It's all about social at the moment!

Social media it would seem has still got a long course to run. This was evidenced by two posts I read this week, which relate specifically to how law firms and fee-earners can use social media.

The first is from the Real Lawyers have blogs blog and sets out "Five tips for law firms using social media" this is actually a response to "Five tips for corporate social media" with some annotation from Kevin. So the first tip is around Engagement and how law firms can no longer just rely on press releases and publications to represent their brand. Increasingly a law firms image is reliant on the thoughts and conversations fee-eaners have either on blogs or on Twitter. Engaging with these audiences is a key way to build a brand.

The second tip is about Asking the questions you want answered. As Kevin points out in his blog "The conversation between companies and customers can be extremely valuable for both parties. Use social media to learn what your stakeholders expect from you as well as gain new ideas and feedback regarding the legal and business issues that concern them" Social media tools include blogs and Twitter can also be useful in providing feedback online, demonstrating that a law firm cares about the work they do and that they are in touch with what is happening in particular industries. The next tip Kevin looks at is Listening. Kevin puts listening as his number one tip when managing social media and I tend to agree. It's all very well being on Twitter and blogs, but there are so many avenues for individuals to publish online that you need to be listening as much as you can. This means having RSS feeds and searches setup and using Twitter and LinkedIn to see what people are saying. Ultimately listening will help improve a service a law firm is providing. 

The next tip is around Responding this is especially important in the context of social media tools like Twitter as individuals expect accounts to be monitored. As a result responses to questions and concerns should be replied to quickly. This will include any requests to connect on LinkedIn, friend requests on Facebook and deciding whether you want to follow someone back on Twitter. The last tip is about being Authentic. There are two aspects to this, the first is about being genuine and fully transparent. The second is potentially more difficult and is about being personable and sharing who is behind the Tweeting and blog posting, rather then just using these tools as a means to push out Press Releases.

The next blog post I read, which I thought was well worth reporting on was on the Law Firm Web Strategy Blog. In the post called "Lawyers and social searching" Steve Matthews looks at the potential impact of the upcoming battle between Facebook and Google in relation to search. Steve begins by outlining his definition of social searching, if you're unclear about social searching, then this a very good place to start. Before looking at some of the challenges both Google and Facebook will face when it comes to encouraging their respective users to use their search tool. As Steve says, "the challenges pretty much add up to a race between “Adding social to your search” versus “adding search to your social"

The big question for law firms is whether social influence and social search means a better product for those individuals marketing legal services. Steve has two very valid concerns when it comes to social search and legal services. (1) What are people searching for (2) The demographics of the people being asked the questions. What are people searching for is a concern, because individuals are unlikely to search on Facebook for great divorce lawyers or great insolvency specialists. This could well be embarassing. The second bigger issue for Steve is around demographics and specifically "Do users actually value the opinion of their network?" In this respect LinkedIn and Google+ would appear to be the big winners as users aren't centred around specific demographics, whereas Facebook users can be.

So two very interesting blog posts on how law firms should be using social media tools and the potential impact of social search on the marketing of law firm services. I would encourage anyone working in law firms to read these posts if they get the chance.