When I attended the general counsel panel a couple of weeks ago at the LMA’s Annual Conference, I was happy to hear that the moderators would be spending some time focusing the panelists on discussing social media, and their use of it in their outside counsel relationships.

I’m going to delve into that discussion more in a future post, but today, I wanted to talk about the results from Greentarget, Inside Counsel, and Zeughauser Group’s In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey results, which were released last week. I pay very close attention to this survey because let’s be honest, social media isn’t going to matter one whit to my clients if their own clients aren’t paying it any attention. 

This year’s survey results reaffirmed both the comments of the three general counsel at the LMA Conference, and my anecdotal experience, which I often share with my attorneys. Today, let’s look at a couple of highlights. To see the survey results in full, click here

"Mark 2013 as the year it became hard to find lawyers not using new media tools."
 
As the survey report says:  
New media usage is not only common, as last year’s survey showed, it’s mainstream. The percentage of respondents not using new media tools has shrunk from 43 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2013."
 
In 2013 the lawyer who has his paralegal print his emails for him, gets all his news from the print edition of The New York Times, and thinks a ‘blog’ is a smudge on his tie is part of a dying breed."
Sure, we all had a nice little chuckle over this second quote, but there are definitely some attorneys out there who are not using new media. With such a huge jump from 2010 to 2013 in terms of those in-house counsel using new media tools, lawyers can no longer afford to think that social media is a "fad." 
 
But that being said, should lawyers and firms be concerned that they’ve missed the boat if they’re either just getting started with new media, or they’re refining their strategy? No, says the survey results: 
Yet our survey shows that some of the most popular regions of the new media ecosystem are far from fully exploited—rich with opportunity, perhaps, for pioneering lawyers and law firms that create high-quality content that grabs attention on those channels."
Social media/new media can no longer be considered something that you throw into the marketing mix – it has to be a part of building your marketing and business development plans from the ground up.  How can you use social media to support all of your marketing and business development goals? Make sure to thread that through everything you’re doing to make the most out of these trends. 
 
Let’s Go Mobile
 
This is one of those common sense things (in my mind) that doesn’t need to be said out loud, but I’m saying it anyway – you need to be mobile friendly.  Think about what you’re doing in your own life – we’re all running to various meetings, commuting, flying, working from home, working from the couch at night – always connected. Right? Who here is NOT checking their mobile phone with one eye open as soon as their alarm goes off in the morning? 
 
If you’re doing that, it stands to reason that your clients are doing the same thing – so it’s essential to make sure that any content you’re supplying them can be easily read on a mobile device.  For me, I know that I read all of the blogs I subscribe to through a reader application on my phone – so if it’s cutting off the post after the first paragraph, unless I’m very motivated to click through to the actual page, I’m just going to skip to the next post in the list. Similarly, if I do click through, and the post is unreadable on a small screen, I’m going to quickly give up.  
 
The survey results say:  
An increasing number of in-house counsel are reading daily general business media on their smartphones (53 percent), tablets (39 percent), or mobile apps (23 percent), which signals their growing consumption of media on the go."
My recommendation? Have a family member or friend not in the legal industry check out your website, profiles, and blog posts on their own phone and give you their unbiased feedback on how easy it is to access them, and the kind of information they might be looking for, but unable to find. Then, implement their suggestions immediately.
 
Wikipedia as a Professional Tool? 
 
One of the biggest surprises from the new media survey was that Wikipedia is increasingly regarded as a legitimate professional tool.  
The percentage of respondents who said they use Wikipedia to conduct company and industry research jumped from 51 percent in 2012 to 65 percent this year, which is one of the most significant changes in the most recent survey data."
 
While Wikipedia already was considered the top platform used for personal usage in our 2010 survey, it has emerged as an important professional tool. Just shy of half of respondents, almost 49 percent, said they had used Wikipedia in the past day or week for professional reasons, second only to LinkedIn." [emphasis added]
But before you go running to your marketing departments to get them to update the firm’s Wikipedia entry, the survey also revealed that: 
Few respondents (12 percent) are visiting the Wikipedia pages of current and prospective outside law firms. In order to reach in-house counsel through the increasingly popular site, a law firm should consider using Wikipedia to credential individual attorneys on various subject matters tied to their practices, and not focus solely on the firm’s Wikipedia profile."
Great advice, which dovetails nicely with my overall suggestion for making sure that social media is threaded throughout all the activities used to meet your business development goals.
 
Print Media – Still Strong
 
Another interesting result of the survey is that the readership for print media is still very high.  
Despite the number of print publications that are folding or struggling, more than half of in-house counsel continue to read daily print versions from their general business media, such as The Wall Street Journal and local business news. An even higher portion, 74 percent, read print legal industry trade publications weekly and monthly—a frequency that reflects the hard-copy publishing schedules of the legal industry trade press."
You might be surprised to see me include that in my discussion of the results of a social media survey, but I think this has additional impact within social media.  With in-house counsel still relying heavily on print media, there’s a huge opportunity for lawyers to get in front of the journalists who write for these publications through social media. 
 
Lawyers may not always be engaging directly with clients and potential clients on new media, but as I’ve said time and time again, they ARE getting in front of influencers and amplifiers…such as journalists.  Highlighting yourself as a resource for credible information on a substantive area of the law – not only by sharing your content, but also by sharing others’ content in the same sphere – will make you a go-to resource for the media.  This will subsequently lead you raising your profile within these print publications, which in-house counsel are reading. Once again, these tools can all work together to help you reach your ultimate goals in marketing and business development. 
 
Other Things to Note…
 
There are a few other results from the survey to note, but I don’t want to spend too much time on them: 
  • "The ‘serious’ social network is LinkedIn: I say this all the time to my attorneys and the survey backs it up – "LinkedIn is the most used professional social network, with 40 percent of respondents having used it in the past 24 hours and another 27 percent having used it in the past week. When using LinkedIn for professional reasons, most are using it for several reasons. Seventy percent use it to connect with in-house colleagues; 66 percent use it to connect with business and industry leaders; 61 percent use it to get news and information; and 60 percent use it to connect with outside counsel with whom they work."
     
  • Invisible users are growing: Last year, the survey revealed that in-house counsel are mostly consumers of information, and are not using them to engage, but they cautioned that firms shouldn’t assume their efforts aren’t valuable because they don’t receive a certain number of comments or shares – "The portion of respondents who actively post information to new media networks still is significantly lower than those who pull information from them. In fact, this ‘invisible user’ phenomenon, identified last year in this survey, is growing stronger. The percentage of respondents who used social media in listen-only mode rose from 68 in 2012 to 74 in 2013."
     
  • Legal aggregators are considered among the most credible sources: According to the survey results: "Traditional media remains the most credible news source, in the opinion of in-house counsel. After that, the sources that rank highest as ‘very credible’ are, in order, legal news aggregators such as JD Supra and Lexology, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and blogs. The sources that rank highest when ‘somewhat credible’ votes are included are LinkedIn, legal news aggregators, blogs and Wikipedia. Blogs and Wikipedia are rising in terms of credibility, rivaling more obviously trusted sources such as LinkedIn, which is considered the ‘serious’ social platform, and legal news aggregators, which pick up the most popular content." So even if you’re sharing your own content, you may gain credibility if you have it shared under the JD Supra or Lexology umbrellas. 
     
  • Opportunity with online video: Online video may be the next big thing, and with few law firms using it, there is a huge opportunity here.  The survey said that "A majority of respondents (55 percent) said they access law firm websites and YouTube channels to some degree to access substantive video content. Frequency is modest. Since few law firms provide content in this way, there may be an opportunity here for law firms that produce quality online video to stand out."
     
  • Blogs continue to be influential: The survey showed that once again, high quality and substantive blog content continues to be important to in-house counsel.  "Forty-six percent of respondents said they had used blogs in the previous day or week. Blog usage also grew slightly in the past year. Which blogs do in-house counsel frequent and value the most? The answer: law firm attorney-authored blogs (55 percent check ‘somewhat’ or ‘very often’) and media-branded blogs written by professional journalists (54 percent). In-house respondents indicate they are reading attorney-authored blogs as frequently as they read blogs authored by professional journalists, which indicates those blogs are increasingly considered credible sources of information and underscores the importance of and opportunity associated with high-quality blogs."

Greentarget, Zeughauser and Inside Counsel once again give us a lot of food for thought and help in refocusing our social media efforts with their latest survey. What struck you most about the results? Are your current efforts in line with what in-house counsel are emphasizing?

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.