How In-House Counsel Use Social Media

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The blogosphere contains many posts about how you can use social media to advance your legal marketing efforts. Given the sheer volume of such posts, we imagine that only Luddites would fail to use social media today. This belief is reinforced by statistics apparently showing that only in the most remote parts of Africa, where there is no access to Wi-Fi, do people neither tweet nor maintain online friends.

No matter what you do to market your practice, you must be where your clients are. You join groups where clients belong, write articles that will be published in places where clients can read them and attend conferences that your clients also attend. Therefore, it only makes sense to get a realistic picture of how your clients use social media. If they are there, you need to be there, too.

Social media use by in-house counsel at all-time high

That headline appeared in The National Law Journal earlier this year. No surprise in this statement. No one would ever expect that social media use has somehow decreased over the past few years.

However, careful reading of the study, conducted by Greentarget, Inside Counsel and Zeughauser Group, surprised me. When I think about “social media,” I focus on the “social.” In other words, people are interacting with one another online. The top players in this space are, of course, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I was particularly curious to see just how frequently in-house counsel used the three.

Surprise: How social media is defined

According to the survey, three tools were most popular among professionals. Most popular was, not surprisingly, LinkedIn. Second and third were Wikipedia and blogs.

I am not surprised that in-house counsel use these last two tools, but I am surprised that they are considered social media. To me, they are research and information tools. Blogs are somewhat interactive in the comments portion, I suppose, but most of the substantive blogs that I read have no comments. In short, there is nothing particularly “social” about them.

No surprise: Twitter and Facebook used little

Fifty-seven percent of the in-house counsel surveyed never use Facebook for professional reasons. Seventy-two percent never use Twitter. Further, the statistics seem to indicate that only about ten percent actually use these two sites in any regular fashion in their professional lives.

My personal takeaway

When you read an article or blog post in which a social media consultant proclaims that “everyone is doing it,” allow your lawyer-skepticism DNA to rise to the top.

Yes, everyone is on LinkedIn. So what? I’ve read almost everything written about how to use LinkedIn as a business development tool. Most of it makes sense to me. However, I can count on one hand the lawyers I know who actively use LinkedIn in a highly effective business development fashion. Everyone has plenty of connections, but that’s all. They don’t seem to have new clients.

Twitter and Facebook can also be effective tools. I once landed a new corporate client that originated from a tweet. But use your time judiciously. The vast majority of your clients are not yet using these social networking tools to find lawyers.

By all means, keep on blogging or start your own blog. In my view, blog posts have replaced the articles that lawyers used to write for bar journals and newspapers. They are a valuable means to get your name out there and enhance your reputation.

Everyone isn’t doing it

Be wary of articles that tout the ROI from using social media. First, consider the author. Many such articles are written by social media consultants who are selling their services. Why wouldn’t they tout returns? When the information is provided by a more neutral source, look closely at the statistics being cited. Often, they are not as compelling as many social media enthusiasts would like you to believe.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/8583949219/)

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  • Mark

    When I was in-house counsel, I never used social media. Now that I am a solo I am just getting used to the idea of using social media to expand my practice. However, I remain unconvinced that joining Facebook has any social or business utility.

  • dstevenson

    I’d lov to know what those handful of lawyers who use LinkedIn effectively are doing differently from the rest of us. For most of us, it’s about as useful as having your name in the “Who’s Who of American High School Students.”

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      To me, LinkedIn feels more like having my name on a lot of telemarketers’ email lists.

      I remain unconvinced that any lawyers are actually using LinkedIn “effectively” — meaning as a way to reliably generate quality referrals.

  • LisaLoeffler

    LinkedIn has never provided a community to instinctively & regularly spark conversation – the platform is just not natural or intuitive for that. People spend more time on Twitter & Facebook.

    If you are helpful to others and provide valuable information that will potentially solve their challenges…you’ll gain a following. If you always take the “how can I help” vs. “what’s in it for me” you’ll typically have solid social results and build real relationships.

    Like all relationships…this takes time and doesn’t happen over night. Social is about being social, not doing social.

    Hope it helps! lisa loeffler, genuinemediaco.com