Rather than run through my whole presentation, you may be pleased that I'm planning to summarise my thoughts here.
The first thing to consider is why anyone should be concerned about the use of social media. We will all know lawyers who tell us that they are currently busier than ever and think that social media is a fad. These might be the same people who agreed with a famous study in the 80s which concluded that there was no mass market for the mobile phone...
So why bother? Well how about:
- 36.9 million UK internet users in May 2009
- Of whom, 29.4 million visited at least one social networking site
- 90% of 25-34 year olds use social media - use not just visit
- 3,226 % increase in use of Twitter in UK between May 2008 and May 2009
It's the third point above that is the reason that every law firm needs to sit up and take notice. This 25-34 year old group will be starting businesses, becoming managers, engaging in M&A activity, buying commercial and residential property, getting married and getting divorced - and, statistically, engaging in criminal and fraudulent activities. They use the web - use soicial networking - and will expect law firms to do the same. They do not believe conventional advertising - they have grown up with it and have learnt to ignore most of it and to despise a great deal of it. Over the next 2 to 5 to 10 years, these are the people who will be our clients.
So - what now. Well you can't engage with every form of social media out there so have a look around at what is available. For business, one of the best is LinkedIn (currently with 50 million users). Registration is free, so it is easy to step in and have a look around. Engage with the groups - that is one of the most powerful aspects of the site. Read before you write - by which I mean spend some time looking at the site and at the way that people communicate on it. That way you can learn the conventions before your start to say anything - and possibly avoid the embarrassing "dad dancing" syndrome of using inappropriate language.
There are some rules, however:
- Trust your users. You don't have time to censor what is said so - just as you do with any other client interaction - trust your people to communicate
- Use a personal voice. Clients deal with people and not firms - so have identified members of he firm writing blogs and Tweets.
- Read before you write - see above. Make sure that you are using the appropriate voice.
- Would you like this read out in court…? If you cannot answer "yes" to this, then don't press "send". This should not be a new rule - you should be saying exactly the same before sending an email.
- Listen to feedback and interaction - that's the whole point of new media
- Plan your engagement - don't let it take over your time. Regular is much better than frequent. So a weekly blog is better than ten blog entries one week and then nothing for a month. The same with Tweets - daily is good, twenty messages in a day quickly becomes a nuisance for your followers.
Many of these sites are currently free - although most are developing "premium services". Remember that you get what you pay for, and in this new media world, the technology is free while service is expensive - so many of these services have poor, or even no, individual customer service. Be aware of the hidden costs, too. Measure the time that you, or your staff, spend using these sites. Remember, as well, the cost of not getting involved (Carter-Ruck don't entirely seem to have got the hang of it yet...) or getting involved badly (as Habitat found to their cost).
It's a new world - step right in and get involved.