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Social Media Is a Trend of a Different Sort

For firms, the social media trend is a paradox. Usually, as a technology develops, initial resistance and uncertainty will fade as public adoption increases, stable usage patterns emerge, and organizations learn how to utilize it effectively. For social media however, the usual pattern doesn't seem to apply. Despite wide public adoption and increased firm engagement, institutional ambivalence about social media as a business development tool seems only to grow.

On the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Jennifer Smith writes about the current state of social media activity among global firms. A new audit from Martindale-Hubbell confirms what Thomson Reuters Elite has observed in the last few years. Though interest in social media as a marketing platform has increased, concrete efforts remain limited. General cautiousness about firm liability or market perceptions has not subsided.

1) Social Media Is Here to Stay

77 percent of firms are actively using one or more social media networks, with LinkedIn as the most common choice. 35 percent are using Twitter, while 32 percent maintain a Facebook presence. Firms are realizing that shifts in public information consumption are too pervasive to ignore, affecting even the relatively narrow client bases of firms.

2) There Is No One Trend for Social Media

Effective social media strategies will vary significantly according to a firm's size, culture, level of engagement among firm members, and even by the predominant client industries. Apart from a few basic steps, there's no one recipe for social engagement that will fit all firms. A good social media strategy will be closely calibrated to the firm and its specific business development goals.

3) The Focus Is on Individuals

Most social media platforms favor engagement between individuals rather than organizations. For example, though several firms broadcast general messages via Twitter, some of the most interesting and, from a business development perspective, most effective communication happens between individual lawyers or smaller groups and their direct audiences. For the legal industry, this means less emphasis on maintaining a firm wide presence and more emphasis on providing guidance, oversight, and editorial support.

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