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Social media and marketing don’t mix

Advertising Age’s David Teicher had a good piece making the rounds on the net this week on why media agencies ought not to be involved in social media. It got me wondering why marketing departments are leading blogging and other social media efforts in so many law firms.

It was news of Universal McCann, an ad agency, building out an entire division dedicated to social media that motivated Teicher to make his point.

Universal McCann’s expertise is in media buying and planning, an agenda wholly antithetical to everything that is social-media marketing. Yes, media planning should encompass outlets of all types, and thus must take into account planned activity in the social space when allocating funds. However, it’s what UM represents — buying increments of attention through which brands broadcast messages to consumers — that I find so contradictory to the dynamics of social media and, consequently, marketing on social platforms.

Namely, in order to generate the buzz and really tap that word-of-mouth potential, the best investment a brand can make is time. It takes living, breathing, human beings devoting their time to converse with consumers to get a feel for what they want from the brand. It takes time to win their trust. Only after the relationship is built can the strategists and creative teams jump in to leverage that rapport for the purposes of a marketing campaign (or customer service). And even then, the goal is to earn the attention of your audience by providing something valuable, functional, or entertaining, not to buy it.

Blogging is all about listening to one’s target audience and joining in the conversation by adding one’s insight and commentary. It’s about engaging people, networking, building relationships, and building trust. By it’s very definition, blogging involves personal involvement and engagement. The result is relationships that lead to business.

It’s the same with other forms of social media, whether it be Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

When it comes to the Internet, marketing departments can drive websites. Websites are all about advertising a law firm’s capability, who they represent, the type of work they do, delivering contact information, and they like.

But when you get to networking through the Internet, which is what blogging and other social media are all about, that’s a different story. Marketing needs to have lawyers lead the way and be fully involved in the process.

Law firm marketing departments seeking to protect their lawyers’ time by keeping them from learning what it means to blog and use social media are doing their lawyers and firms a disservice. They’re also costing their law firm a lot of business.

The legal profession needs to get over the fact that social media, including blogging, isn’t just a pipe to get your name in front of people or to drive people to your website. It’s about personal relationships, developing trust, and business development.