Let’s be clear, social media is not for everyone.
There will many in professional practice who will have no use of it.
But for those firms who see the Internet playing a bigger part in their practice, social media represents one of the best opportunities available to compete on level terms with bigger firms or new entrants to the legal space.
If I were in practice now, I would, as a bare minimum, ensure:
- That discussion was fostered and encouraged about the risks of social media;
- All departments came together for a social media gathering;
- The partnership gradually and thoughtfully unlocked all the platforms. Right now with the growth of Google+ I wouldn’t be too worried about Facebook;
- A sensible set of guidelines or a policy introduced to make sure everyone felt at home using the platforms;
- Ideally, a centre of excellence was established to make sure that everyone understood (a) the firm’s preferred use of the platforms and (b) individual adoption;
- All news, PR, knowledge management, Corporate Social Responsibility items were looked at for their suitability for the platforms adopted;
- There was an acceptance that mistakes happen but to make sure a fire hose policy was enshrined and disseminated so that everyone could respond appropriately in the event of an issue, major or otherwise, occurring.
But moving outside of the macro position, lawyers should also consider how the use of social media can lead to them becoming better practitioners.
Nowadays, as trite as it may sound, lawyers are expected to become all-rounders. Knowing the law is one thing but knowing how to attract a loyal following and charge appropriately is something else.
If you haven’t yet started on your social media journey or are still working out what you should be doing then here are a few pointers:
- Get a decent photograph. Firm photos are fine but most are incredibly dull. Find one that you like and use it.
- Write out a short bio that is interesting. Don’t try to be too clever.
- Acknowledge from the outset that social media requires time, effort, focus and commitment.
- Stick to no more than 5 platforms.
- My advice would be to focus on your firm’s website as the hub of your efforts.
- Get comfortable with expressing a personal view.
- Be remarkable with your content. If you think it is dull then it most likely is.
- Start small but have a plan for how things will look in 6, 12 and 18 months time.
- Understand how to measure your results. Don’t focus too heavily on the numbers.
- Content is king. Let me repeat: content is king.
- If you don’t understand what you are doing then ask someone. There is no shortage of wonderful people out there.
You may be asking how this will lead to you becoming better at your job.
In my view, by having to step out of the corporate box and focus on Your Brand will ensure that you leverage your abilities, network, stay closer to the marketplace your operate in and consider more closely your weaknesses – the things that you know you have to work on. And being in control, as you should be, will be a major part of this. If you know there is a direct link you will work harder on things, rather than getting lost in the firm-wide games.
It will also make you look much more carefully at your offering but at the same time give you the leverage to multiply yours and the firm’s efforts. Having an outlet for your writings, point of view and legal analysis will be welcome to a greater extent than before. To touch others, to make a difference and to distinguish yourself in the market will make you believe in yourself again. You won’t feel subsumed or just another number.
Your career planning should include how you can use social media to expand your practice. You should have a personal blogging and Twitter strategy. Why shouldn’t you also look to establish links with those bodies and organisations that have previously been cut off to you by the many blockers standing in your way.
Social media will force you to focus on what you are good at and enjoy. You won’t want to peddle the same old stuff from before. You will need to consider what will engage people and not just your normal legal news. Hiding behind the professional label just won’t cut it any more.
Go to work on your career and stop adopting a technical mindset. Clients want to understand who you are more than just the fact you practice in a particular area of law. That doesn’t mean you have to share every intimate detail but it does require you to be much more thoughtful and insightful about how you market yourself and develop your career?
Social media has the potential to make you a better lawyer but it is up to you how you use it.
~ Julian Summerhayes ~