“Social is something you are, not something you do. If your company culture doesn’t focus on building relationships with your customers, then chances are that you won’t use social media to do it either. The “media” doesn’t dictate how social a company is or isn’t. It simply enhances its ability to be a social business – if in fact it is – or illustrates the extent to which it isn’t.”
The Brandbuilder Blog, 22 November 2010, Olivier Blanchard
This is a brilliant blog post and, whilst I have only quoted from the opening section, the rest of it is worth a long, hard read. It will take you no more than 4 – 5 minutes.
For me this sums up the lens that Professional Practice should be looking through when considering whether (and to what extent) to engage with social media. It is the very lack of engagement or socialisation – in all its forms – that should prima facie be driving the paradigm change. And not a whole plethora of reasons bound up with a rather muddled and contrived view of why social media should be given impetus within the firm: brand awareness, marketing, PR, business development, distribution of news and giving a few strong voices within the firm an even bigger, three-dimensional platform to spread their message. It is, at its core, about people *TO* people exchange.
Let’s face it professional practice has for a long time received a rather bad rap about its style and method of communication. There are some that might even frown on the idea of communication. Perhaps an add in Yellow Pages or a bit of local press is the sum total of their engagement.
However, take the usual suspects in legal practice:
- Case reports;
- Announcements on the law;
- Firm news – deals done or clients won;
- Movers and shakers;
- Awards received;
- Listing in Chambers etc.
How many times have you had a client ring you up on the back of reading about one of these – usually in the local press – and start an engaging conversation? I don’t recall a single occasion. Oh sure there might have been the odd passing comment at a modest networking event but nothing that was of any note.
Surely this is where firms should be focusing their efforts: to achieve more word of mouth connection; or may be it is more fundamental than that. Perhaps they should look to reshape or redefine what it is that they are trying to say.
Frankly, the “Look at me; we are the best” is so Rizla paper thin that clients couldn’t care less. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see some remarkable news which was packaged in a way that enabled everyone to have their say (subject to the usual proviso that obscene comments could be moderated out). For me, law firms, internally and externally, are not at all social, and using whichever pipe it is to broadcast your message will not make it any or more social. Indeed I would go so far to say that law firms tend to have a proclivity to talk at their clients (the “We know best” mentality) rather than seeking to engage with them, understand their culture, their mode of delivery around the service and deliver an excellent service.
This perhaps raises another fundamental concern that I have: the lack of listening that is going on. Until you have gone through a heavy period of tracking your clients and finding out what floats their boat how can you possibly know how to be social. It is like going up to someone in a party and just blurting out: “I am a corporate lawyer and I do deals”. And what? The person is likely to turn on their heels and walk in the opposite direction, thinking you have got the early stages of tourettes. The point is that until you have worked out your clients’ social media presence, which may not involve any of or very few of the mainstream social media platforms, you could find yourself wasting an awful lot of time broadcasting into a black hole of nothingness. Be smart and make sure that:
- Your clients have a social media presence or can be reached on-line;
- They are likely to want to engage and not just be spectators (not everyone wants to talk to you and the rest of the world);
- They will find that you are trying to be genuinely sociable and not just trying to sell;
- That you are authentic and not standing behind some uber corporate brand that requires you speak like a petrified version of your true self.
None of this stuff is easy. If it was then all of your competitors would be over your prospects and clients like a rash. And that’s just the point. For those willing to engage and be social there is a lacuna in your practice just waiting to be filled. Of course there will be the naysayers who constantly question the financial return in trying to engage in this way but the stark reality is that if a client were to come across, on-line or off, more solicitors who walked and talked like a human being, were social creatures and could put forward common sense, commercial perspective to a problem then they are going to find that their following has the power to grow like the proverbial bush fire. With platforms like Facebook and Twitter set to play an increasing role in our lives – whether we like it or not – now is no the time to renege on this stuff and think you can bet against the firm having to become more socially engaged with its customer base.
Take a for instance: I would love to see one firm have a dedicated Twitter feed for complaints. Sure no one wants to air their linen in public but what about the basic stuff: answering the phones, returning calls and being available. Do you think having a live Twitter feed like this is going to improve the service levels? You bet. Who wants to be publically ridiculed. Or what about clients being able to send instructions via Facebook on a secure email or portal much like the banks give you instant access to your account. Now that would be putting the social thing into practice.
Go on I challenge you. Don’t just open up dialogue for the sake of social media but think about the existing, internal lines (or is it bunkers?) of communication. Are they likely to replicate and scale what you want to eventually offer to the outside world. If not perhaps the internal paradigm is the place to start.
If you want to know where to start with all this social media flim flam then why don’t you give me a call or drop me an email. I would love to get your views on where you see social media fitting into your business.
For more on developing profitable business, innovating in professional practice and implementing social media, subscribe to the RSS Feed of my Blog. Follow me on Twitter at @0neLife, or @Ju_Summerhayes connect to me on LinkedIn or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your practice, check out my coaching and consulting firm via LinkedIn, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 075888 15384.