Social Media for Law Firms: Maybe the Geezers “Get It” Better Than the Magpies

Apparently Wall Street Journal legal affairs writer Jennifer Smith was in a hurry to start her Christmas vacation last week when she slapped together a couple of headlines from other publications and called it a legal marketing trend for 2012. The thesis for the post was based on the comments of a professional speaker who derives his livelihood from pushing social media for law firms, and that big trend for 2012 is — wait for it — social media.

The link-baiting headline  for Smith’s story tellingly framed the issue in terms of trending topics, not the soundness of the underlying premise: “2012: The Year Law Firms Ditch Geezer Image And Get Tweeting.”

The case for law firms and individual lawyers to engage in social media is compelling — but so is the case against it. So instead of representing some sort of woolly-headed risk aversion, the decision not to push foursquare into social media — particularly the briar patch called blogging — is just as likely to be a well-considered strategic decision based on a clear understanding of the firm’s capabilities, and of client needs, behaviors and expectations.

As with most endeavors, you’re usually better off not following a course of action that you don’t fully support than you are proceeding without conviction. In the age of social media ubiquity, untended and orphaned blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are more detrimental to your brand and marketing efforts than having none at all.

In a recent Social Media Today post headlined “Not Tweeting, and Not Feeling Guilty About It,” Liz Wainger noted:

“If enterprises don’t have the resources (time and energy) to engage on social media, or are unwilling to fully embrace social media, it is better to use other means to communicate until you do.  And for goodness sake, stop feeling guilty about it, and think positively about the ways you are engaging your stakeholders.”

So what are some telltale signs that shouldn’t (or aren’t ready to) launch or expand your social media activities — or that you should consider quitting:

  • Lack of an intuitive personal connection to the potential of social media – If you’re not “feeling it” even a little bit at the outset, you’re highly unlikely to work hard enough at it or be patient enough to give it a fighting chance of success. It’s not an acquired taste.
  • Lack of an intuitive connection to the potential of social media by your employees and peers – If you can’t accomplish what you need to without the participation of colleagues, you should not proceed if you have reservations about their buy-in and level of participation. You know that you’re in trouble when you’re told “All they need is some training.”
  • A pattern of starting and stopping – If it dawns on you that you’re going days at a time between tweets and weeks at a time between blog posts, it’s time to either recommit or cut your losses and shut it down.

It’s OK, really. Trust your gut and take on social media when it feels right. It’ll still be there.