20130111-105159.jpg No question the use of social media can build relationships and enhance ones world of mouth reputation. Equally no question that law firms are beginning to use social media for business development – in spades.

The question you need to ask as a law firm leader and/or as head of marketing/business development is whether your firm’s use of social media is hurting your firm’s reputation. Do you look lame (as Internet hipsters may refer to it)?

Take a quick look at your law firm’s use of different social media.

Blogs. Are yours professionally designed? Do the blogs look like hobby blogs that people use for personal blogging or do they look like a professional publication ala the Harvard Business Review, New York Times, or a business journal? Do all of the features work properly and professionally? Are the blogs features and software being updated to keep up with other business blogs? After educating yourself what blogging is and how bloggers build a reputation and relationships through engagement, have you developed a sound strategy for your blogs? Have your lawyers been trained on blogging as an engagement/relationship medium, as opposed to article writing? Do you know how to draw attention to your blogs and grow readership in ways that do not make the firm and its lawyers look foolish in the eyes of the media and the business community?

LinkedIn. Would you rate your lawyers’ profiles – all of them – an A or a D? Those profiles show up every time someone searches a lawyer’s name on Google. You need them to be an A. Is it apparent that your lawyers are using LinkedIn to network to grow their knowledge in the law? Are your lawyers and your firm sharing items on LinkedIn in ways that looks like you care, as opposed to looking like spam, as is the case for many firms. Is your law firm’s LinkedIn page professionally done and leveraging all the features it can? If not, that shouts your firm’s proclivity to avoid innovation, technology and efficiencies.

Twitter. Do each of your lawyers using Twitter have a nice picture and profile? Are their feeds open and not protected (need the former or will look lame)? If they have started to use Twitter, have they continued to do so? No one looks more foolish than blowing off technology and engagement tools after they put their toe in the water. If they’re using Twitter, are they doing so per the Industry standards your clients and reporters would expect of a good law firm? If your firm is using a firm Twitter handle, do you disclose who is Tweeting? If not, how else is someone to engage the firm through Twitter? Do you Tweet others content, and do you engage others on Twitter, including your target audience? If not, your use of Twitter may appear lame or just spam.

Facebook. Have you figured out how to really use Facebook or do you do you just have a Facebook page on which you randomly promote firm news? Have you developed a clear strategy for Facebook? Do you like clients’ Facebook pages and highlight their successes on your own Facebook page? Have you educated your lawyers on why and how Facebook can be an effective relationship nurturing tool for growing business? Do your lawyers know how to engage business associates and community leaders on Facebook? Have you ‘handed off Facebook’ to someone without years of experience in business development and the legal profession? That would seem foolhardy when so many people in the target audience you want to network with are on Facebook.

These are my quick thoughts. I am sure you have your own. But when I saw the question asked elsewhere ‘are you hurting or helping your reputation with social media’ I thought it a good one to ask law firms.

There is so much to be gained business development wise through the effective use of social media. We have member law firms and lawyers doing seven figures+ a year just through relationships developed through blogging. McKinsey released its study last fall that the value of social to corporations could be as high as $1.3 Trillion.

But you don’t get to play with social media in the basement with the lights out. By its very nature social media, as used by your law firm and it’s lawyers, is out there for all the world to see.

Use social media. There is more to be gained than you could imagine. But use social media the right way. Otherwise you are going to damage your law firm’s reputation — a reputation built over decades by your predecessors.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Marshal Astor.