In a December 23, 2011 Wall Street Journal article on the use of social media by attorneys, law firms and lawyers took it on the chin. In the first few sentences, they were dubbed “geezers” “risk-averse” and “hidebound”. That was before paragraph two.
The WSJ took their cue from a National Law Journal article by my co-author Adrian Dayton, but Adrian’s far from the only commentator knocking how law firms don’t “interact” on social media and how they are subsequently “missing out” on the promise of social media.
As the New York Times noted in an article this Sunday, “[Twitter] is a meritocracy; if you’re interesting, you get followed.”
Given the drubbing they get about it, I wonder if law firm brands blast out only self-serving messages because they don’t understand how to do anything else.
What really constitutes being both “interesting” and “professional” on Twitter, in LinkedIn Posts or in Facebook Updates?
First, people tweet, not brands. In the best of all possible worlds, the person who tweets for your firm is a high-level attorney authorized to speak for the firm, reasonably talented in business development, and aware of the huge potential of social media.
Law firm leaders can tweet for their firms. People who do social media do not need to be in their twenties. It is not new fangled. It is the written word, distilled and brief, capable of conveying personality, emotion, intellectual rigor and critical information. The mechanics are simple, so technical facility is not an excuse.
If your firm tweeter can’t be an attorney, at least let your tweeter have a name. If need be, the avatar will be the firm logo, but the description can say “I’m John Smith tweeting on behalf of Begly, Jones and Snyder, a Philadelphia-based insurance and financial services law firm.”
Then John must be given the latitude to behave like a human, not like a fax machine spewing out news releases. Obviously, John is someone who you trust to speak for the firm in one of the most public forums available to human beings ever (social media).
Second, ‘giving’ more than you seek to ‘get’ is the essence of success in all human relationships and in social media. The formula I use when training attorneys is that 30% of their posts can draw attention to their own or their firm’s accomplishments, and 70% should be providing value and interaction to their followers without direct benefit to themselves or the firm.
To reiterate: only 30% of the tweets that you put out from your law firm twitter account should contain firm announcements or links to your attorney’s stuff or invitations to your firm events. The other 70% consist of:
1. Retweets of interesting, relevant legal industry articles that have been posted by those you follow. (This means that you have to make an effort to follow interesting legal industry commentators.)
2. Responses to people you follow who say interesting or provocative things. For a social media presence, your response to this cannot be “we are a law firm and can’t speak to people.”
3. Tweeting out links to articles that you think are interesting (not written by your own firm) along with some insight or commentary that would interest your followers.
4. Conversations with someone that you know or someone you’d like to know because they are interesting on Twitter. Use the @ reply and speak to them. They will speak back – you have a conversation.
There are lawyers and law firms who do Twitter and social media well, including @MarkWasserman1, the managing partner of Sutherland who tweets for himself as the firm’s leader.
Do you know of any law firms who do a good job interacting on social media? If so, please share in comments; I want to follow them!