Time Management and Social Media ~ To do or Not to do that is the Question

Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Delicious, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Posterous, Slideshare, Vimeo, Quora and many more besides.

Just keeping your profiles up to date and refreshed is a full time job in itself, let alone using them to drive sales, brand recognition and heighten awareness of a particular issue.

And there there is … doing … the … work (or at least work that matters as Seth Godin says).

It’s OK for someone who makes their livelihood out of social media, but for those in practice, social media is likely to be a big fat distraction, and opens up the possibility of working 24/7.

It is a question that ranks as high as “What’s the ROI of Social Media?” and that is, “How much time will all this stuff take?”

There is no easy answer. And to be honest absent any form of firm-wide integration, it is likely to be another job on the ever expanding ‘To Do’ list. One that many will see as pointless.

Social Media is hard, real hard, and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise. If people are going to adopt Social Media, then it is likely that something else has to give. And of course given that fee earning = employment, it is likely that it will rank fairly low down the pecking order, particularly when firms still expect their fee earner cohort to embrace a whole slew of outbound, traditional marketing techniques like writing copy for newsletters and attending external events.

If truth be told, the only way that social media is going to form the mainstream of marketing etc, is for firms to start changing the internal and external template. It requires a fundamental change in the way that you seek to communicate and do business and that is not going to come easy.

Social media cuts across every department and is not the preserve of marketing or business development. It engulfs HR, IT, compliance, client service, internal messaging and risk. Even for the smallest of firms they need to appreciate that the central theme of Social Media is communication – the people to people paradigm – and if that is fed back into the system, you cannot expect fee earners, in whatever guise, to be responsible for the whole shooting match.

But assuming that firms are willing to embrace Social Media in one shape or another, it is important to consider how you are going to measure the results. If someone asks you how much time they should be spending on Social Media, then you will need to understand what results you are expecting for their investment of time.

Sure, you want to set a framework and have a comprehensive policy, but in the same was as non-chargeable codes are always regarded with derision and lacking substance, you do not want to create a situation where someone says they have spent 10 hours on Twitter but you have no way of gauging how effective that has been. It may have translated to a number of meetings which has led to new instructions but when it is something less direct like a RT or mention on Twitter, how much will that mean to you?

The temptation initially will be to lay down some rather prescriptive guidelines but what will you do if the majority of people report that they have seen no discernible difference (in what?)? Will you stop the engagement?

They key to success in Social Media is consistency. Being present. Just showing up. Being passionate about what you do. Showing that you care. For those people that want to engage, subject to the other rigours of the job, they should be permitted to engage. It probably does mean though that the way they integrate some of the firm’s more traditional marketing/business development may change. They may say that their networking, at least in the initial stages, is being done through Twitter and LinkedIn. Or they talk to you about having a YouTube video to promote something of interest.

Will you be ready?

Managing time is a facet of professional practice which needs to mean more than simply how much time is on the chargeable clock. You need to start thinking much more widely than that. Start small and obtain regular feedback but don’t expect that more = more, meaning the more time spent means increased results (however you have defined them). The factors at play in order to move the needle in the right direction don’t immediately look like the pattern you have been used to: trying to produce remarkable content; producing content for free; being helpful and that may include to your competitors; responding in real time; expressing an opinion on issues that may be non law related; and coalescing around a promotion like, for instance, a sales promotion.

Social Media requires a cultural change, and that includes the issue of time. That is not to say that people should be frivolous with their time – it is after all an immensely precious commodity – but 6 mins on social media doesn’t translate in the same way as 6 mins fee earning but then again as much can be said about a lot of activity that is not green time.

In the final analysis if you feel that you would rather not let the genie out of the bottle then you are unlikely to be alone, but just consider that as more people are persuaded or encouraged to do business via the internet, or at least get their information in this way, if you are not in the space there is every risk that others will fill the space left behind by your disengagement.

~ JS ~

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