Social Media – Friend or Foe?

N'ayez pas peur du changement via Gapingvoid

How many times have you heard someone lament that the profession doesn’t get social media?

“Lawyers are just not social.”

My posit: social media is not (just) another, slightly tedious, marketing medium: it requires fundamental, eye-watering change across the business.

There is, of course, a tension between conservatism and radical change. But simply doing more of the same, better, will not allow disruptive technologies to inculcate their presence in the firm.

Of course, many firms will shriek with horror at changing the status quo, but the future is not in your gift and if you don’t see how much of what you do now, will be otiose in 5 years time, then you have, as likely, been living on Planet Zog.

Social (media) is a whole company/firm/people experience. It is not the preserve of a few passionate individuals. However, the biggest problem for the legal profession is the inability to embrace fundamental change. Until partners recognise the imperative to change then social media will remain on the periphery.

I have no problem with social media being seen as a way to bind clients to you or attract new fans, but there is no point pretending to be one thing on-line but then falling at the first hurdle of meaningful engagement.

Networks, collaboration and reciprocation are part of the new epoch that pervades commerce. Not a closed mindset, hawkish watching of the competition and making sure that everyone is kept in check (Cubicle Slaves will not stay that way forever!).

Until the profession understands that there is a multiplicity of ways to skin the market cat – social media being one component of a plethora of changes that need to be adopted – they might as well stop wasting their time with one platform after another and go back to the knitting:

1. invest in their people;

2. cut out the bureaucracy (appoint a Chief Hurdle Removal Officer);

3. speak to their clients more regularly.

My sense is that way too many firms see social media as a route to winning work. But few have bordered the train. Most are still watching the time-table hoping that the right train is about to arrive. Even when they climb aboard they expect the destination to be clear, certain and without any degree of innovation.

Think again.

If you really want to get ahead, see how you can move social media and its cultural difference to the middle of the firm and observe the reaction: human resources, finance, IT, risk and knowledge management. No department should escape the glare of attention.

If you think I have lost the proverbial then ask yourself how you will differentiate yourself when every firm has the same platforms, and its intellectual capital provides the same dull output.

Social media is just the start of a cultural revolution. By and of itself it is hardly trans-formative. Instead you need to think how you can rip up yesterday’s script, demolish a few stereotypes and go to work on Re-Imagining how the business would operate.

If firms really want to embrace social media, and all that it entails, then start thinking of a new framework where the top down model is not the default position. If you think about the Honeycomb model developed by Altimeter, how would that play out in your firm? Just imagine where every person was in control of their own social media efforts, could reach out to their fans and engage. How different would that look to the typical command and control model?

A fiasco?

A recipe for disaster.

Or, possibly, a game-changer.

Now is the time for firms to take a long hard look at social media and decide if they are truly ready to embrace the necessary change. As to whether it is right for you, your firm or your market only you can say.

But may be it’s about time to test your reflexes and see how far you can push the envelope.

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