Social Media Showstoppers

As an ex-lawyer, my due process of investigation, assessment and advice was based on a rigorous examination of the evidence. Unlike my career beginnings in engineering, I was not able to plug in a mathematical formula and come up with an answer. This undoubtedly made the job more interesting – no one case was exactly the same as the next – but it also added to the stress in not being able to elucidate my advice in a way that a left-brain thinker would have liked. Even if you say to a client that their case has a 50/50 chance of success, can you be that sure?

Social media is much the same: there is no mathematical formula, which, if applied, will lead to a predictable outcome. In social media parlance, “if you engage in this way then you are (practically) guaranteed [insert] will happen”.

Right now there is a considerable uptake in the number of law firms who are investing time/money in business development, IT infrastructure and latterly the paradigm of social media. If firms are committed to establishing a social media presence then they need to consider carefully ‘Why’ social media?

What is it that they are hoping to achieve?

My sense is that too many firms are entering the space for the exact same reason that they originally commissioned a website – because everyone else was doing it and they didn’t want to be left out.

Firms need to be careful to avoid a me too approach, and instead look very closely at their business objectives – in general terms to grow the top line, keep costs in check and maintain profit – and understand how social media fits in.

It is conjecture but I doubt whether a budget has been set aside for social media. For a start, a lot of firms will not know which pot it should come out of: marketing, individual teams or IT? But if firms want to adopt social media then they must create a separate budget, if only to measure the ROI. And the really smart ones will be thinking how they can move it closer to the centre of the business and resource it properly. It won’t be enough in the future to expect everyone to do a bit here or there and just muddle along.

It is a fallacy to think that just because the tools are free that firms don’t need to find hard cash to fund the programme. In any event, quite a number of the tools are limited in free mode – LinkedIn is a good example with its basic account – and sooner or later firms will work out that in order to maximise their content creation etc they will have to go beyond a free platform.

Beyond the strategy and money, here are some potential showstoppers:

  1. Who will take ownership of your social media efforts? Given that most people have been asked to assume a greater level of responsibility in these straightened times, how will they find the time to drive things forward?
  2. Is your website fit for purpose – forget the social media plug-ins. Does anyone spend time on the site at the moment? It is crucial that the website forms the hub of your activities. You don’t want everyone to think the water cooler is Twitter.
  3. If you are going to create a blog, then how is that to be supported? Will it be hosted on the website? How regularly will you post? Will you have more than one blog?
  4. Have you secured all of the relevant firm names across all the relevant platforms? I would be surprised if you don’t find that YouTube and Twitter presents a few issues. What will you do if someone has already taken your name? Will you want to buy it off of them or create a revised identity?
  5. What are you expecting from social media? You need to be very clear. Without a very clear SWOT analysis you will find vast swathes of time thrown away.
  6. Is there enough buy-in within the firm?
  7. What sort of model will you adopt? Command and control? Hub and spoke (which is the most common)? Or the Honeycomb model that is adopted by Zappos?

The other aspect that is also getting ignored is monitoring or listening around the sectors, clients, content, possible opportunities to influence the conversation and unequivocal opportunities to sell in your services. Too much attention is being focused on diving in and letting rip. A blog post here, a YouTube upload and a whole slew of Tweets that amount to the same thing: an outbound message: look at us. As I have repeatedly made clear, social media only works long term if:

  • You are authentic;
  • You are remarkable in what you produce; and
  • You set out to earn attention and not the bug the hell out of people.

By now you may be wondering if social media is worth the candle – “surely it can’t be that hard?” And my response would be unequivocal: if it is worth doing then only do so if your aim is to be the best in the World (see p.10 from the Dip by Seth Godin). Above all else make sure you understand the paradigm sufficient that you can afford to let go of control and trust others to represent the firm in a way that you would be proud of. If you think that you need to control the process, then before you know where you are you will be so lost in the minutia that you will ask yourself why you ever bothered.

There is one simple question that you need to keep coming back to: will it get results? If the answer in an unequivocally Yes, then consider the above points carefully.

~ JS ~