May 2012 - Putting Social Media into Practice
by Dimetria A. Jackson
Do your colleagues, clients, and potential clients connect with your firm on LinkedIn, “Like” you on Facebook, or follow you on Twitter? If not, you are not maximizing social media’s potential to expand your firm’s client base. Since the advent of social networking sites, attorneys are able to communicate, market, and share information at a record pace for free or relatively low cost. The percentage of lawyers and firms using social media continues to rise. If you are not using social media, your competition probably is.
According to the ABA’s 2011 Legal Technology Survey Report, 85% of the firms that use social networking use LinkedIn, while 46% use Facebook. Among the professionals using social networking personally (but for professional purposes), 96% use LinkedIn and 34% use Facebook. Of those professionals, 71% use social networking for career development or networking, 53% for client development, 34% for education, and 16% use social media for case investigation.
Reasons to Use Social Media
Using social media can help increase your visibility, build loyalty by engaging clients, increase your client base, and brand you and/or your firm as a resource in your field of expertise. Social networking enables lawyers to provide potential clients with in-depth information that clients seek online, prior to retaining counsel. If you are still undecided as to whether you should explore social media for your firm, you may be interested to know that 86% of corporate counsel, and many other potential clients, are using social media for personal and professional reasons.
Erin Giglia, the co-owner of Montage Legal Group, LLC, a network of freelance attorneys, uses social media as an economical means to share information about her company with a wide audience. Montage Legal Group uses blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share content, résumés, its business model, and accomplishments of friends and contacts. According to Erin, “Using social media is an easy way to accomplish the first step of successful networking—to make sure your friends know what you do, and to learn what your contacts do. The more people who benefit from our social media presence, the more people will be interested in our content.”
According to an online Washington Post article entitled “Law firms get into the social media game,” leaders at several of the nation’s top 100 law firms are now hiring full-time social media specialists to manage their firms’ social networking sites and prioritize social media outreach in marketing campaigns. This is a marked change for the legal industry in its use of social media as a way to pursue business. Of the 179 attorneys and marketing professionals surveyed in the February 2012 ALM Legal Intelligence Report, 20% of law firms have a full-time social media specialist on staff and 40% indicated that blogging and social networking initiatives have helped their firms attract new business.
Todd Friedland, of Stephens Friedland LLC, a business litigation firm, uses LinkedIn to expand his network and keep informed of changes made by his LinkedIn contacts. Todd notes that “LinkedIn is a useful tool for creating a virtual gathering place for people with similar backgrounds or interests, including business alumni groups and industry groups.”
Social networking is ultimately about building trust. Most lawyers acquire new clients through networking and building relationships. Social media is another means to network, share information, and to engage those in the position of hiring you or your firm by demonstrating your expertise through the use of blogs, YouTube videos, or other online posts.
Benefits of Blogging
Through the use of blogs (chronological compilations of short journal entries posted to a website), lawyers may enhance their reputation and demonstrate expertise in their field through the dissemination of information. With a blog, attorneys may comment on recent regulations or legal matters (that do not involve a client) and provide a link to their blog on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. According to a 2012 survey by Greentarget LLC, in conjunction with Inside Counsel and Zeughauser Group, 76% of the general counsel surveyed attributed importance to lawyers’ blogs when hiring outside counsel and 55% said that blogs had influenced their hiring decisions.
Blogging may also help to increase traffic to your firm’s website which, in turn, increases the popularity of your site and inevitably your site’s rankings. In other words, the more links you have, the more traffic comes to your site, and the easier it is for colleagues and potential clients to find your blog or website when searching for information.
As you may imagine, some attorneys have committed ethical violations while using social media. Such unethical behavior includes hiding one’s identity when “friending” someone to gain information, posting blogs that disparage a judge’s conduct in the courtroom, or blogging about pending cases. Regardless of whether attorneys use social media or traditional means of business development, the codes of professional responsibility, business and professions codes, and ethics rules still apply. While many of the ethics rules regarding social media are still being developed by the ABA and many state bar associations, if an attorney would not use denigrating comments about a judge in a newspaper article, discuss matters publicly about cases they are working on, or mislead someone to gain information, then they should act accordingly when using social media. Professionalism and civility should apply uniformly based on the nature of the communication, regardless of the medium through which the communication is conveyed.
Social Media & Networking Seminars
As noted in my January President’s Page, my initiatives for the OCBA this year include social media and networking with the Orange County business community. The OCBA is planning seminars to educate its members on the use of social media in their practices and is exploring collaborative networking opportunities with professional organizations and our local business community. Please check the OCBA’s calendar and the OCBA President’s Page on Facebook for information on the date and time of upcoming events.
Dimetria A. Jackson is 2012 President of the Orange County Bar Association, a freelance attorney with Montage Legal Group, handling corporate transactional matters, and the Chief Executive Officer of redBAMBINA.com. She may be reached at email@example.com.