Referencing Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer:
Social-networking, micro-blogging, and content-sharing sites (Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr) witnessed the most dramatic percentage increase as trusted sources of information about a company, rising by 88, 86, and 75 percent, respectively. Search engines and news/RSS feeds also saw a jump (18 percent together). The findings suggest that some of the trust that audiences have in social media was transferred from other media. For example, in China, Trust Barometer data showed double-digit decreases in television as a trusted source, plunging from 74 to 43 percent, and trust in Chinese newspapers fell by 20 points to 34 percent.
But trust in social media jumped: micro-blogging sites and social-networking sites in China went from virtual distrust at just one percent each to being greatly trusted by 25 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The rapid growth in social media usage within China is best exemplified by Weibo (the Twitter equivalent in China), which at the end of 2010 had 60 million users and by the end of 2011 had grown to more than 310 million users.
In addition to massive growth, major news stories, including the corruption of the Red Cross and a high-speed train crash, were first reported on Weibo, and they became central to discussion about political and other issues.
What’s it mean for attorneys and law firms?
- You’ll want to reassess your public relations’ efforts to get mainstream media placement. Rather than go with expensive PR to get into major publications, you may better served, especially from an expense standpoint, to use social media to enhance your reputation and get the word out.
- Your content in the form of articles, newsletters, alerts etc has to be socially enabled. Storing items on your website and distribution by email will not get them the trust, let alone the distribution, as if the content is distributed buy others via social media.
- You have to blog. Long form content which is not engaging, brief, and written in a conversational style is not likely to get shared. Edeman’s report is strong evidence that you need to get your insight and commentary shared (not pushed by you), for your insight to be trusted. Plus blog content is RSS enabled. RSS is the oxygen needed for syndication of content.
- Law firms and individual attorneys have to learn social to survive as a trusted authorities. And being a trusted authority is what it’s all about as an attorney and law firm.
At the same time, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer shows an overall decline in trust globally, with steep declines in the levels of trust in business. Your law firm is less likely to be trusted than ever when out in front with firm branded marketing.
Your firm is much better served strategically using social media to get the word out for you. Note again that strategically using social media does not mean using social media as bullhorn. It means establishing the trust and social media equity needed to get others sharing your content with others who trust them.