Photo: Salesforce

Photo: Salesforce

Although it feels like every business is tapping social media for marketing, new research released this week shows that companies are largely underutilizing social channels.  The study surveyed 300 business executives from a diverse range of industries to analyze the status of social media in the corporate world.  The findings show that law firms especially are missing the boat.

To explain why this might be the case, an article from UK marketing pub The Drum notes, “A lawyer’s training reinforces reticence, confidentiality and equivocation, all things that Twitter in particular cuts through and certainly does not encourage.”  This mentality may be why law firms are often hesitant to join the Twittersphere. However, when used thoughtfully and appropriately, social media can be a huge asset to a law firm.

I’m focusing on Twitter here because it may, for now, be the best social channel for law firms.  Twitter is the place for news and opinions, Facebook is where to find and share personal information and LinkedIn is most effective for career networking, but is still a more difficult venue on which to build visibility and establish thought leadership.  Laurel Papworth, named by Forbes as one of the 2012 Top 50 social media power influencers, agrees that Twitter is a better place for law firms. And she warns that law firms run the risk of creating “social-spam” if they over-post to Facebook.

Twitter often intimidates law firms because it is often an outlet for bold opinions or, even more troubling, risky disclosure. But there are infinitely more opportunities to post evenhanded content that doesn’t jeopardize the privacy and impartiality that are central to the legal world.  Here are a few Twitter best practices for law firms to keep in mind:

  • Tweet your firm’s news. Twitter is the ideal venue to make announcements about a new attorney you’ve brought on, certain services you provide, upcoming events you are sponsoring, or awards your practice or lawyers have earned.
  • However, don’t just tweet for your own benefit.  Offer insights or tips that are of use to your followers.  There’s nothing worse than a handle used only for self-promotion.  Share articles relevant to your practice area or broader current events that connect to cases you’ve worked on.  Posting recent news and trends shows your audience that you value staying up-to-date on what’s emerging in the legal world.
  • You can also take it one step further and directly engage with clients or the media via Twitter.  Offer advice or a link to a white paper if you notice a client posted a question.  A firm can capitalize on media opportunities by offering one of its attorneys as a future resource if the firm notices that a reporter is consistently tweeting about a subject in which the firm has expertise.
  • Lastly, make sure your firm is reaching the widest audience possible by having your attorneys link tweets from their personal handle back to the firm’s handle.  The blog The New Lawyer warns, “those firms that [make] no efforts to develop a social media presence [risk] being eclipsed by their own ‘savvy’ lawyers who exploited social media communities for their own, rather than their firms’ benefits.”  Encouraging your attorneys to include the firm in their tweets widens the reach your practice’s name has.

While Twitter can sometimes be a sounding board for the less than level-headed, law firms shouldn’t let that stop them from capitalizing on its reach.  After all, you control what you tweet and who you follow.

If that wasn’t enough to close this case (pun obviously intended), check out this list of 100 uses for social media for more ideas on how to best create and capitalize on a social presence.

Lucy Muscarella is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella