This article was originally published on August 14, 2009 in The Cornwall Standard Freeholder. Click here to view it.
New age of social networking
Posted By DAVID NESSETH
CORNWALL – Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have helped one local lawyer put a human face to a profession often accused of being heartless.On her Facebook group called Your Cornwall Lawyer, Michele R. J Allinotte explains to visitors that she’s “not your parents’ lawyer”. In fact, she says, she’s not like any lawyer you’ve ever met.
“Part of me as a professional is that I am accessible,” says Allinotte, who specializes in estate planning and business law. “I will share personal information or use my grandparents or kids as an example. Clients or referral sources that know me on Facebook as well get to see that side of me, that I’m a real person. I’m easy to get along with, I have a farm and I shovel manure.”
Now, Allinotte is leaving her current firm in Cornwall to strike out on her own. Part of this vision, she says, is to further utilize social networking tools.
The 33-year-old has snagged a couple of clients from her Facebook presence. Sometimes appointments are even booked through the site.
Allinotte believes that some people are more comfortable initiating contact online than on the phone or in person. Lawyers, she admits, can be intimidating, but that’s not her style.
“I didn’t become a lawyer to meet someone once, hand them documents, then never see them again,” she says.
Allinotte often uses Twitter, where she’s MAllinotte, or Facebook, to promote her upcoming seminars or offer links to legal discussions that may be of interest to clients and other lawyers who check her postings.
Currently, her networking accounts promote a planning session that explains how parents can protect their family in the event of their deaths.
She has 834 people following her Twitter updates, and 35 fans of her Facebook group.
CITY JOINS FACEBOOK Bob Peters, the city’s economic development officer, says he’s heard of Allinotte, but only through Facebook. She’s a friend of friends, he said.
Three months ago Peters launched a Facebook group for the City of Cornwall.
It grew quickly. Within one week, “City of Cornwall, Ontario” had 177 members, and it has since grown to about 1,190 members.
“The potential far exceeds where it is now,” Peters said of the group.
But he’s working on it.
Peters has his eye on Brockville’s group, which has more than 3,000 members, yet less than half the population of Cornwall.
“It’s not a competition, but we do have 46,000 people here,” Peters said.
Peters has been keeping an eye out for some great Cornwall photos on Facebook. He’s even used some for the Choose Cornwall economic development website.
Peters said one of the main uses of the city’s Facebook presence is to keep people informed about upcoming events. While these events are also posted on the city’s website, Peters said Facebook gives users the opportunity to see specific events that their online friends plan to attend.
Currently, the city is promoting a knowledge workshop on brownfield redevelopment.
On the group’s wall, Peters said online users can find all kinds of tidbits about the Seaway City.
Often, people are able to network and make connections through the Cornwall group, he said.
“It’s like people sitting around a local pub and overhearing something you could use in your business,” Peters said.
One of the things that’s most surprised Peters about the Cornwall group has been its ability to fend off trollers, or comments out of line with the group’s positive approach.
Peters said he won’t let the Cornwall group become an advertisement vehicle for local businesses, but would allow them to promote special events connected to their business.
Peters says he wants to keep the city’s group light yet professional.