By: Russell Lawson, Sands Anderson, P.C.
Science began as superstition. Sir Isaac Newton, in addition to being a pioneering thinker in physics and a founder of the Royal Academy of Science in England, was an alchemist. That’s right, the Newton who described those fundamental Laws was trying to make gold from lead.
It should come as no surprise that the science of social media, now achieving its full bloom in the legal and other professional industries, has a number of its assumptions based more in faith than fact. If we understand these, perhaps we can ensure that our firms’ participation will have a beneficial effect rather than dissipate in the ether of the internet.
Here are a few:
- Your firm is in control of its social conversations online.
Your firm may never commit a gross transgression that causes your content to be excised or adjusted. However, one law firm I know had its own blog posts used against it in an adversarial procedure in court attempting to prove malpractice and was forced to remove what was intended to be useful information to its client public. Do not be surprised if what your firm says or who you say it to becomes a legal weapon for the other side or an economic asset for the channel you’re on. Have a plan for addressing the loss of control, because it is real and immediate.
- In Likes, friends, followers, more is better.
The nature of social media on the internet is that it counts, but it might not matter per se. Ad Age’s Digital Issue this year (February 28) covers a Socialbakers report on fan numbers for top consumer brands, and some are VERY large. Reporter Simon Dumenco connects those numbers to promotional giveaways coupled with fan pages or Like recommendations, sort of like buying votes in an election. His point is that these numbers are “driven by old fashioned marketing concepts.”
The same piece points out that not everyone (and maybe many ones) who are following you, friending you, fanning you, may be disengaged emotionally or mortally, as in dead. He suggests logging into Untweeps.com, which allows you to see which of your followers has not been active on Twitter. If you are a law firm followed by law firms, it’s going to be a LOT of people. National Law Journal reported the week of July 15 that “78 percent of the nation’s top 100 law firms have at least one firm account, but few are active users.” I’m sure many readers are aware of the May and June conversations on LinkedIn.com about leaving Twitter started by Tracy Coenen’s post (“Why I’m quitting Twitter (and you should too)”), with her point being numbers do not necessarily translate into business, as they did not in her case.
So, even though these users/accounts may be disengaged (or non-existent), the connection is counted by the social utility. Clearly, then, it is most important to know who the connections are and decide how to keep them engaged. How many of us scrub our followers on Twitter by checking their Twitter pages regularly? This would be a useful discipline, along with other types of data hygiene.
- Your firm’s connections see you through a business lens.
Maybe not for long. ComScore’s ”2010 U. S. Digital Year in Review” charts steady and continuing growth in mobile markets, and found by December of last year “47 percent of mobile subscribers were connected mobile users (used browsers, accessed applications or downloaded content)” and smartphone owners grew from 16.8 of the market to 27%. The same report showed “younger segments of consumers…are increasingly shifting towards instant messaging, social media and mobile communications” for receiving messaging from businesses.
Mobile users do not restrict their use of data to business purposes. In fact, just the opposite. In a recent Harris Poll, 63% of Americans report they believe in “sneaking a peek” at their mobile phones during work meetings. Even worse is 74% of respondents believe people use their cell phones at work to do things they wouldn’t do on the company computer, such as finding another job or visiting a dating site.
And, amid this chaos of distraction, we’re supposed to make a business message impact? Clearly, if someone is using their mobile phone during a meeting or while watching TV to surf the ‘net, your link on their Facebook wall or post to Twitter will take on the color of the environment they are in, not the one you are broadcasting from. It seems the one big channel that does not suffer this erosion of context is LinkedIn. However, as the revenue stakes for the company are raised now that it is publicly traded, the disruptiveness of aggressive onsite advertising may degrade the utility of the interface.
- So what’s a marketer to believe in?
An American Express OPEN Forum study released this year says 44% of small to medium sized businesses (SMB) currently use social media, with 29% reporting that they plan to add it in 2011. ComScore’s 2010 report says “[b]usinesses that have no social media presence in 2011 are likely to be left behind; however, social media may not necessarily be worth significant investment for every company or brand.” An Ad Age/Ipsos Observer study assayed what consumers want from brands with online:
65% Discounts (coupons)
42% Better customer service
28% Games or other entertainment
22% Company news
Given this list, we should hope that we lead our law firms to use social media to hit the 42% sweet spot for better client service.