Yesterday, we looked at how one law firm is making a splash in the legal social media pool. Three days after announcing a new website and social media front, still nothing on the three outlets they are focusing on (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).
Today a few lessons learned here and elsewhere about law firms and social media:
1. Social media is personal. Law firms are not. To me, the biggest reality about social media is that it is extending a voice. As in someone’s voice. Does a law firm with hundreds of lawyers have a single voice? No. Do most of them have a true brand? Double no.
2. Strategy has to come from within. If a law firm really wants to extend its reach web-wise, that has to be part of an internally-generated strategy. It is fine to have outside help in developing that strategy, and it is understandable to need some help in refining and implementing the tactics necessary to advance the strategy. But if all a law firm is getting is a “do this, we’ll do it for you” from your consultants, then I feel its doomed to fail. You can’t outsource everything and think it will sound genuine.
3. Most firms should probably start with a blog. Maybe many of them. The law firm in question doesn’t seem to have a blog, nor do I see that any of their attorneys have one. Good content is what people are looking for on the legal web; social media can broaden the reach. Legal social media without content is like screaming through a megaphone–irritating and pointless.
4. You can own a blog; most social media, not so much. If you are a lawyer, of course you have read the terms of service of the major social media platforms, right? Well, try it sometime. I wrote about it last year. The reason you want content on websites you control is that you can lose your “free” accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn overnight. With no notice, and no ability to get a live person on the phone to figure out what happened. In fact, most people who experience this and successfully get a deleted social media account restored do so by writing about it on–wait for it–their blog.
5. Forget Facebook. I think most lawyers should probably skip Facebook, but I definitely think law firms should. Do you know what Facebook is doing with those “friends” and “likes”? Well they were using them in ads without explicit permission until someone (with a lawyer!) sued them to allow users to opt-out. It’s also an issue that 40% of Facebook users may be underage. Who will really be writing on your law firm’s Facebook pages? How much will it cost to monitor? What does all this mean for your firm’s “brand?” (And if your firm is seeking a merger partner don’t forget to update your relationship status!)
6. No one really wants to follow a law firm’s tweets. Or no one who has paid cash money to law firms for services does. Now it can be used by large law firms to highlight partner activities and firm website content, but even then it is a tough stream to wade through. Reporters looking for stories or sources probably monitor some law firm Twitter accounts. But, as I noted above, social media speaks loudest with a voice, and a law firm Twitter account speaks typically in a PR-infused monotone. Oh, and Twitter was down for a good part of the day yesterday. You get what you pay for.
7. LinkedIn is for people to connect. Just how are you supposed to network with a law firm? Ask for an introduction to another firm? Down the road, I am sure some law firms will figure out a way to use LinkedIn effectively, perhaps joining all firm lawyers on LinkedIn together, or using the features of their recent SlideShare acquisition to leverage and broadcast firm content. Jordan Furlong has some thoughts as to how individual lawyers can use LinkedIn here, on Twitter (see what I did there?).
Sometimes I think law firm social media initiatives are borne from an edict. As in some managing or executive partner asks “What are we doing with this social media stuff? And before you know it there’s some multi-pronged strategy that is sold as making the firm “current” or “topical.” Or perhaps just about to fill the marketing funnel with smokin’ hot inbound leads from GCs with budgets to burn. Or something like that.
Social media isn’t a magic tonic that replaces good sales and marketing. It’s a tool. If you are sold the full social media package (along with a major website re-build), you better understand what is involved and how it integrates with marketing, sales, and individual lawyer networking.
And some of your lawyers (likely your best ones) have to buy in, and be involved personally. Old school, yes. But just maybe worth listening to.