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Is Social Media Enough For Law Firms?

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Is Social Media Enough For Law Firms?

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Appearance is important. In business, first impressions are significantly influenced by how and where you present yourself. Law firms take pride in presentation and it infiltrates even the smallest aspects of their business. Billions of dollars annually are being spent on expensive portrait photographers for corporate web pages, huge corporate events, and even more on branding. Not to mention the capital invested in designing and honing global headquarters and regional offices to convey the right balance of success, class, knowledge, and power.

At trade shows and conferences this pressure to present well is compounded by sitting firms and service providers side by side with their peers - booth beside booth, speaker after speaker. The competition is no longer only figuratively at the door-step, but presenting a few feet away, on the same stage, to the same audience. And now, this pressure is not longer confined to quarterly events – it’s gone 24/7, with the internet hosting a permanent stream of client/firm engagement – and the stakes are high.

What are law firms doing to respond to these changes?

Overwhelmingly the legal industry and those that serve it appear to be delivering more in response to this change. Slowly but surely presentations are moving away from the 5,000-word-per-slide PowerPoints with a monotonous commentary. Instead, they are becoming well thought-out and better designed: infographics explained by dynamic speakers. Advertising propositions are becoming more visually exciting and educating to clients and the public alike (have you seen Baker & McKenzie’s 50-year anniversary video?). Law firms have vied for speaking time at conferences for decades, dedicated money and resources to having a presence wherever networking takes place. Now this process, like so many others, is evolving – it’s gone digital. It’s no secret that the legal industry has been one of the slower sectors to jump on the internet-marketing band-wagon, with infrastructure constraints and a naturally sensitive nature to the business cited as road-blocks to competing in this no-longer new market-space.

However, the first steps are being taken. All but one Magic Circle firm has active YouTube channels. Of the ten top revenue-making global firms every one has a presence on Twitter, often with multiple accounts for regional targeting. Speakers from many major firms have presented at TED conferences. LinkedIn boasts almost five million lawyers registered and that trend is set to keep growing. Even so, is this the full story?

Martindale Hubbell and Lexis Nexis both report that less than one in five lawyers has an accurate and current LinkedIn profile. If we dig a little deeper into the situation we see that at the very top (Magic Circle et al.) and at the very bottom (‘Boutique’, less than five-person firms) engagement is good (over 90% of lawyers are using social media). But what about the rest of the market? The chances are that if you’re in a mid-sized company, big players and the small outfits are both outdoing you in picking up new business online.

But is it enough to make sure your team are socialising on LinkedIn?

In short, no. In the coming years if firms don’t radically adjust their approach to capturing (and maintaining) new clients, the restrictions on business could be severe. For example, the software industry is taking social media much further than just tweets and connections. Companies like MicrosoftApple and even Cisco have operated online knowledge-bases and forums for decades. They encourage users (both corporate client and retail customer alike) to engage with the information they provide online for free. By providing detailed knowledge about their products, services, and processes, their audience can learn more about what the company and its products do, how they do it, and often why. Sharing their expertise with the public generates a stronger relationship between client and service provider, increases client awareness of capabilities of existing products, and provides an ideal platform to discuss new developments and services directly, with an already captive and engaged user base.

What more can law firms do?

Law firms have historically been reluctant to share their wealth of knowledge too freely, instead categorising that asset as an internal, chargeable resource. In an era where information is almost a currency in its own right, you’d be forgiven for thinking this way. Nonetheless, this rationale is short-sighted. While no one is suggesting that you open your archives to the public and release all your internal notes for the past 50 years. There are ways you can take this knowledge and make it work much harder for you. Enter content marketing. Using a platform like HighQ Publisher firms are empowered to selectively publicise some of this knowledge (content), exposing it to the outside world and allowing it to drive the interest of both current and new clients (marketing).

Using a content marketing platform to brand, manage and share publications, firms can increase the power of their existing social media campaigns, directing their peers to rich content housed in a friendly format, alongside the company branding. And that’s just the beginning! Software like HighQ Publisher can be syndicated, increasing your reach and exposing your business to new customers you might never have been seen by before. Incorporating video, event management and outreach campaigns from one product – the choice to let your content be a part of your marketing process will not only give you the competitive edge against your fellow firms, but advertise and expose you in ways you could never imagine!

So is social media enough for law firms? No… But it’s a good start.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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