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What are the social media risks and opportunities for professional firms?

Victoria Tomlinson posted this on

What are the greatest risks from social media for law firms?  This was one of the topics I covered at a talk I was invited to give to the Professional Services Marketing Community in Dubai – as well as looking at the opportunities.

Delegates were in marketing and business development roles from many of the leading law firms in UAE and there were some interesting debates.  Here are some of the key points from the talk, with additional input from this extremely professional group.

1.       Where are law firms most at risk?

Some of the key risks highlighted were

–          Inexperienced trainees and young lawyers – not understanding that a prank can go viral, as in Domino’s Pizza (click on the video below);  unwittingly revealing insider information on Facebook in the evening;  not setting their privacy settings

–          Fans or the public putting a deal at risk – we had this with our client Brendan Guilfoyle of The P&A Partnership when he was trying to rescue a football club.  Click on the Huffington Post image below for the full story

–          Not spotting criticisms about your firm or a client online – if you are monitoring social media then you can spot, engage and defuse.  If you are not monitoring there is a high risk of criticism spiralling before you hear about it

The concerns the delegates had were:  disgruntled ex-employees; lack of privacy settings on Facebook; and managing online discussions in multiple language – how do you monitor these? 

One story was mentioned where a chief exec had been sacked but no-one had been told internally or externally.  Supposedly he was off sick.  Then someone spotted him on Facebook – clearly very well and having a good time.  A lesson for HR professionals to ensure social media is included in managing dismissals.

2.       How to create a social media policy for employees

For any business, you need to be clear about the framework for your policy – which for most will be to specify your culture (open vs closed), security issues and regulations.

We talked about the need for a steering group with some techy youngsters in this; a few high profile, chatty partners/fee-earners and also HR.  No one person can understand the breadth of social media use and this steering group can bring in left-field views and ideas!

We covered much of what is in our free tips on how to create a social media policy for employees.   There was quite a debate around the cross-over between work and personal life.  I think most agreed that if you mention your firm on any site, you have to abide by the firm’s rules, regardless of whether it is your personal Facebook account.

3.       Engagement online

I think it was a new idea for most people about using social media for really focused targeting – identifying people you would like as clients and then starting online conversations with them.

It’s a bit like networking.  So many people fret about what they are going to say at an event – when the trick is to be interested in others, ask questions and listen – and then see how you can help.

We translated this into online behaviours

–          Twitter – retweet, thank, take part, send snippets, recommend

–          Blogs – follow, comment, share

–          LinkedIn – like and share posts/updates; help on groups; congratulate on promotions; respond to requests

Our free ebook on social media for business has a chapter on how to be strategic with social media and has a few tips on how to set up measurable goals.

4.       Using LinkedIn strategically

I was expecting this to be what got the group the most excited – and while they were, I also had a sense they were still mulling a lot of the risks they hadn’t considered!

I had done some research on the group beforehand and predicted – correctly – that no-one had got a 100% complete profile.  The biggest sticking place is recommendations – lots have still to get any.  This is not surprising – it fits with the professional ethos not to be pushy with your clients and Dubai is an incredibly courteous country.  But look at how many people are on LinkedIn – most with completed profiles and this is critical to be found in searches, say if a business person is searching their network to find a lawyer.

The other point that raised a lot of questions was looking at the keywords for your business – so you are found on Google searches – and then incorporating these into everyone’s profiles.

And finally, perhaps most surprising was that no-one knew about or had used the Advanced Search button.  Some asked if this is on the upgrades – but it is on anyone’s profile, top right next to the people search box. 

Click on that and you can search by keywords, industry sector, geographical location and so on.

I asked what actions people were taking away from the session and these included:  looking at keywords; checking privacy settings; getting profiles 100% complete; induction for new lawyers/trainees; and creating social media policies.

Do you think we have covered the main risks for a law firm – and which of these do you see as the priorities for the marketing role?

Comments:

  1. Currently working with a solicitors, some useful thoughts here, and hadn’t seen the dominos video, how awful and stupid!

    It’s clear a policy and training is vital, thanks as always for a great insight!

    Jonny

  2. Thanks Jonny – have had great feedback since but I also learnt from the discussions.

    Yes, the Domino’s video is awful – but I am quite sure these employees had no concept what would happen to the prank that they played. i do think employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure they understand the risks and the impact – ie losing their jobs.

  3. Some great insights here Victoria. Thank you. In my experience, many CEOs and boards believe that if they do not engage with Social Media, then they are safe from any potential negative effects. The challenge I have is convincing people that ignoring blogging, Twitter, Linkedin,, Facebook etc is a not a strategy to protect businesses. Engagement and education remain the best way forward as you actively demonstrate.

  4. Absolutely agree Anne. A lot of businesses still block access to social media sites at work – as if employees aren’t using them on their phones. Naive. Ignoring it is far more of a risk.

    We have done a number of workshops for boards that have been extremely successful in helping them understand a proper business context – the difficulty, as you say, is getting them to understand enough to know they should make time to do this. It’s easier to dismiss social media as ridiculous and irrelevant.

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