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We've come a long way, baby! Three years ago, when I founded my company Law Gravity, I talked to a lot of law firms about their "plans" for using social media. Their response: "What plans?"
There were firms that had a blog or two, but few looked beyond into opportunities presented by other social media such as social networking, social buzz, bookmarking sites, podcasting, or multi-media sharing sites and services like You Tube and Slide Share. Why? "Too much risk." In fact, many law firms chose to block social media sites on their corporate network.
Fast forward to 2011, and social media is taking on a life of its own with or without the risk averse. Lawyers and law firm employees are doing more than just talking about it these days-many have moved beyond setting up accounts; they're successfully engaging. Business development and marketing coaches, consultants, public relations, and branding agencies that serve the legal industry have all added social media capabilities to their offerings, leaving one to conclude it's not going away...
So, what's next?
Generally speaking, social media for business development requires a lot of one-to-one engagement and tends toward random and serendipitous opportunity. For busy attorneys this becomes a time management challenge (as marketing one's practice has always been). On the other hand, the law firm entity is challenged to benefit from such activity when it is one-off or worse, misdirected. Social media needs integration and management.
Tracking who's signed up for what networks, who's blogging, or how many visitors, friends or fans a page has is not integration. Having a social media policy is not a surrogate for meaningful management.
Progressive law firms, sooner rather than later, will begin to see and understand that effective integration of social media will require a managed business process. Why? Because social media is about a fundamental shift in behavior and it is impacting many facets of both our personal and professional lives - can it get more important than that? It is impacting the way we go to market, make decisions, and communicate with distant clients, friends and colleagues. The usefulness of the Internet will only increase as the semantic web (3.0) gains traction. The time is NOW for law firms to start developing a managed business process to build social media into the fabric of business plans and all communications (both external and internal), just as was required with email and other disruptive technologies in recent decades.
I intend to be on the cutting edge of that answer.
Read the rest of this post on the Virtual Marketing Officer Blog.