Outsourcing Blogs and Social Media

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Outsourcing is an effective strategy for busy lawyers trying to get client work done, provide quality service, make money and still have time for the things they enjoy (like spending time with their families). But not all tasks are appropriate for outsourcing.

Some marketing and PR companies claim to be able to effectively blog and participate in social media on behalf of individual lawyers or their firms. But can outsourcing your blogging and social media really work for lawyers?

Know why social media works

The first problem is that many of these marketing people do not know the first thing about how to use social media effectively and why it works for lawyers. I’ve personally spoken with marketing consultants (some of whom specialize in working with lawyers and other professionals) who do not know how to use blogs effectively or are unaware of the real value of social media as a business development tool.

A marketing professional can certainly set up a blog and create Facebook or Twitter accounts for you or your law firm, and post information or links to your site. But effective social networking does not stop there. While that exposure and those links can be helpful for your practice, they barely scratch the surface of what social media can do for you if it is used correctly.

You can’t outsource your expertise

Social media is not about being a commercial for your law practice. It is about sharing what you do and how you do it, and demonstrating your expertise. For lawyers, that often means talking about things that an outside marketing consultant is not going to know about even if they are in constant contact with you, including changes in the law or your experiences with clients.

It is much better to show or demonstrate a quality that you want to be associated with your law firm than to simply talk about it. For example, rather than simply saying (as many lawyer websites do) that you are up to date on the most recent trends in your area of practice, demonstrate that expertise through your blog posts and conversations on social media. Post about trends, share links to stories and reports about what is happening in your area of practice. Write about issues you have helped actual clients with. When you do that, you have no need to tell people that you are up to date; they will begin looking to you first to find out what’s new in your area.

But here’s the problem: in order to get the benefit out of social networking, you can’t hire an outside consultant who knows little about the law, your firm or your particular area of practice to handle your social media for you. Do you know any marketing consultants who would be able to choose which stories and links to post, or who would know enough about your client work and what it means to post intelligently about it? Intelligently enough that you would let them be the voice of your firm on those issues?

As Peter Shankman, creator of HARO says, an additional benefit of using social media as a platform to demonstrate your expertise and share information is

[t]he media starts following you, and you get called on by them, get quoted in the paper, on TV, on the radio, and online on a regular basis, and how about that, new people start calling you out of the blue, asking if they can be your clients – Where do you think they came from? From the media! And where did the media come from? From your brilliant use of social media.

Shankman sums it up well when he says, “It’s not about social media: it’s about using these tools to prove you know more than your competitors and are better than them and deserve new client business.”

Social networking works. That means clients will call, people will come up to you at conferences, in court or even at the grocery store and tell you that they liked your blog post, or that they appreciated your Twitter posts about a change in the law that affected their business. They’ll email you to ask a follow up question about something you wrote. It’s your reputation. Do you really want to outsource it?

Focus on others

Nancy Myrland of Myrland Marketing says, “Social Media use is a little bit about you, and A LOT about everyone else.”

Social media is most effective when you focus on others. A lot of the value of social media comes in developing relationships, spreading the word about what others do, lending a helping hand and joining the conversation.

As Myrland notes, when you focus on others and your participation in social media is mostly about them, people are then more receptive to the messages you do send about you and your firm. By helping others, you make yourself more memorable.

Can you outsource your engagement with others to someone else? How is a marketing person going to offer help on your behalf?

Engage with others

Building relationships involves making introductions and engaging in conversations, both online and off. Will your marketing person be able to make those introductions on your behalf? Do they know everyone you know? Will they be able to make those connections? Can you outsource those conversations? Even if you can, do you want to assign someone else to listen and participate in conversations that could create new opportunities for your firm?

Can your marketing or PR firm recognize your ideal client if they come across them? Do they know who your best referral sources are? Can they tell who is likely to refer business to you? If not, how will they know who they should engage with?

In reality, you cannot outsource effective blogging and social media participation. Most marketing firms do not participate in these platorms on behalf of lawyers in the most effective way because they simply cannot do so. Instead, they push out messages about the firm without actively engaging with others because it would be impossible for them to engage. They are not you. They do not know what you know or who you know.

If you are having trouble getting started, by all means, outsource. But remember: if you want to build good relationships, you need to be actively involved.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28288673@N07/4847679257/)

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  • This is pretty much a straw man argument. One could replace “marketing people” with “lawyer coaches” and the points would still obtain. But in both cases it’s a misleading, unfair and unhelpful characterization of the respective professions. That some marketing and PR firms are ill-equipped to add value to law firm branding and marketing does not mean that none are.

    Your general premise is correct, though: professional firms should not wholesale outsource social media because of factors like trust, authenticity and subject matter expertise. However, there are significant branding and business development needs where external marketing, communications and practice management resources can be transformational in achieving specific objectives.

    • Thanks for your comments, Jay. I certainly did not mean to suggest that marketing, communications and practice management resources were not valuable assets for law firms. Indeed, I do not think that there is anything in my post to suggest that marketing and PR firms do not add value. However, while there are many things an outsourced (or in house) marketing professional can do for a law firm, there are a lot of aspects of social media that I simply do not think should (or can) be outsourced. Relationships need to be developed by the people who will ultimately be involved in those relationships.

  • John Troll

    I sort of agree but I still think you missed the essential point. It doesn’t matter who you hire. Even if you hire another lawyer who is an expert. IT AIN’T YOU. Of course you can outsource THE expertise. But you can’t outsource YOUR expertise.
    More fundamentally- even if you COULD hire someone who could perfectly imitate your social voice, who could present a copy of your professional persona to the world- why would you want to?
    There’s a famous joke that seems to apply here. ” In Hollywood we crave authenticity- once you learn to fake authenticity you are on your way” On your way where?

    • John,

      Exactly!

      Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

      Allison

  • I could not agree more with this point. I work with financial advisors and many of them want everything to be handled, from content development to daily social media management, but we won’t provide it. Rather than act as them, we provide a turn-key platform giving them tools, resources, training, and support, and we are encouraging them to take ownership with facilitated guidance. I tell them that both social media and blogging are commitments. You’re going to have to get committed in order to make it work for you! If someone else is doing the engaging, you will surely miss out on your most valuable opportunities to develop the “right” relationships.

    • Stephanie,

      Bravo to you. I love your approach and think this is exactly what professionals need – a way to get started, resources and training, and most of all, support and encouragement. Engagement is work (albeit enjoyable work for many), but as with most things, you get out of it what you put into it.

      Allison

  • Hey Allison,
    OutSourcing is great anyone who is not doing it is falling behind! we use it to grow our business and get more work done on a daily basis. Thanks for the post interesting to see a lawyers view on outsourcing. It is true though you cannot outsource many things, more basic and repetitive tasks are better to outsource.

  • Michael Bian

    Great article..