In recent years, social media has become intrinsically linked with daily life. From dining to retail to business to politics, almost every public figure or company uses some sort of social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube, or one of the many other options, social media isn’t just for individuals anymore, it’s for businesses, too. It’s estimated that 73 percent of Americans who regularly use the internet are involved in social media and networking in some capacity.
Working in social media is actually a viable and legitimate job for many people right now. An AOL jobs post from January 2014 projects that this year a Social Media Strategist will make about $61,000, require a bachelor’s degree, and points out that “the more social media followers a company has, the more their products and services are recognized.”
So, how are law firms doing with this? Well, a firm called Good2bSocial tried to answer that question this winter. Good2bSocial is a consulting firm that helps other companies expand their social marketing, particularly in the legal field. They worked together with AboveTheLaw to attempt to figure out how exactly the legal industry, particularly leaders in the industry, are doing with social media. The results were that big law firms are doing a pretty miserable job with it.
A white paper called “The Social Law Firm” by Good2bSocial was released last December, and followup articles have been released since then. The white paper itself requires a (free) subscription to Good2bSocial’s site, but if you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, I’ve summed up some important points below.
The study essentially analyzed the social media practices of the Am Law 50. It was conducted through surveys and questionnaires and an analysis of existing social media sites for each of the firms.
The study pretty much finds that while many law firms use social media, and use it extensively, they don’t use it in the most efficient or creative ways. The use of social media is described as a “token effort,” because law firms create social media sites to say that they have them, and so that they’re searchable, but don’t take advantage of the potential that those sites offer. Good2bSocial points out that social media takes real strategy separate from basic marketing. While law firms are creating substantive and interesting content, they are not using social media to promote such content as much as they could be.
Law firms have gotten that social media is important, it just really seems like they haven’t begun to understand how it works. The report states that “firms continue to view social media as nothing more than a distribution channel for firm news and press releases. This alone explains why firms achieve such low levels of engagement.” Uploading a pdf link to twitter isn’t engaging, it isn’t going to foster discussion, and it isn’t going to attract more followers.
Another mistake made by law firms, according to this study, is that they don’t have platforms in place to allow for coordination and collaboration within the firm, or in-house blogs. All of these things are not only attractive concepts for clients or potential employees, but also are helpful and engaging for current employees. The study does predict that this will all change, but that change is slow going and many firms are just beginning to scratch the surface of their social media potential.
The study does note that smaller firms are doing a better job with social media, but overall the conclusion remains that the field of law in general is lacking in social media prowess.
This begs an important question, though. Should law firms even care about social media, especially big, established firms like the Am Law 50? Social media is so crucial for places like retail stores, restaurants, or other product-based businesses because these places can attract new customers through the web. Is the same true for big law firms? Will interesting social media make clients more likely to visit that firm?
Well to be honest, I don’t know. Part of me wants to say absolutely not, these law firms have their niches and their reputations on which to rely. Engaging social media probably won’t have as large of an effect on their track record, as say, a good track record. On the other hand, though, social media can’t hurt. It could attract employees who find the idea of a collaborative social media experience within in the firm interesting. And as the business world changes, clients shopping around for new law firms may be interesting in finding lawyers who are as technologically savvy as they are.
The fact that smaller law firms are doing better with social media is very interesting. It’s unsurprising, given that I would assume smaller firms are more likely to try to actively attract new business, and are more willing to experiment with different outreach techniques.
In conclusion, Good2bSocial’s rundown was very interesting, but I don’t think social media will end up meaning that much for the Am Law 50 that were analyzed. The different nature of consumers of law services rather than other products make social media less of a necessity and more of a bonus. That being said, there’s much more to be gained by instituting a robust social media strategy than to be lost, and really, big law firms should consider getting on the bandwagon.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.