LexisNexis today announced results from its latest study on law firm engagement in social media methods. The report Global Social Media Check-up: A global audit of law firm engagement in social media methods reveals that whilst social media has changed the way that millions of people communicate in their personal lives and that many international B2B law firms have registered their presence on the networks, the legal profession overall has a reticent approach to social media engagement. The survey of 110 law firms around the world showed that LinkedIn was by far the most popular social media platform for law firms to participate in, followed by Twitter and Facebook.
 
Adoption by platform
Aside from the sector-specific channels, LinkedIn emerged as the channel with the highest penetration among legal professionals, with 85 of the 110 firms audited using the network.  However, despite the 77% penetration LinkedIn has, a significant proportion of those firms have simply registered a Company Page, rather than using the network to engage with other users and fully utilise the channel for client development, recruitment or reputation management opportunities. The audit also revealed a medium degree of registered profiles on social media networks that are not being actively used. This mirrors the early dotcom years, whereby companies registered their website domain to prevent brand jacking – unauthorised registration or use of their branding online by other parties until they were ready to use it.
 
Derek Benton, director of International Operations at LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell commented “Registering a profile is a step in the right direction but not doing anything with it is like renting a shop on the high street and never opening the doors. (Nice metaphor …CC) Moving from registration to broadcast and on to conversation are the steps of social media engagement – and law, just like any other sector can, and I believe, will engage for the benefit of business development. The most evolved social media strategy is one that provides an open line of communication between parties, but that unfortunately is a long way off for the majority of law firms today.”
 
Adoption by region
Worldwide, North America is leading the way among law firms for social media engagement, with the highest registration of social media profiles and overall engagement. Western Europe is also fairing well, although usage and depth of engagement across the continent varies greatly with UK and Amsterdam-based firms having high levels of social media usage in contrast to the lower usage in Zurich, Paris and Moscow and no usage in Istanbul.
 
In Africa, Johannesburg-based law firms tended towards a more proactive approach to social media than other firms in the region, with many of them being visible on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This contrasts with those surveyed in Dubai and Lagos, where LinkedIn was the only channel where the firms audited had a notable presence. In reflecting the prevalence of traditional marketing methods, Latin American firms tended towards profile registration on various networks, with a much less notable programme of active engagement.
 
The report also found that social media usage among law firms in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, with the exception of English-speaking Sydney, is very low. The Sydney firms surveyed appeared on both LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as being open to using Facebook, blogging and integrating their social media platforms into their websites. Although both of these regions showed very limited use of the main English-language social media networks as a business channel, this may be in part explained by usage of local language social networks, such as Orkut in the Middle East, QQ in China and Mixi in Japan. Furthermore, non-access to networks, such as Facebook in Shanghai, prevents widespread adoption.
 
Ongoing engagement
Benton adds “Social networking was once thought to be just for socialising – for sharing your social life with your friends and for making new ones – but it has gone far beyond that. With some notable exceptions, now is the time for law firms to adapt their business models and experiment with social media as part of their client acquisition and retention programmes, or risk being left behind.
 
“The audit also notes the dangers of half-hearted engagement in social media by law firms.  The transparency of social media is one of its strengths, but also one of its downsides for those law firms who merely ‘dabble’ and fail to update their content regularly. Followers tend to be quite ruthless about seeking out sources of the freshest and most interesting content. As such, law firms who do not maintain their social media presence run the risk of losing their followers to those firms who do.”
 
To obtain a free copy of the summary or full report visit www.martindale-hubbell.co.uk/socialmedia. Additional resources available for download include an infographic, video clips discussing the audit and a white paper about social media usage by law firms.