How Law Firm Marketing Teams are Working the Social Web: Another #MPF Recap

“What blogs do you read?”

That’s what CMO Melanie Green of Baker Daniels in Indianapolis, Indiana (Go Colts!) asks an attorney before approving their request to blog. Melanie was  a panelist on the break out session, “Success on the Social Web,” at the 17th Annual Marketing Partner Forum, Hildebrandt Institute and West EdCenter.

“If you are not reading blogs how do you know if you’ll like the environment? Find some blogs you like to read and come back to us.” Melanie Green

Not a criticism, just an observation, other than that clever, tactical idea; the Success on the Social Web  breakout panel was surprisingly “101;” a lot of focus on blogs and push delivery. Lacking was any discussion about using enterprise social web tools or Google Wave for client team collaboration. No one was talking about integrating mobile applications, yet. …Though this year I predict everyone will be.  The panelists didn’t report that social web interactivity was taking hold.  And, there were no examples of firms implementing cross-platform strategies—except to promote blog content on Twitter or LinkedIn. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how Arnold Porter is using social tools satisfy their client’s appetites for multiple access points.)

The VMO often covers the social web from a more forward-looking perspective, but there were a few bits of information, graciously shared by the in-house marketing panelists, which readers may find beneficial.

  • Law firms are using Facebook fan pages and Twitter to push out news releases, announcements and seminars.
  • Involvement in LinkedIn is lawyer driven. Participation varies across the board. Most firms do have a firm profile. (Whether it differs from their website “About” page, I’m not sure. I’ll have to check that out. Missed opportunity if it’s the same.)
  • Hubbard One shared numbers from a recent survey that showed 35 percent of the top 20 U.S. law firms are blogging.  And……
  • The panelists confirmed the popularity of blogging. They all claimed to have a blog, sometimes several, in their marketing mix.
  • In one example, a panelist described their blog as an extension of their PR campaign and replaced the firm newsletter. (Hmm…they didn’t take audience questions, but I was curious to know if the bloggers interacted with their readers or if it was truly just another method of pushing out newsletter content. Again, not a criticism, just wondering when corporate law firm bloggers are going to start leveraging the power of social to full extent. Why are they hands off? Share your thoughts….)
  • That panelist also claimed to have tracked “client generation” from their blog.(Great!) Her firm now has six practice specific blogs and adds six new posts everyday. They now claim 1000 subscribers in total. (That’s cool. Statistics are always useful.)
  • Another said that promoting seminars on the social web via twitter or blogging was delivering an entirely new audience. (Very nice.)
  • Using hash tags on subject and keywords in Twitter posts significantly increased their exposure and brought in over “400 subscribers.”
  • All agreed that when it came to interaction on the social web, the skill sets, or interest, was not yet in place.  (Perhaps they’re all still too risk averse?)
  • The panelists like the social web’s inexpensive cost of entry. Most are do-it-yourselfers, committing some of their time or their staff-time to learn the tools.
  • Significant challenge lies in training lawyers to integrate the social web into their daily activities. (Sounds familiar. We’re all time challenged. That’s why marketing success comes from “do what pleases you.”)

Overall, it seemed that, at least, “we” all now agree that the social web is not a fad and it’s here to stay. (That’s a relief!)

The Bottom Line

Bottom line for marketers: the social web offers new tools at a low-cost of entry and offers measures of progress via statistics to share with management. Further, social web activity places more of the burden on the individual lawyer-participant, freeing up time for marketers to work on strategy and look to the future for new opportunities.

DIY vs. Hired Help

Of interest to note, there was a healthy discussion among a few attendees after the session on the issue of DIY vs. outsourcing social web strategy. (Thanks Adrian Dayton for your insight!)  There are definitely legitimate arguments on both sides.

Having an outside agency or independent marketing consultant focused on social web tools, strategies and synergies, who lives and works in the trenches, who knows the legal industry, and knows how lawyers go to market, can take some of the details off the in-house marketer’s desk. In that regard, it is often worth having them around; especially if in-house marketers don’t have excess manpower.

I know how challenging it is to keep up with the evolving social tools. Sometimes it takes a while to connect the dots.  And, sometimes new tools can really make a difference.  Finding them among all the noise, taking time to test them and apply them to strategy can be a full-time occupation. I know. I read hundreds of pieces of content and look at new tools each week.  Of those hundred or so ideas, I am lucky to find a few usable pieces of information.  That’s a huge chunk of time for small return. But it’s my job. My clients benefit from my legal industry marketing expertise and my focus on what’s new and what’s on the horizon. Putting it all together is a task that often benefits from outside perspective.

Either way, in-house marketers must be familiar with the social web and conversant on its value to the overall marketing strategy of the firm or business development efforts of individual attorneys. The panel participants were certainly in that group. Thanks for your insights!

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