The story of how a Phantom turned one lawyer from a social media hater to a social media addict … with some amazing results.
5 years! At the time of writing this post, this is the length of time that I have been a Tweeter. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Well yes it does, when you’re actually having fun, but when I first joined Twitter I wasn’t having much fun. In fact, I wasn’t having any Twitter fun at all.
Using social media for business is a complete waste of time. Isn’t it?
I am a self-confessed social media addict. It hasn’t, however, always been so. This may come as a surprise to those who know me, but in 2011, if asked about social media, I would have said that the whole thing was a complete waste of time and effort.
So what’s the story?
5 year Twitterversary seems as good a day as any to tell my social media tale. Read on ….. and I promise you that a real life phantom does make an appearance!
Re-wind to March 2011. I had been running my business, Beckett & Co Solicitors, for almost 10 years and I had, in that time, seen big changes in the marketing world. As we crept towards the millennium we saw falling return on investment from our traditional marketing methods and a shift towards huge website promotion by our larger competitors.
How was a small, high street, legal practice, with almost zero website traffic, supposed to compete with the big boys who had literally £millions to spend on their online marketing? Robbing a bank to pay for Pay Per Click advertising just wasn’t an option. So what was the answer?
Michael Flatley and inspiration strike!
One potential answer came to me whilst sitting in the MEN Arena waiting for a show to start. I was there to watch Michael Flatley, of River Dance fame, in his Lord of the Dance show. Whilst sitting in our seats, excitedly awaiting the start of the show, the big screens were showing photos from the show, and exhorting the audience to check out Michael’s website …. and to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter?
At the time, I was a very late adopter of Facebook having only very recently set up a page to connect with friends after my 40th birthday party: when it seemed that everyone (and his dog) had a Facebook page except me! But to use social media to promote a legal practice? Seemed a bit odd to me.
Let’s face it, as a personal injury practice, we couldn’t exactly promote our latest special offer or our new product or our new show, could we? Still, I thought that if it was good enough for The Lord of the Dance it was good enough for me and I set about setting up a Business Facebook Page and my very first Twitter account.
Inspired by Michael Flatley I started to use social media and never looked back. Right? Well, no. Remember how way back in this ramble I told you that I wasn’t having any fun on social media in 2011? I hated it!
Social Media for business? No thanks!
When I started using Twitter and Facebook for my business I didn’t have a smart phone. I found logging in and out of Twitter on desktop very clunky (still do, if I’m honest). I also struggled with content, my tweets just tended to be links to my latest blog post and were accordingly spaced at least a month apart.
Didn’t I get any followers? Yes, but to my horror they all seemed to be other personal injury lawyers. Great.
Did I get any engagement on my tweets? No. Not one jot!
Did I get increased traffic to my website? No.
Did I get any enquiries? No.
Did I think that using social media for my business was a good idea? NO!!
I left my Twitter account languishing with 250 or so followers, told myself that I had ‘given it a go’ but that social media clearly couldn’t work for a business such as mine, and turned my back on the whole thing.
Social-media hater ….. to social-media addict!
Why did I give Twitter another go? The answer that I give to this last question is a bit of a joke but it does have some truth: I returned to Twitter to stalk a phantom!
The Phantom Strikes!
5th May 2012 found me once again sitting in a theatre waiting for a show to begin. The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Tour had come to Manchester and I had bought tickets as a treat for my Mum. I had never seen the show before and to be honest, as a heavy metal fan, I wasn’t sure if it would really be my cup of tea.
Everything changed when the guy playing the phantom opened his mouth to sing. He blew my socks off! The whole cast was superb, the show was amazing, but the phantom did it for me. He was incredible.
Who was the man behind the mask?
A quick check in the programme told me he was John Owen-Jones. The programme also told me that John had an impressive CV: he had played the phantom in the West End more times than any other actor, was the youngest actor ever to take on the lead role in Les Miserables in the West End, and …. that he was on Twitter.
I came out of that theatre with an almost overwhelming need to tell John Owen-Jones just how amazing his performance had been. How to do it? Snail-mail, sky-writing, mime …. were all possibilities, but the obvious answer was Twitter.
I re-visited Twitter for the first time in many months and found John. He had over 18k followers and was a prolific tweeter, often tweeting from back-stage at the show.
It didn’t seem right to send show congratulations to a West End star from my Beckett & Co Solicitors Twitter account, so I set up a personal Twitter account. The first person that I followed was John Owen-Jones and my first tweet …. was to John Owen-Jones.
My ‘stalking’ of the phantom had begun.
I followed John’s tweets, and discovered that he is a massive heavy metal fan and that, just like me, he saw his favourite band, Iron Maiden, at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington Park, aged 17, in 1988 (which was enough to convince me that he was worthy of my attention).
