Marketing and media strategist, Kneale Mann, rightly points out social media is a business, not something law firms or other business can dabble in and expect results.

Mann describes what I see in many a lawyer or other law firm professional.

So you’ve been dabbling in social media. You have a Facebook profile with a few hundred friends and perhaps you’re now on Twitter. You aren’t interested in blogging or webinars; YouTube is fun to watch but you don’t want your own channel and now you wonder if it’s time to introduce the company you work for or own to this space.

For law firms already involved in social media and for those considering sticking their toe in the water, here’s Mann’s advice (with a little editing by me).

  • Your social media commitment must be completely in line with your strategic objectives. You wouldn’t treat any other part of your company with a haphazard approach.
  • Companies can get caught up in their own ‘too busy’ mentality and let things slide. Social media is not something to do ‘when you have some time’ – make time for it or you won’t see the benefits.
  • You’ll need human involvement with real business leaders involved. Social media is not something you hand off to the PR, marketing, and advertising team.
  • Resist the temptation to use the social web as a giant advertising medium. Social media is not a campaign and your company will not gain millions in revenue after a handful of tweets. If you aren’t willing to pay attention to how people interact with your company online, this may be a struggle for you.
  • Metrics are helpful but they are not the same as the ‘sleep at night’ estimates you may receive from other mediums. Just because you put up a billboard at the corner of East and South Streets doesn’t mean anyone saw your message. That is the same with social media, it takes time and commitment.
  • You need a corporate champion. If someone in your organization is committed to online social networking, you can begin to be a part of the conversation where your customers and potential customers may be as well.
  • Focus the funnel. There are many social networking spaces but it’s difficult to keep profiles and contact on each because of the law of diminishing results. Pick the channels you want and do them well. Skip the rest.

Social media is an art learned over time through personal involvement. The ROI from social media, done right, can exceed any other forms of law firm client development. But you’ve got to treat social media like a business.

  • I agree wholeheartedly that social media is something that you need to make a commitment to. If you don’t put at least an hour a day into it, then you are unlikely to see any results. I do feel concerned, however, when I hear about lawyers spending several hours a day with social media.
    First, because I feel they must be neglecting some other part of their business to find the extra time for this pursuit.
    Second, because I think that there’s a point where you reach an optimum results-for-time-spent ratio. After that point, you’re just spending more time without creating significantly better results.
    Third, I believe there’s a difference between being busy and productive. How much of that time is actually spent doing something productive with social media, and how much is spent reading blogs but not commenting, making some small change to Facebook or LinkedIn that no one will notice, and just being busy without actually producing anything of value?
    I think every lawyer needs to consider what they’re doing with social media and which of their online activities are creating the most results–then, they need to focus on those activities and cut out the activities that are simply wasting their time.

  • Asking lawyers to put an hour a day into social media may be too much to ask Julie. And I am not sure it’s necessary.
    Most lawyers I know who are using social media for networking through the net are not spending an hour a day. Many lawyers experience good success by spending 4 to 5 hours a month.
    That’s not to say that lawyers who spend 4 to 5 hours a week networking through the net won’t have more client development success. In fact, many legal marketing professionals have historically advised lawyers to spend 4 to 5 hours a week in client development – and that is client development offline, ala lunches, networking events, speaking etc.
    But let’s not scare off those beginning to experiment with social media by telling them it will take at least an hour a day.

  • Hey Kevin,
    I am honored you included me in your blog, that is fantastic! On the topic of time, there was a moment in time when we didn’t have fax machines or cell phones or laptops and somehow we found time to train ourselves and intergrate those tools in to our day.
    Social Media may sound like a time vacuum – and it can be if discipline is absent.
    I don’t think I have met people with more disicipline than those in the legal industry.
    Try it. Experiment. I’m happy to chat anytime about how to integrate these activities into your day.

  • Why can’t social media be passed off to the marketing department if they can serve as the true champions for the company and be the firm’s ambassadors? What’s wrong with that?
    There are professionals in every field who basically hand off the partnership building and the consumer insights to their marketing departments. Social media can and should be seen as an extension of those efforts. Very different form yes, but essentially the purpose is to understand your consumer and your competitors through relationship building.