Law firms dismissing social networking as an effective means of enhancing relationships with their clients, prospective clients, and referral sources because they don’t these folks use online social networks ought to think again.

Social networking use (LinkedIn and Facebook) among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010 pursuant to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and author of the report explained “Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users.”

I’m routinely asked to meet with law firms to discuss the principles of social networking and social media and how they may be applied to business development. Lawyers and legal marketing professionals find what I offer enlightening and intriguing. But nine times out of ten they’ll nod in agreement when someone in the firm assuredly says our target audience doesn’t use social networking – our audience is older.

The assumption that your clients, prospective clients, and referral sources don’t use social networking because they’re too old has no basis in fact. Look at the stats from the Pew survey.

  • Social networking use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%–in the last year.
  • Use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%.
  • 61% of internet users ages 30-49 use social networking, up from 25% two years ago.

The below graph further highlights the rate of growth in the use of social media by those in the age group likely to be leading American businesses and accumulating wealth.

Look also where your target demographic age group is spending their time on line each day.

  • 39% of internet users ages 30 to 49 are using social networking sites (Facebook and LinkedIn) daily.
  • 10% of this same age group are using Twitter daily.

And don’t be so quick to dismiss these figures on the belief that your clients and prospective clients fall in the majority who don’t use social networking and social media on a daily basis. As I’ve blogged before, it doesn’t matter if your clients/prospective clients use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or blogs. Their influencers (bloggers, reporters, association leaders, conference coordinators, and publishers) do.

It’s a new day folks. Don’t be insular by limiting your discussion on social networking and social media to those in your law firm. Law firms are notorious for talking down the innovative. Lawyers tend to be experts on everything. Look around you at what leading businesses are doing. Read the studies. Read the business articles.

Social networking and social media is not only here to stay, it’s use among your target audience is exploding.

  • Kevin
    As someone who has recently left legal practice after 15 years at the coal face, and used social media for his legal practice, I have yet to see any major take up of social media by legal practices in the UK. There is a huge FEAR factor and it will take a great deal of persuasion for a lot of firms – even at the sohphisticated end of the market – to engage with social media. In any event the ones that have dipped their toe in the market, by and large, see it as another form of marketing/sales pipeline and no more. If I have read one Twitter stream that promulgates the firm’s BD message I have read 50 or more. So boring. They don’t really get it that you have to be human to engage and, heaven forbid, express an opinion on something. Roll on the next generation ….

  • I’m really at a loss as to why all the fear Julian. What the heck are lawyers and law firms afraid of? Engaging people to build relationships in an an innovative way that compliments what they are already doing to network and grow business? That ought not be that scary.
    To me they are afraid of trying something new. Why try something that makes you feel the least bit uncomfortable? What if I try something new and it doesn’t work right away? God forbid.
    Some how us guys who were afraid to go up to a girl and ask them for a date got over the fear and got a date or two. Quite frankly that fear of rejection was greater than the fear that we wouldn’t know what we were doing when it comes to social media and social networking.

  • I agree with Kevin. Additionally, in my view, social media may be akin to the emergence of the telephone in terms on its importance as a “game changer” to the extent it helps people to keep in touch and allows for meeting new people much more easily that was the case prior to the birth of social media.

  • @Julian – totally agree. I smile at some of my larger firm colleagues whose marketing departments are so constrained that all they are allowed to do is tweet a link to their static online newsletters (and, from a competitive perspective, hope that they will continue #failing in that manner ;-))
    Rick Shera

  • I do agree with what Kevin,Frascic and Rick said as over the past two years or so, the way solicitors network, interact and go about business development has undergone a profound, but almost unnoticed, change.