20130707-215242.jpg Law firms need to be careful when buying the same social media monitoring services that marketers in corporate America are buying. They may not be useful for a law firm looking to use social media to build relationships and reputations at an individual lawyer level.

As David Benady (@davidbenady) writes in the Guardian, marketers in major corporations buy monitoring services that will search out mentions of a brand on blogs, forums, Twitter, and other social media sites.

The main monitoring services include Salesforce’s Radian6, Heartbeat from Sysomos, Brandwatch, Face’s Pulsar and Crimson Hexagon. In addition to mentions, the services attempt to pick up sentiment — whether positive or negative — about a brand.

These social monitoring services are expensive. Corporations may be paying over $100,000 a month. Although I have heard of major law firms buying such services, I am not aware how much they are paying.

The bigger question is whether such monitoring services will help lawyers build relationships and enhance their reputation as an expert in their field. It is individual lawyers who get hired in most cases after all, not the firm itself.

If I am a lawyer looking to use social media effectively, I am listening to key words and key phrases relevant to my area of law and the industry I represent. That’s in addition to the obvious ones – my name and the url of my blog.

I want company names, case names, regulations, and the names of other thought leaders. When such names are mentioned in influential sources – trade publications, blogs, Twitter, newspapers, and other mainstream media, I want it fed to me.

I also want to have RSS feeds set up from relevant blogs and other influential sources. Twitter lists with the influencers and thought leaders are also critical.

With that sort of listening environment, I pick up a 360 degree assessment of the relevant discussion in my field. I can now strategically share what I am reading and engage in the conversation through my blog and other social networks.

Without such an environment, I am operating in a vacuum and totally in-equipped to take part in social media. Heck blogging and using Twitter without monitoring like that could be considered just making noise, rather than partaking in a conversation that builds trust, relationships, and a reputation.

If law firms are buying such monitoring services, they need to know if they can set an environment like the above for individual attorneys, not just groups. And that it’ll be an easy use monitoring system for lawyers. If the services can do this, it’s imperative that the law firm set up the monitoring for the effective use of social media by individual attorneys.

Social media for law firms, a professional service business that gets its work via the relationships and the word of mouth reputation of individual lawyers, is different than social media for a consumer brand.

Picking up the firm’s name or the name of individual lawyers in social network and the sentiment toward them, good or bad, is hardly enough.

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