So Me marketplace

  • July 17, 2014
  • Jason Scott Alexander

When Ogilvy Renault embarked on the use of social media roughly three years ago, it was almost by chance. “Some of the lawyers were interested in using blogs for their specific area of expertise,” says Sameer Dhargalkar, director of business development with the 700-lawyer firm, from his Toronto office. Others experimented with their Facebook accounts, he recalls. “The strategy going in was to make sure that the use of social media aligned with our overall business objectives. Today we view social media as one of the components of our marketing and business development toolkit…integrated with what we do, not a standalone area.”

Although none of these activities are firm-branded, per se, their use is supported so long as the same consideration for professional conduct and ethics is used by the lawyers as they would in any other business development initiative. “We encourage them to develop and promote their individuality,” notes Dhargalkar. “I believe that if the firm mandated a strict ‘one-voice, one-look’ directive for social media, it would actually diminish the effectiveness of these tools and the enthusiasm for using them.”

The results ranged from satisfactory to excellent, including a few surprises. “Adoption of Twitter by the segment of the business community that has influence on the purchase of legal services is increasing rapidly,” notes Dhargalkar. Ogilvy Renault began tweeting in February 2009, primarily to communicate recent articles of interest, topical video podcasts, upcoming seminars, news and development and recent transactions the firm has been involved in. “It’s a low-cost, time effective channel that allows the lawyer to develop a two-way relationship with their audience that is both mass media and narrow cast all at the same time,” he says.

And in the last 12 months, lawyers at the firm have shown strong interest in wanting to better leverage their LinkedIn profiles for business development purposes.

Samantha Collier, Business Development Coordinator for the Vancouver branch of MBM Intellectual Property LLP, and a social media maven in her own right, admits that LinkedIn is a great first step for lawyers when joining the social media realm. “It’s an online profile which showcases your experience, education, upcoming events, PowerPoint presentations and anything else you choose to share via their many applications.” She recommends taking part in relevant practice area discussion groups on LinkedIn and answering questions, which will highlight your expert status.

Though, blogging is her top choice for law firm social media, “especially if you can carve out a niche that hasn’t already been covered,” says Collier. “Blogs solidify a lawyer’s reputation and are also a great way to engage with people interested in your practice area.” Done right, a blog can put a face and voice on your legal expertise, and act as the foundation for your entire professional presence on the social web. “Remember, people do business with people. Blogging does take time, and you need to be in it for the long haul.”

According to Kevin O’Keefe, CEO and Publisher at Seattle-based LexBlog, a popular social media network for lawyers, ROI can’t be measured quantitatively or on webstats, alone. “Doing that is a crutch for people who don’t understand how social media works,” he says. “Measure in extending one’s reach, increasing your influence and activating your audience. Being quoted by reporters, getting invited to speak, peer referrals or having clients ask you to do work for them are the kinds of returns you should be aiming for.”

Jason Scott Alexander is an Ottawa-based freelance writer specializing in frontier-media and technology law topics.