The very last session I went to before our wrap up at LMA14 was "Can the C-Suite Lead the Social Media Law Firm?" with presenters Deborah Grabein (@dgrabein) of Andrews Kurth and Michael Hertz (@michaelhertz) of White & Case and moderator Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe) of LexBlog.
The description of the session in the conference book reads:
While Fortune 500 executives are beginning to leverage social media, law firm executives are lagging."
Two C-Level decision makers (not practicing lawyers) in Am Law 200 firms made the decision in the fall of 2013 to start using social media, personally . They wished to experience how their use of social media could help change the perceptions of their brand, better equip them to lead their marketing and business development teams, and help them guide individual lawyers in their use of social."
With five months of strategic consulting and coaching, these executives became active content creators and social media contributors on blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+."
Learn about the personal and firm wide challenges and rewards these law firm executives experienced, and will continue to experience in their personal use of social media."
There are some great key takeaways that I want to share from this session (along with my thoughts), so rather than do one of my typical blow-by-blow recaps, we’ll just look at the salient points.
Be the Author of Your Own Content
LexBlog believes that you should be the author of your own content – and I totally agree with that. Social media, at it’s core, is about building relationships. So you should be the one building them. These relationships can be built and nurtured online, but they must also be taken offline.
How can you build relationships through social media? Some tips include, but are not limited to:
- Share content from your client’s blog.
- Share others’ content – by sharing content, you become a thought leader.
- Share client successes (as well as firm successes).
People will tweet about the things that they care about, and that’s where you connect with people (just like building relationships face to face). And share more than just your work with people – one of the questions that came up during the panel was about the line between professional and personal on social media.
I say, and the panelists and many audience members agreed, that there is a lot of personal information that you can share without oversharing – your interest in sports, the volunteer activities that you do, the involvement you have with your children and their activities, etc. These are all areas that you can use to connect with others on social media that will help to enrich those relationships that you’re starting and nurturing.
Do as I Do, Not Just as I Say
One of the great comments to come out of the session is that unless you’re engaging with the technology, you won’t be able to put together the strategy. How can you advise your attorneys on how to use social media, and direct the firm’s use of social media, if you don’t use and understand it yourself?
As a CMO in a law firm, you’re responsible for knowing what’s going on in social media, and you cannot adequately advise your partners about it if you’re not using it yourself. The "do as I say, not as I do," mantra is not going to be effective here – you must be regularly demonstrating that you both understand the technology and use it successfully if you want to advise your attorneys on how to use it.
Social Media for Research
The panelists recommended that at the minimum, you use social media as a research tool. You can use LinkedIn to see both what your clients are doing, and what your competition is doing.
If you do nothing else, get on board with being educated by listening on social media [as marketers]" — Kevin McKeown (@kevinmckeown)
This isn’t just limited to LinkedIn, though LinkedIn is an excellent source of professional information. And it goes just beyond the typical "let’s look up our clients."
- When your attorneys have a meeting with a prospect, sit down with them and look through their LinkedIn profile (and other social media profiles). This can tell the attorney what the prospect might be interested in outside of the matter at hand, and what they may connect over. It tells them how long they’ve been with the company, and what specialties they might have. It can help build out the profile you have for the company itself – also look the company page.
Additionally, you can take a look at the mutual connections the attorney may have with this person – do they know some of the same people? If they know someone on LinkedIn well who is connected with the prospect, have them call him or her up to get additional information on this person, so they’ll know how best to enter the meeting.
- When one of your attorneys is looking to build out their practice with a certain type of client, have them make a wish list of the clients they would love to have. Go through their LinkedIn profile with them to see where there might be crossover with their existing connections – do they know some of the same people?
This is again where the attorney has to take it offline. Call up the mutual connection and find out how well the person knows the prospect, and what they suggest for how to contact them. Should it be an introduction? Should the mutual connection arrange a lunch for the three of you? Etc.
- Subscribe to all client and competitors’ LinkedIn pages to stay regularly up-to-date on the news and articles that they’re sharing. Have your attorneys pay close attention to what their clients are posting – do they see something that raises a red flag, which they might want to call their client about? Something that might lead to a complication down the road that your attorney can help to avoid? A success that the firm can share through their own social media channels, and have the relationship partner call up the client about, to show that the firm cares about and is invested in the client’s business?
Don’t be Invisible
Another of my favorite quotes from the session was:
If you’re not gaining a reputation on social media, you’re invisible and losing influence"
We’ve talked about this here before – I’ve long heard the argument that "no one is going to connect to me on social media and offer me business."
And yes, the likelihood is that they won’t. However, what they will do is to get a referral from someone they know, like and trust, and then as they’re doing their due diligence, they’ll google you.
What if nothing comes up except for your firm bio?
You might be the best lawyer in your practice area, but if nothing except your bio comes up, the potential client will wonder how good you really are. If, instead, they see your bio, along with your LinkedIn profile that shows you have mutual connections within the industry, shares some recommendations and successes (where ethically appropriate), reflects your years of experience, and they see a twitter feed that shows you’re a curator of information in that practice area, giving them the idea that you’re on the cusp of the latest news in the field, and they see a blog where you’re engaging with the leaders in the field (through interviews, guest posts, and comments), and writing intelligently on the issues that they care about – who do you think they’ll hire?
They’ll hire the lawyer with the evidence that shows an intelligent, thoughtful, up-to-speed advocate for their business.
Even if you ARE that lawyer – if you’re not showing it online, you’re invisible. Because your competitors ARE. And busy clients won’t do the work to find out whether you’re just as good if they’ve already found an attorney who shows themselves to be.
The key to success in using social media? Finding and fostering passion.
Marketers who want their managing partner and attorneys to use social media need to identify what that attorney is passionate about, and then help them to develop their communication strategy around that.
So ask your attorneys – what is it that interests you? That’s what they should blog about, tweet about, share on LinkedIn, etc. Without passion for their subject, they’ll get bored with social media and stop using it.
How else can you inspire passion in your attorneys? Get a list of their top 30 clients on social media, and put the revenue numbers next to their names. That is great motivation for them to use social as well.
Social media is here, and our clients are using it – so our lawyers should be too. A huge thanks to Kevin, Deborah and Michael for a thought-provoking panel.