Will law firms turn to social media in hard times?

Facebook launches a redesign tomorrow (today, depending on your time zone). From the preview it looks like they are setting the stage to make FB more useful for both personal and business relationships. This sets them up to reach a broader demographic and better targets for advertisers.facebook-logo

Cash-strapped companies ARE seeking new alternatives to traditional advertising to get their message out.

Forbes reported that those cash-strapped companies, marketers and PR professionals that want their money to go the distance are looking at social networks.

And its a perfect match. Social media sites continue to seek ways to monetize their content –making it more attractive to business chatter where they might sell sponsored conversations or contextual ads and advertisers are looking for new channels.

These moves are not out of desperation; We’ve got some interesting statistics to support them.

(Nielsen Online, Global Index from December 2007-December 2008)

  • Social networks are now the 4th most popular online activity ahead of personal email.
  • Social networks are visited by 67% of the global online population.
  • Time spent on social network and blogging sites is growing at 3x the overall Internet growth rate accounting for almost 10% of all time spent on the Internet.
  • In terms of sheer audience numbers the greatest growth for Facebook has come from people aged 35-49 years of age (+24.1 million).
  • Facebook has added almost twice as many 50-64 year olds visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under 18 year old visitors (+7.3 million).
  • Time spent on Facebook, the ninth most popular brand online, averages the highest time per person, three hours10 minutes, amongst the 75 most popular brands online.

Can social media adequately fill the gap we’re finding in law firm marketing budgets?  Can social media deliver value? Can law firm marketers’ have something to show for their trouble at the end of the year?

Social networks are a communication channel just like TV, newspapers, radio, email, and the telephone. Therefore, social networks can be seen as just another medium for a company with an offering, product or service can use to deliver their messages. Only trouble is it’s not the same, it’s really quite different. We will need to think differently. How is it different? Well for one thing…..

Social media has brought back-to-the basics, word of mouth marketing to the fore as the ultimate form of advertising because, in addition to being expensive, traditional advertising is suffering from a major lack of trust. This creates interesting opportunity and significant challenge for law firms who traditionally feel more comfortable controlling the message. ON the flip side, social media is all about marketing with content. Law firms are better at that than they are with slogans and catchy tag lines.

It’s really different because it’s not static. For the most part, it’s not about delivering a message. Advertising on the social Web shouldn’t be about interrupting or invading the social network experience. It should be part of a greater conversation. It can be fun, informative, creative, educational, and inventive, but most of all it should be engaging. In order to be heard, it needs to come from a more authentic, candid and straight talking perspective than traditional advertising.

Maybe we should be asking will we and when will we? When we do, what will it look like? How will build strategy that supports ROI?

There’s some good stuff going on out there right now in the legal online conversation. It will evolve. How different will it look in another year? Where does law firm advertising fit it or not?

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