers. I generally view my LinkedIn network as a “virtual handshake” and use Twitter and Facebook as “relationship enhancers.”

At the same time, I believe building fresh professional relationships is the greatest asset online social media has to offer. Certainly one can connect with a legal community of social media savvy legal professionals who are on blogging, using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter very very frequently but unless you provide services to the people who provide services to lawyers, why invest so much time in building professional relationships with only such a similar and tight-knit group?

Simply put, you can find lawyers in M-H Connected that you may not so easily find in other areas of the social media universe. But I digress … in addition to a fresh group of online networking targets, there is a powerful synergy between LinkedIn and M-H Connected, and it exists in one function on most M-H Connected profiles. If a M-H Connected user has a LinkedIn network, and that person has enabled their M-H Connected profile to share their LinkedIn connections – the networks work together, in effect making one network from the two social media websites.

So for example, if I am browsing the members of M-H Connected, and I find a lawyer I would like to initiate a professional relationship with – I can click on a LinkedIn link in order to see how we are connected to each other (whether by first, second or third level connections) on the more populated professional networking website LinkedIn.

To their credit, much like LinkedIn the stated M-H Connected policy seeks to rein in out of control connectors who send invitations that smell much like spam –

“Quick Tip! Since Martindale-Hubbell Connected is a trusted online community, members should take care to extend invitations to people they already know. Remind potential connections how you know each other by including a personal note.”

… and even I of 8300 LinkedIn connections would agree that invitations to connect are most effective when they include a personalized message and a reminder about some commonality between you and the target connection.

But the integration of LinkedIn into M-H Connected helps to develop a commonality that would not exist on M-H connected alone. M-H Connected invitations may include something like –

“I noticed that we’re both connected to Barack Obama on LinkedIn, and I would be interested to learn more about your practice as I may be in a position to make legal client referrals in your area.”

Another area where users can leverage a synergy between M-H Connected and LinkedIn (not to mention another commonality with fresh target contacts) is with lawyer groups on both social networks.

M-H Connected seems to encourage users to set up new lawyer networking groups, and much like LinkedIn, groups on M-H Connected can be powerful networking tools. Certainly if a lawyer were to set up law school alumni groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and M-H Connected, s/he would get an assortment of networking contacts who all share a common history. Practice area or geographically focused groups have flourished by utilizing more than one social media portal for some time (historically LinkedIn and Facebook), and attracting members who have different social media starting points.

I appreciate it when social media experts like Chris Brogan advocate for websites like LinkedIn to adopt new features that may enhance our user experiences, and M-H Connected seems genuinely interested in user feedback. At the same time as lawyers, why not leave the geeky website development stuff to the pros – and just focus on using available technologies for networking and developing new business?

Connect with David A. Barrett on Martindale-Hubbell Connected

Connect with David A. Barrett on LinkedIn

A Martindale-Hubbell Connected promotional video -