I responded to his tweets and he replied. I tweeted him about music and he replied. He re-tweeted one of my tweets (yes, it was I who coined the hashtag #TheMusicofTheFlight) which resulted in lots of other Phantom fans (or Phans) following me. In a nutshell, John engaged with me.
To be fair (to me, because I’m actually a decent, law-abiding member of society), I use the term ‘stalker’ with my tongue wedged firmly in my cheek. I wasn’t actually a stalker but an engaged follower.
I didn’t solely use Twitter to follow and tweet John. I also followed the Twitter account for the Phantom of the Opera show itself, and many of the other cast members (who were a really fun bunch of people to Twitter chat with).
I started to follow accounts that related to my other interests (I learned to avoid looking at Twitter on MotoGP race days until after I had watched the races – spoilers!).
I found myself really interested in the tweets that were showing up in my timeline. I started responding to and commenting on tweets. People started to tweet me, and to follow me, and I soon found myself chatting away with people who shared the same interests as me.
I realised that Twitter was fun.
Unlocking the Power of Social Media
I also realised that Twitter had power and that the power was in the engagement.
If John Owen-Jones had been less friendly, ignored my tweets and failed to engage with me as a follower, my experience of watching him as the Phantom may have faded to a happy memory (supported by the John Owen-Jones CDs which I inevitably bought). As it was, the ongoing Twitter engagement kept the show in my mind: it made me want to see John, and the show, again.
I bought tickets to see John as the Phantom when the UK tour reached Leeds. Sadly for me John was ill and unable to perform.
What did I do? I booked to see the show again a few weeks later. I also tweeted John to request that he avoid walking under ladders, spilling salt or annoying black cats ( so as to avoid any bad luck which might mean he was unable to perform).
I clearly, inadvertently, jinxed the poor man because, believe it or believe it not, John was injured a couple of days before the show and was off again! (If I was paranoid I could have felt that he was avoiding me).
Shortly afterwards, John’s run as The Phantom ended so I was, sadly, unable to see him in the show again. It didn’t, however, stop me from going to see the show again, which I did, both on the UK tour and in London.
The lesson learned?
That the Phantom of the Opera had managed to sell its product to me repeatedly (6 shows) – all off the back of some friendly tweets. A classic example of social selling …. without the annoying sales pitch!
Can you see where I’m (finally) going with this?
After 5 months of using Twitter to follow the Phantom I realised that engagement is the key to using social media successfully. I’ll say that again: engagement is the key.
Using Twitter as a purely promotional tool (as I had previously done on my business account) just wasn’t going to cut it. Using Twitter to make connections, on the other hand, had real potential.
In September 2012 I dusted off my Beckett & Co business Twitter account. I set about using what I had learned during my time as a ‘phantom stalker’ to kick-start my Twitter activity. I turned up every day. I had conversations with people. I built relationships. I helped others whenever I could, whether it was by a re-tweet or by connecting them to others. I used Twitter to network.
Within 4 months I had over 2000 followers and my engagement levels were consistently high. One, very positive, result, that I hadn’t anticipated, was a sharp increase in my organic website traffic.
Work started to flow from the website, meaning that we could scrap our costly directory advertising thereby saving £thousands. New connections and referrals started to be made.
By October 2013 I was running workshops helping others to use Twitter successfully for their business and in November 2013 I won a Lancashire Business Award for Best Use of Social Media. People started to know me and my business. In 2013 I was rated the #1 UK lawyer for social influence and I have since consistently remained in the top 5.
In 2014 I started the successful UK Connect community on Google Plus and to run the Chorley Tweetup networking events, which have grown in popularity and are an excellent way to raise my business profile in my local area (over 60 people attended our last event). I was invited to speak on various radio shows. The radio interviews and connections made, resulted in being offered the role of Company Secretary at Chorley FM (yes we are a real radio station and not just a figment of Peter Kay’s imagination!)
I’m thrilled to have been invited to present a seminar on social media for lawyers at this year’s Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ Annual Conference and to have contributed to the Journal of Personal Injury Law.
My social media train rolls on and on, now with over 17k connections on Twitter (as at March 2016) and over 20k followers on Google Plus. Leads and new business continue to flow from my social media connections. Our website traffic has increased dramatically and is now a main source of business.
Best of all, I have met some amazing people through social media and look forward to meeting many more.
Do you still think that social media for business is a waste of time?
My advice would be to think again!
And what of the Phantom?
I obviously still follow John Owen-Jones (in a social media sense rather than in a ‘following him down the street’ kind of way).
In July 2015, John Owen-Jones announced, via Twitter (of course!), that he was returning to play The Phantom in the West End for just 5 months until January 2016. I immediately booked my ticket. On 26th January I had the time of my life watching John in the London show, and afterwards I even met the man himself. I think that my smile says it all.