When analysing which business sectors are active in social media, it is clear that law firms and individual solicitors have yet to embrace the social media revolution.
A recent survey shows that only 30% of those in the legal services sector think that social media should be an important part of their firm's marketing strategy.
I find this figure astounding. With so much focus and conversation in the past few years telling businesses that social media is the way forward, it is anomalous that the legal services sector should be so far behind the trend. This leaves the question, is it a matter of attitude or is social media really not suitable for the sector after all?
In 2011, the numbers in the legal services sector engaging in social media were exceptionally low - only 7% of law firms and 6% of individual lawyers were on Twitter.
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The case is similar for Facebook: only 22% of individual lawyers have a Facebook presence and the number of firms in the UK with a Facebook page is infinitesimally small.
These figures are exceptionally low when compared to the number of businesses in other sectors that are active and engage on these platforms.
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The figures for LinkedIn are more promising and fit with the perception of it being a more professional social networking site: 37% of law firms and 62% of individual lawyers have a presence on LinkedIn.
So why is the sector approaching social media with such trepidation?
Clearly, many still feel that social media isn't a platform through which they should engage. Perhaps lawyers view Facebook as merely a social platform for friends or see tweeting as an extra strain on their time and not a rewarding task in terms of business revenue.
Whether it be due to a perception of unprofessionalism, an unwillingness to invest the time or just a general lack of understanding, the majority view is to abstain.
But are they right? Let's look at some of the arguments.
A recent report from Monetate showed that social media is significantly less effective than email and search in creating direct sales.
...But hang on, before you say 'I told you so'.
People tend to be on social media sites to research or socialise rather than shop, which creates passive action rather than positive action. Social media has it's greatest impact early on in the purchase process when people are discovering and determining their requirements and browsing their options.
Your law firm may have built a recognised and successful local brand through traditional marketing techniques, accessing its target audience through face-to-face networking and other campaigns, but how well does your brand translate online?
Not important? Just think how many people use tablets and smartphones to find the services they need.
A neat, up to date website is now only the surface of online branding. To use the internet to its full advantage, to create leads and find prospects, social media has to be used to distribute news, opinions and knowledge to a broad audience of users that is looking for legal services now or in the future.
The main aim of social media for business is to invite others to engage with you. If others can find you online through a social network, they can get to know and trust your firm through what they read in your content and hear from their peers. Ultimately, they might converse directly with you and make contact.
By expanding into the world of online networking and engaging regularly, you will quickly gain a growing audience of contacts, connections and potential clients.
Not having a social media presence sends a powerful message; it places you in a sector of the market that is traditional and dated, not able or willing to keep up with how clients and prospects consume their news and make their purchasing decisions in today's 24/7 environment.
Is that where you want to be?
Not only does social media give an online presence, brand and personality, it opens the door to a whole new audience that is ready and willing to engage with a contemporary law firm which is clearly open for business.
In an infinitely connected and complex world where customers engage with different media and content over a period of time, many factors affect lead generation and conversion. An holistic marketing approach needs to recognise this and use all of the tools at its disposal. The fact that your last lead came from 'your website' or 'a client referral' means that this was only the last step in their journey - it doesn't reveal the research process that the prospect took before contacting you nor the number of other opportunities that went elsewhere.
So put in the time, develop a strategy and reap the rewards of social media engagement.
by Jason Dilworth, 5 minute read
by Neal Dyer, 89 minute read