Do you have a Social Media Policy? ~ Part II of II

I wonder how many firms will undertake a proper audit of their competitors or firms generally to see if and how they are engaging in social media?

If I was starting out and looking to make sure that any social media policy worked or was workable, I would want to look at a range of firms to understand how they configured their websites – paying particular attention to the fee earner/partner profiles – alongside the firm or fee earner/partner social media ‘presence’, and most importantly their level of (meaningful) engagement.

Some issues to ponder…

  • Do firms tweet under a firm name or allow individuals to do so (cf. Eversheds as against James Barisic and Brian Inkster)?
  • Do firms tweet with a firm name but with a representation of part of the firm e.g [Firm name] [area of law]?
  • Do firms have a good balance between the number of followers and those they are following? There are no hard and fast rules but the early or late[r] adopters – whichever way you look at it – will usually have either a equal split or a disparate number of those they are following to followers?
  • Do they spam?
  • Does it appear that they automate a lot of their material?
  • Are they social? This is much easier with individuals than it is brands. One tip for firms who Tweet under their firm name, make it clear who or even which department is in control of the stream. Apart from client complaints [I have not yet seen this emerge for law firms], I don’t see a whole lot of discussion on Twitter with Big Brands. The odd RT but nothing else.
  • Do firms simply repackage their off-line material or RT from elsewhere?
  • Do firms engage on LinkedIn or allow enough of their people to have a proper presence? For heaven’s sake if you are going to allow people to use it don’t have a no app policy on mobiles.
  • If you have a Facebook page then do something with it. This is Allen & Overy‘s. Compare this to Ashfords.
  • Look at YouTube (check out this video from Clifford Chance on graduate recruitment).
  • Consider Slideshare and Scribd for generic information.

The point is: unless you know what others are doing you will end up making things up as you go along, particularly if you are new to social media.

As I said in yesterday’s post you have to build a social media policy that works for you. The problem is that firms will be tempted to go for an all encompassing policy – you know lawyers love to use the widest braces and fattest belts they can find – and whilst I am not decrying that nevertheless it may mean that it is difficult to get any meaningful traction around social media, and it becomes a distraction or worse still a nuisance to those people that want to engage. The main reason: There is not enough social interaction because everyone is scared to get it wrong or the message is ameliorated by the policy and it negates any chance of being remarkable.

And this brings into focus the other thorny issue which must be considered alongside of your policy: Do you have any idea why you are even bothering with social media?

There is an awful temptation to keep up with the Joneses and just because XYZ Firm down the road has started to engage doesn’t mean that you should immediately jump aboard the social media starship.

You have to have a very clear idea, committed to writing, of what you want to achieve out of social media. I will not superimpose on this post a business development hierarchy but your goals and expectations have to be clearly understood because otherwise it is like running on divergent paths. As an example one of your aims, in the early days, might be as simple as getting your follower numbers up on Twitter. If that is the aim then you need to think carefully how a consistent programme is going to work and who in the firm will take things forward. In this instance you may not need to have an all encompassing policy and can just stick with a Twitter policy and only allow a certain number of people access to Twitter or one of the other dashboards for Twitter. Don’t make work for yourself. Of course, you need to understand the platforms because LinkedIn for example allows everyone who has a Twitter account to post directly to Twitter. If you have a firm Twitter account, you will need or want to control that if only to control the risk of someone sending out an embarassing or reckless tweet that gets them and the firm into hot water.

I touched on yesterday the need to understand the number of people who will want to engage. One of the issues that needs to be considered is how will time be accounted for and the issues about people being allowed freedom on some social or all of the social media sites and others being denied? This is going to be difficult to control particularly if you pick up a lot of followers. If you say that Twitter can only be accessed during a certain window or for a certain amount of time what happens if a prospective client tweets you for a quote? If you leave it too long then you may miss the job. Of course, you could pass this over to marketing but if a technical question comes in then they may be stuck not being able to answer the question until they have spoken to someone.

When you come to craft your policy you need to consider how the business will look in 6-12 months time and not just the hear and now. Of course, this is incredibly difficult given the speed of change but the vision you have will be critical. Will you still continue to advertise or spend so much? Will you allow DM via Twitter from your clients on their matters and most importantly what will be the turnaround time for a response. Will you allow comments to be posted on your firm’s blog even if they are negative ones? Will you want to sell your material that previously you have given away for free. Will you use social media to promote your events?

I think the bottom line is that when you come to craft your policy there will be no shortage of available material and lots of input from the various stakeholders but you need to temper the risk with the practicalities and the upside.

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