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Published by Kevin O'Keefe, CEO & Founder of LexBlog

Law firm social networking sites can go Euro-Disney

September 27, 2007

Corporations seeing Facebook and MySpace as all the rage are trying to capture the excitement by building sites that allow employees to share best practices and other meaningful info. Problem is, writes Ben Worthen at WSJ’s Business Technology blog, that ‘many corporate efforts are Euro Disney – people just aren’t coming.’

Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research, explained the problem to Worthen.

That’s because [corporations are] confusing the way people are communicating with what they’re communicating about. No one is inherently interested in social networking; people are interested in talking about something they’re interested in, like chatting on MySpace about the latest Britney Spears meltdown.

Corporate social-networking sites and wikis are no different from other knowledge-management projects. All it takes is one employee to use email instead of the new system and the whole value proposition – a system where employees can find all the information they would ever use – falls apart. This is especially true with projects that only work when people participate because at the end of the day, people aren’t really interested in the subjects they’re reading about. ‘They’re interested in getting their jobs done.

Good suggestion Koplowitz offers and one that I see working best with law firms.

Start it virally. Don’t force everyone to start using it all at once. Instead, identify a handful of smart, respected and influential people and get them on board first. Then open it up to anyone who wants to join. In that sense, it’s just like MySpace: If people see the cool employees using it, they’ll want to use it too.

Like blogs, law firms can expect social networking to grow because of successes small groups will have. Rather than a firm wide inititiative, perhaps a practice group is the place to start. And it’s going to be a practice group filled with members who find social networking part of their life outside the firm.

Starting LexBlog, I get to work with young people who network online like mad – for both personal and business communications. If they had told me I would be using the platforms I am now to network with them when we started working together, I would have told them they were crazy. It was viral and through my observing the benefits of social networking that got me there. It’ll be the same with law firms.

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