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

Law firms mistakenly focus on social media tactics over strategy

Seth Godin’s post this morning, ‘When tactics drown out strategy‘ may as well have been directed to law firms’ flawed use of social media, including blogging.

New media creates a blizzard of tactical opportunities for marketers, and many of them cost nothing but time, which means you don’t need as much approval and support to launch them.

As a result, marketers are like kids at Rita’s candy shoppe, gazing at all the pretty opportunities.

The problem is that all of these opportunities are just tactics, not a strategy. Per Seth:

‘Building a permission asset so we can grow our influence with our best customers over time’ is a strategy. Using email, twitter or RSS along with newsletters, contests and a human voice are all tactics. In my experience, people get obsessed about tactical detail before they embrace a strategy… and as a result, when a tactic fails, they begin to question the strategy that they never really embraced in the first place.

Seth also nails why law firms are all over tactics, not strategy.

Most of us are afraid of strategy, because we don’t feel confident outlining one unless we’re sure it’s going to work. And the ‘work’ part is all tactical, so we focus on that. (Tactics are easy to outline, because we say, ‘I’m going to post this.’ If we post it, we succeed. Strategy is scary to outline, because we describe results, not actions, and that means opportunity for failure.)

I presented at a webinar hosted by a law firm marketing company earlier this week. I emphasized how important it was to develop a strategy before beginning to blog. Identify your goals. Identify your target audience of clients, prospective clients, referral sources and their influencers. Identify how you are going to listen to this target audience. Identify how you will engage them in a meaningful way.

A number of lawyers in the audience wanted nothing to do with strategy. ‘Show us how to blog effectively by telling me how to post content on a blog.’ ‘Blogs are just for frequent content updates causing the blog and law firm website the blog links to to get high search engine rankings.’ ‘Using RSS feeds to monitor sources and subjects so as to listen to relevant discussion by area of law and industry has nothing to do with writing a blog, you’re aren’t telling us what we need to know.’ There was no talking sense into these clowns.

Even large law firms with sophisticated marketing, communications, and client development professionals focus on tactics before strategy when it comes to social media. Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, Legal OnRamp, YouTube, and God knows what else. ‘We have to find out how to use this stuff and we need to start to using this stuff now.’ And when we do start using this stuff we need to see immediate returns in the form of web stats and clients.

Geez. Did you ever slow down and ask why you would would want to use these tactics? If it’s to engage your target audience, by first listening to them, to cultivate meaningful relationships so as to further enhance your stature as a reliable and trusted authority in a niche area of the law, you’re warming up to strategy over tactics.

If you’re mapping out a plan as to which of these tactics make the most sense and in what order to deploy the chosen ones, you’re headed in the right direction.

If you’re willing to allow such relationships to flourish, knowing that lawyers get their best work by word of mouth and to acknowledge that word of mouth marketing can take a little time before it generates new clients, you’re now focused on acknowledged scary, but meaningful, benchmarks to measure the success of your strategy.

You are taking the road less traveled by lawyers and law firms when it comes to social media. You are willing to do the right stuff and take responsibility for it.

But if you’re looking at all these new social media tools like a kid in the candy shop looking to do ‘anything social media’ while measuring success by mere deployment of this ‘anything social media,’ you’re focused on tactics over strategy. Wrong road.