You guessed it, it’s Twitter for law firms time again. But this time we’re looking at BigLaw.

As you know, there’s a lot of talk about how law firms can use social media. Most of it involves trying to leverage these online communication tools for marketing, advertising, branding, etc. There is some discussion about using it for what it’s actually good for, having conversations with people to which you might not otherwise have access. But are any big law firms actually doing this? Let’s have a look.

Jones Day looks relatively active on Twitter (about 50 tweets in May). But what are they actually tweeting? Here’s a recent example:

Which is basically a broadcast of an article on their website. Is this wrong or bad? Not necessarily. They have notified their 800+ followers or their article. But if you dig a little deeper into their twitter feed, you’ll see that virtually all of their tweets follow this pattern. No @replies, no engagement, no discussion. They did have a re-tweet in May:

Which is basically more of the same.

A Twitter search for @jonesday reveals that some Twitter users are trying to communicate with them:


But these requests go largely unanswered (at least on their public feed). This is not following Twitter’s business best practice advice.

How about Kirkland & Ellis LLP? Not as active as Jones Day (only 9 tweets in May), but definitely some more engagement, at least attempted engagement. They use @replies in almost all of their tweets:

But again, the tweets tend to be more updates than discussions.

How about Nixon Peabody LLP (92 tweets in May)? That’s pretty active. Let’s see what they’re up to.

Live tweeting of a webinar:

Albeit brief, some actual conversations:

Video sharing:

As you can see, somewhat better engagement. Some actual internetworking.

I don’t know what sort of value these firms place on social media. I would guess that they believe that they are “expected” to exist there. Some of them probably entered the fray on the advice of a consultant. Others likely wrongly view social media and networking tools as inexpensive marketing/advertising platforms.

I would suggest that in order for these tools to serve their maximum capacity, firms need to think more like Nixon Peabody. Focus on engagement over broadcast. Participate in more actual conversations. Respond to @replies. Share photos and videos of real firm attorneys, news and events.

Sure, include updates from the firm’s websites and blogs. But share them in a conversational manner. Avoid shouting into the echo chamber.

If you’re going to measure anything, focus on motivating quality:

<ul>
  • Twitter: Retweets and Mentions
  • Facebook: Comments, Wall-Posts, Likes
  • <li>LinkedIn: Comments, Likes</li>
    
    <li>Google+: Comments, Reshares, +1</li>
    

    These are about as good as it gets when it comes to feedback and social web performance indicators (of course you might get actual compliments and criticisms too).

    Don’t obsess over follower numbers, what time of day you’re publishing tweets and how many auto-tweets you should be loading into HootSuite per day.

    And keep perspective. Heed Sam’s advice:

    even if you focus on social media, you will need to do good work, share your knowledge, and be superficially social. If you can do it offline, you will have a better chance of doing it online.

    And don’t allow it to become, as Bruce Godfrey puts it:

    a total trainwreck of a time suck.