People Don’t Follow Law Firms, They Follow Lawyers

Can law firm-generated content can be effectively distributed simply by putting it on the firm’s website or pushing it out over the firm’s social media channels?

“No way”, says Kevin O’Keefe in his recent post, It takes an entire law firm using social media to distribute content. He uses the example of journalists and reporters, for whom personal social media participation in the workplace is no longer optional:

“The New York Times has found that those news publishers whose reporters and editors personally share news stories on social media generate significantly more traffic to their news stories than publishers relying on the brand and isolated staff using social media to distribute stories (New York Times Innovation 2014 Report).”

Kevin goes on to  say:

“On Twitter, individuals with unique interests who establish trust, person to person, are more effective in the distribution of news and info than companies and law firms. People who get to know a person are more apt to read items the person shares, it’s only natural. … To assure that your law firm’s thought leadership, news and information gets seen in the days ahead, you’ll need to get your lawyers and law firm leaders using social media. Not just the lawyers who are publishing content, but everyone.”

This topic caught my eye; I wrote about the topic a couple years ago in a Slaw post on how law firms fail at social media.  I want to re-post a large chunk of it here because I think it bears repeating:

Think about it for a moment: unless a law firm has a very narrow, niche practice, it’s virtually impossible for a firm Twitter feed to be engaging and relevant to all clients, who potentially have hundreds of areas of interest and concern. But who knows, on a much more accurate level, what clients would be interested in? Who is perfectly positioned to generate a stream of relevant, useful tweets? Individual lawyers, of course. As the old saying goes, people don’t hire law firms, they hire lawyers.

I see the firm Twitter feed as a pool of abundant, high-quality, yet controlled, vetted messages about the firm, from which individual lawyers may cherry pick, passing along only the best to their readers, interspersed with their own tweets.

Add to this, the fact that an essential aspect of social media is reciprocity and interaction, something that corporate Twitter accounts often neglect entirely. But individual lawyers are more apt to develop the types of social networking relationships that aren’t just one way, replying, retweeting, and passing along information and links from outside sources.

In summary, clearly, it’s not healthy for any firm to be unidirectional in their approach to social media; we do, however, need to see the bigger picture – firm accounts and lawyer accounts must be considered collectively, not as separate entities.

Two years later, social media is embedded more deeply than ever within firm marketing activities. Considering all the hard work lawyers and firms invest creating content, wouldn’t it be wise to make sure the distribution channels you employ are as well thought out as the content itself? Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

  • One of the most critical jobs of your firm branded social accounts is to act as “a beacon of news and content” for your lawyers. Pipe as much relevant information about your firm through this stream as possible, then let your lawyers decide what’s relevant to their online presence. The firm account is a fire-hose, and your lawyers are the filter.
  • Your firm branded Twitter account should have a ‘twitter list’ aggregating ALL of your member accounts and content streams. Every firm lawyer should subscribe to that list and review it as part of their online activities.
  • Lawyers can automate the announcement of new articles to social tools, but that should be a tiny portion of their overall engagement.
  • Relationships drive healthy content distribution. Simply put: Engage with your peers, or don’t bother with social as a potential channel for your practice.
  • Lawyer to lawyer discussions between firm members are healthy. So are exchanges with industry colleagues. If you don’t know what you’re going to talk about, it’s time to give your firm’s narrative some off-line consideration.
  • You can have intelligent conversations about the law without giving legal advice. Add a disclaimer on your profile, or say it outright mid-conversation; but don’t stop your lawyers from having opinions about their chosen industry or area of expertise.

As we look over the Clawbies nominations coming in this year, there seems to be a real interest in the micro-blogging aspect of Twitter. Some lawyers do it well, while others fail miserably. The takeaway is that a carefully crafted stream of tweets can become an incredibly valuable component (or pairing) to a lawyer’s blogging and publishing activity. But the trick is two-fold: feed the machine with quality resources, while never taking one’s eye off the relationships behind the audience reading.

Comments

  1. I mostly agree. I might slightly modify people don’t follow boring, commercial, useless law firms. Then again, the same could be said for the actual lawyers too. Building a law firm “brand” presents many more challenges than creating, nurturing and solidifying relationships “as a person.” But there are exceptions. I usually point to @scotusblog (https://twitter.com/scotusblog) as a great example.

    @ 10:41 am
  2. Gyi, I think you’re right when it comes to interesting twitter feeds, though Scotusblog is probably a poor example. It’s not a firm branded account & focuses on a niche audience and topic. Creating this type of Twitter presence has a proven track record in my view, and is something I tried to endorse within the post text above.

    @ 10:50 am
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