20131112-175839.jpg MediaPost’s Karl Greenberg (@tychob17) reports that some giant global brands are getting big payoffs from social media. Even on platforms such as Facebook and short form video, Vine.

How are they doing it? By humanizing their companies on social media. By leveraging the single biggest asset they have have – their people.

For GE, the key is not to build brand equity around massive machines and complex systems that GE sells. From Paul Marcum (@jpmarcum), director of global digital marketing and programming at GE:

Social media is a great way to get that story out there and make it as human as possible. We have 300,000 employees and 45,000 engineers worldwide; this is about lifting brand equity on a global basis, beyond people who may be interested in buying a jet engine this week.


[I]f we weren’t innovating on digital media, we would be the only people in the company who weren’t innovating. For us, it’s an opportunity to share the unexpected.

Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael), VP marketing at SAP, told Greenberg that Twitter is a big part of the company’s social environment toward unifying and humanizing the brand.

Where many large law firms are coming up short is in their failure to humanize their firm, their lawyers and other employees.

Some law firms have two, three-thousand employees and more. But what is the firm doing to humanize the law firm on social media? By attempting to build a brand around ‘The Law,’ ‘An Industry,’ or ‘A Practice Group’ are law firms attempting to building brands around the massive machines, jet engines, and complex systems that GE avoids trying to brand on social media?

Rather than personalizing themselves and their lawyers via social media, are large law firms trying to push a rock up the hill by treating social media as traditional marketing, PR, or content distribution? Seems so to me.

I talk with hundreds, if not thousands, of blogging lawyers a year. Many from large law firms.

What works in law blogging? Being yourself. Expressing an opinion (hogwash to someone who says they cannot). Sharing a personal side that clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and the public don’t get otherwise. Can be down on individual lawyer blogs or on group blogs such as Duets Blog.

The same is true on Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn – via the sharing feature and a personalized profile.

Do you as a large law firm have to nail what social media is going to work and why ahead of time. Not per Marcum. GE is prepared to experiment with social media to see what works. If it doesn’t work, back off.

Social media is a new means of communication, the likes of which we have never seen before. Social media has changed things forever. We are not going back.

Rather than approach social media as another form of marketing and public relations, large law should treat social media as something totally new. Focus on empowering the individuals at your firm to use social media in a way that humanizes them.

At a minimum, personalize the firm by doing things like giving shout outs to clients successes on Twitter and Facebook. Interact, in a personal way, with the community around you – reporters, business associations, trade publications, and business partners. Such an approach is much better suited for social media than publishing what can read like very dry legal content.

No one can expect large law to jump into social media hook, line, and sinker. Small steps modeled after what large companies getting a positive ROI from social can be a good start.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Eversheds International.