If you were running an orchestra or sports team, it is unthinkable you would do so absent a conductor or manager.
[Can you imagine Manchester United without Sir Alex?]
Right now the development (and deployment) of social media is moving ahead without proper orchestration, which deprives the firm/business of leveraging its maximum potential and, in some cases, dilutes the work that is being done.
There may be well a few firms who have taken the bold step of recruiting a digital marketing or social media manager, but they are few and far between. It may be conjecture, but I expect that social media is thought of as a job for business development whereas, in truth, it should reside with every department, team and person.
[Everyone is in marketing, a brand ambassador or evangelist for the firm]
Think about the issues that normally arise with social media:
- Business Development;
Assuming that some or all of these areas involve a social media presence, who is ensuring your consistency of approach? Is it the individual departments, a partner, someone in business development, human resources or are you relying on each lawyer to take control or ownership of their own efforts?
The reality is no one knows. Truthfully.
But we need to consider the position 12 months ago to make sense of this.
Most firms started out with a strict firewall and or lock down policy that made it impossible to access the majority of social media sites – chief amongst those being Facebook. Of course, as we all know this does not prevent individuals using their mobiles or tablets to go outside of the firewall. This approach slowly changes with more firms recognising the power of social media and allowing some of their staff to engage in a measured and considered way.
Removing the bar then immediately exposes the lack of coordination. And social media being a bit E=MC² it ramps up so quickly that before you know where you are you have multiple Twitter feeds, various LinkedIn groups, video and perhaps some bookmarking sites being used (Delicious). Just imagine it: you have 10 Twitter feeds all looking different but each promoting the firm? Not the most helpful way to go about things?
And when it comes to the firm’s website, how is this disparate activity being focused to grow the number of people finding their way to the content rich site that you have spent the last 10 years building up?
I think you get the picture.
The answer might be found in recruiting external help but in truth your ‘voice’ is not a consultant’s voice and you need to understand that talking with one voice (not as a group of stereotypical lawyers) is important.
Even before you get to the appointment of a nominated person, what you need to focus on is bringing everyone together regularly. The agenda for such a hypothetical meeting might include the following issues:
- What are your objectives for social media both as a firm and departmentally?
- Do you have a budget for social media?
- How does it fit in with your current roles?
- How will you make time for it?
- How will you get everyone in your team/s or as many people as possible to contribute?
- Do you have any benchmark data to understand your audience and the way in which they are likely to consume your content?
- Is there a strategy that is universal or how should you deploy social media?
- Are you the right people to be involved in the project?
- Who will manage the platforms?
- Are you comfortable releasing information to the market?
- Which platforms are you going to focus on? [If I were advising my preferred choice would be Twitter, LinkedIn and a blog]
- What sort of model will you adopt for the deployment of social media – command and control?
- Do you need to buy in some external help?
- Will you drive your efforts back through the firm’s website?
I would like to say that none of this matters. After all social media can appear free flowing and all about the conversation but the problem is that without a structured approach vast swathes of time will be lost – business critical time – without some way of bringing your combined efforts together.
Take a practical example:
You ask you KM team or an individual lawyer to produce a piece of content on, say, the Bribery Act. They produce a 1500 word article. What do you do with it? Do you:
- Publish it on the website?
- Speak to your PR person or consultant to get it placed somewhere?
- Send it out as an e-bulletin?
- Send it out in a legal update? [Post it?]
- Cut and paste the URL and attach it to that person’s status update on LinkedIn?
- Tweet it through the firm’ corporate Twitter feed?
- Post in on Facebook?
- Upload it to Scribd?
Can you see the dilemma?
And even after you have decided which platform is suitable you need to consider the overall objectives, ROI and if there is going to be any follow up. Scale this up and the problem is magnified to the point that the only obvious outcome is just to let people do their own thing and hope for the best.
The trick – yes there is always one – is to start talking at every level of the firm about social media. It has to become second nature. Assuming that it isn’t deemed novel or there is not a cohort of doubters seeking to undermine the efforts then someone needs to take the lead role and ensure that whatever is done compliments whatever else is done. This isn’t to find a person who likes to say “No” but rather to inform, discuss, shine a light on best practice, understand the fit with the firm’s wider strategy and generally to ensure that the capital that exists in the material is utilised to the maximum possible extent. Of course, there will be occasion where this slightly long-winded process is not possible and in those instances you will have to have in place a social media policy to make sure that the relevant issues are considered.
Perhaps you feel able to muddle through but sooner or later you are going to get a backlash from your people. The strain of adding to their workload will be too much. You may find that one or two people are naturals and if that is the case grasp the proverbial and give them a defined role.
Hopefully you will find that once you have cracked this your social media efforts will start to fly, rather than ending up being disjointed and watered down.
~ JS ~