I cringe when I hear legal marketers discuss social media as a means for distributing content.

It’s as if they didn’t get to the first word in social media – “social,” meaning getting to know and enjoying other people.

Here’s five reasons why social media is a heck of a lot more important to you, as a lawyer, than using it to distribute content.

First, social media is a how we, as a society, interact today. We communicate and get to know each other online. If you’re not using social media, how can you credibly engage and connect with people?

Look at the numbers. 79% of online Americans use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, 29% use LinkedIn and 24% use Twitter.

Americans are living on social media. 76% of Facebook users visit the site at least once a day and over half of Facebook’s users visit several times a day.

Second, social media represents an opportunity to learn.

Coach Lou Holtz used to say the only thing that will change you from person you are today and the person you’ll be five years from now are the books you read and the people you meet. Social media delivers this in spades, though in short firm media, versus books.

By using Feedly as your news aggregator you may monitor sources (blogs, newspapers, trade periodicals) and subjects (terms of art, cases, companies). Not only will you, as a lawyer, stay abreast of developments in your field, you’ll build a network to kill for by connecting with the knowledgeable people whose items from Feedly you share on social media.

Third, social media provides you with the opportunity to build a name for yourself. While some lawyers are chasing attention through SEO, Adwords and distribution services, you’ll be building a name. A name that lasts a lifetime.

By focusing on a niche area of the law or locale, effective social media use enables you to establish yourself as a “go to” lawyer.

Fourth, social media enables you to build and grow relationships far faster than you can offline. Along with a name, relationships are how good lawyers grow their book of business.

By sharing other’s content on Twitter you not only build a name in a niche, you build relationships with the people who favor what you’re sharing.

When blogging, reference what influencers are discussing. You’ll build influence with them, and soon see them referencing what you’re blogging. In time you’ll be connecting and meeting with these influencers.

Share your blog posts on LinkedIn not just as a means of distribution, but as a way of getting to know the people you’d like to meet – you’ll find them liking and commenting on your posts.

By friending on Facebook people who can add value to your life (business associates, referral sources, association leaders, reporters, executives) you’ll be surprised how you get to know others you’d have never known otherwise. People who are more apt to respond to a message from you on Facebook messenger than an email.

Look at content as the currency of networking — of building relationshiops. Who you meet and the relationships you build are much more important than the “content” itself.

Fifth, social media is the great equalizer. Never before, could you, as an individual lawyer on your own, build a name and relationships as fast as you can with social media.

Large law firms offer their lawyers the power of sophisticated marketing and public relations. Today, a lawyer effectively using social media can achieve more than lawyers in multi-billion dollar law firms.

Sure, people consume news and information on social media. For many Americans, social media has supplanted the newspaper and television as their leading source of news.

But don’t miss the more important things social media provides you as a lawyer – much more important things than distributing content.