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Curmudgeon's Perspective

Anti-Social Media

By Otto Sorts

Maybe as I get older I have less patience for things that seem wasteful or meaningless, or maybe I’m just getting crankier. I suspect people who work with me would choose the latter, but I have made strides over the past few years in learning new technologies and adapting to changes in processes or resources.

I can now look up most materials I need online, I can email (auto-fill is a lifesaver), I can answer my cellphone and even text — occasionally, and very slowly! I’ve even used social media.

So, when one of our marketing people asked me to update my professional profile for the firm’s social media, I wasn’t too daunted by the process. But I asked what the purpose was. What does social media do for us?

“Because Everyone Else Does” Isn’t Justification

Thus ensued a long discussion about what social media is, how it works, what it does and why it is important. We looked at our and other firms’ information on websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

I didn’t get it. I recognize that our website is an extension of Martindale, our business cards and firm brochures. But I have trouble believing the clients we want are going to hire us because we are cute on YouTube. (Frankly, most of my partners aren’t that cute anywhere.)

Maybe there are some law practices where social media is important. Yet lots of firms still focus elsewhere. Firms do advertise on TV, for example, though mostly for personal injury representation. Our firm supports various charities and public service activities that have a potential marketing side-benefit. However, we spend some focused time every year choosing which organizations or activities we will support and the level of commitment. It’s part of our business development planning process.

But now we have these new “cutting-edge technologies” that people want to bring into the firm to show how tech-savvy and modern we are. It’s like having the newest smartphone or tablet just to be more cool than everyone else. (Back to high school, anyone?)

Well, I think I got us focused on looking at social media in a deliberate way. What I proposed involves considering four sets of questions.

1. What do we want to do? Okay, we want prospective clients to be able to find us when they need us. So, we and they need to know who we are, what we do and who our clients might be. What is the universe, or portion thereof, that we want to own? How can we best use social media to accomplish that, if at all?

2. What do we want to happen? Do we want to pull in more clients? Different (better paying?) clients? Get more repeat clients? Impress other attorneys with our magnificence? Show off our legal acumen to the marketplace?

3. What tool is best suited for the job? So, we have defined a purpose and something we want to happen. How is our target audience best addressed? If we were advertising, we’d look at the media our audience uses, we’d craft a message suitable for that media, and we’d place it at times our audience is present. We currently do most of our business development face to face. Do we supplant that with other tools? Should I start a blog? Should we have a firm page on Facebook and highlight different cases or practices or people? Who looks at those sites, and do they select their attorneys that way?

4. What resources are required? We’ve had this discussion before about the firm’s website, and committed to some updating and some management. Still, our website gets pretty stale; in social media, isn’t current posting needed to be credible? So, how do we keep it fresh? What kind of information can be put on social media, and can anyone in the firm post it? What are the rules and process to be used, and who’s going to do it? Do we need to assign staff to work on it?

It seems answering these questions can provide basic information and guidance as part of a business development plan. If the answers demonstrate a mechanism that advances our goals, then great, we should use it. However, if we get muddled responses that sound like “because others are doing it,” then we fall into the old “if they all jumped off a cliff” mentality.

So, I’m proposing a step-wise approach to social media. We’ll try to figure it out, hopefully before the technology changes again. Meanwhile, I suspect most people in the firm already have an account on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. I just hope that what they have put out there is appropriate.

I suppose I should take down my photo from the wet T-shirt contest in Cancun — even though it was a firm T-shirt. What do you think?

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Otto Sorts Otto Sorts

Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs at Attorney at Work.

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