This is the latest post in a series on distributed publishing for lawyers and law firms. You can see the intro post here, and last week’s topic, blogging, here. Now, onto our next distributed publishing opportunity…
For more than a century, newspapers, radio and television have dominated public discourse, to the point that we collectively think of them as a colossal wave of content called “the media.” But that’s not accurate. Newspapers, radio and TV don’t create content — they distribute it. The word “media” actually signifies empty vehicles or containers used to carry something of substance.
Reporters create content; radio playwrights create content; sitcom producers create content; newsprint, radio waves and TV signals don’t. The “media” are simply the mechanisms by which this content is profitably sold and efficiently circulated to the end user (at virtually no charge, thanks to advertising).
Law firms need to understand Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter in the same way: they’re media – not content creators.
None of these gargantuan social networks creates one ounce of content (and neither does Google, by the way). They distribute other people’s content to their users, and they’re essentially in the same advertising-driven business model as newspapers and TV. The significant difference between “old” and “new” media is that in the latter case, the content’s consumers are often also the content producers.
In the context of this series on distributed publishing, I emphasize: social media are not a mode of distributed publishing, but better described as an “amplifier”.
Your firm might be quite good at creating content, but your firm, in all likelihood, is not very good at distributing content. Email lists that dominated over the last decade (2000′s), are now frequently considered an unsolicited method of distribution. There’s the issue of getting by spam filtering, and your dedicated subscribers who will often auto-delete or recycle, rather than unsubscribe. Now, it should be said: email lists can still be done very effectively, but in 2012 the short story is: they’re simply no longer your biggest driver of engagement.
Firms need better distribution for their content. Up until about ten years ago, you’d have had to try getting your lawyers’ articles or insights featured in newspapers and magazines. But those media have very narrow doors through which tons of legal content is trying to squeeze, and the entry costs are high. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try, but one of the best ways to get on journalists’ radar remains being a self-publisher, and using the relationship-driven distribution of social media tools.
With Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, successful distribution is determined by a much wider group, but better… because it’s a group that you know! Social media provides a range of extraordinarily powerful and accessible distribution tools that are driven by your relationships with other self-publishers. Want social network distribution success? Simple. Add relationships: in your community, friends, family, business and industry relationships, or the people whose commentary you read and respect. Be a distributor of your own content, but also for the people who mean something to you and your firm’s practice.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Networking to build relationships with those who will engage with you (and your content) is very different than increasing your “friend” count. Hundreds of millions of people collectively access content through social networks every day, but creating “engagement” — sharing, liking, commenting, RTs and plus-ones — requires both loyal relationships and compelling content. Each lawyer needs a network of reliable distribution supporters; every firm needs a team of marketing lawyers (or staff members) who bring something to the social networking table.
So this is the first thing lawyers need to understand: social media are not content producers, but they are tools for content distribution. Social media helps law firms by distributing their published content. Each firm’s blogs, newsletters, podcasts, videos, whatever, needs to be distributed into these vehicles, maximizing the firm’s collective relationships — both business and personal. And if your firm wants to “kick it up a notch”, get your networking boots on.
When you hear someone say that “lawyers ought to be using social media,” this is what they mean (or what they should mean, anyway).
Here’s a roundup of posts that will help you to maximize the effectiveness of your social media usage:
- Linkable content: the backbone of social media
- Being yourself on social media
- Politeness, please: etiquette for Facebook and LinkedIn connections
- Get past your rookie moves in social media
- How law firms #fail at social media
Next up in this series: microsites.