Despite the increased awareness of social media, it is still not a priority for law firms.
Take you pick:
- Tesco law;
- Maintaining PEP;
- Keeping staff motivated;
- Dealing with the rising costs of PI insurance;
- Working out how you offer a higher standard of service for less money.
Perhaps, initially, the attraction of social media revolved around the platforms – in most cases they were free, and firms saw a way of exploiting them in place of the more traditional (paid) outbound media. But as some may be discovering, adopting a one-way mindset, or using social media as another pipe, is never going to win you many new clients.
For the UK legal market, social media is still an immature market and those people who are driving the agenda are likely to be stationed in marketing. But even if firms need some persuasion, this is not always the right place to vest things.
Instead firms need to move away from a command and control structure and empower everyone in the firm. Of course, this is much easier where you are dealing with a 5-10 partner firm, but probably unrealistic for top 100 firms. They simply are not prepared to let go – the ‘Fear Factor’ is overwhelming.
The point is that the power of social media doesn’t lie in controlling the message – even if you think you have created the most memorable content – but allowing your internal advocates to engage with their clients or target audience.
Of course, you will need to think carefully about regulating the practice and the appropriate policies put in place but trying to scale your engagement via one department is going to be hard.
If you think about the various facets of the practice, there will be very few people who are not exposed to some external engagement, and you need to think carefully before you impose a ban on any of them. Even those who are regarded as a cost centre may wish to engage.
The problem is that if you say that only a few people are allowed to Tweet, control a blog or even post to Facebook then this is going to feel less social and more outbound, and it will be difficult to maintain traction. In any event, even some of the world’s largest brands have worked out that it is better to allow engagement, company wide, than to try and impose a lock down policy in certain quarters.
If a business like IBM can encourage the use of social media then there is no reason why any other service business cannot do so as well. It is easy to dismiss this argument on the basis that they are in the IT space but that would be missing the point.
If you want to move to the next phase of deployment then give some thought to recruiting a Social Media Strategist. They are unique creatures and not bound to any one space. You may find that amongst your staff you already have someone who has the requisite skill set: communications, digital media, IT, legal, marketing and PR. The role will include not just how to control the message but governance, crafting policy, training, cross-departmental working, measurement and dealing with that thorny issue of ROI.
If you don’t have the budget then make sure you put together an internal team to deal with the social media agenda, who have the support of senior management. There is a risk otherwise that the project will falter before it even gets going. And lastly make sure that it gets included in the business planning process and is not just considered an afterthought or best left to one or two advocates.
In time, social media will come to play a much bigger part for law firms and the more time that is spent now in planning, the greater the likelihood of successful and profitable engagement. It is another area of the practice which cannot be left to chance!
~ JS ~