Takeaways from BDI Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms (Sponsored by Metro NY Chapter)

by Sander Coxe on May 18, 2013

Alexander Coxe

On Thursday May 9, 2013, a full complement of New York and other regional LMA chapter members filled the room – and the stage – at the CUNY Graduate Center for the inaugural Business Development Institute “Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms,” a comprehensive, robust and worthwhile compilation of data and insights about the legal market’s growing use of social media.

Apologies in advance for the necessary brevity that follows but there is just too much good material to cover here.

The overriding theme was three-pronged:

  • Certain pieces of the social media puzzle are useful, valuable and increasingly essential to professional services markets such as law
  • Firms and lawyers who do not embrace those relevant tools fail to do so at their own peril
  • The market is evolving so quickly that no one knows for sure what will happen next

The majority of the discussions and presentations focused on the use of blogs and the “Big 4” platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (as coined by our excellent Keynote Speaker Michael Hertz, CMO of White & Case). These platforms, as they pertain to legal services, are a safe place to:

  • Display the credentials of your firms and your lawyers
  • Generate good will and build trust
  • Position your lawyers as thought leaders in their areas of expertise
  • Maximize your firm’s SEO – (Google and the search engine universe is heavily weighting social media content in their algorithms which Google Plus will likely become a social network player simply because of its SEO scoring impact)

Beyond that, we are all on relatively uncharted ground, but it seemed from the live twitter feed, and the emphases of the excellent speaker and panel lineup, that B2B usage of social media platforms is NOT a place to be pitching anything.

  • Keep it simple, share interesting and valuable information, plant seeds for future relationships, develop best practices and stick to them, and engage with clients and prospects in a positive, pressure-free way
  • Everybody loves video – use the multi-media tools at your disposal
  • Michael said it perfectly though I may paraphrase here: “Rich media can be much more engaging than white papers.” Yes, indeed.

Greentarget founding partner John Corey walked the group through the 3rd installment of an excellent survey on attitudes and usage in the legal community he produces (with Inside Counsel and the Zeughauser group) regarding social media, which confirmed, among other things, that:

  • LinkedIn is the “serious” platform for the corporate world
  • Blogs are valuable “owned media” assets
  • Wikipedia is a non-promotional credential increasingly relied upon

Labaton Sucharow CMO Jennifer Bankston demonstrated the excellent work she and her firm are doing utilizing blogs and “microsites” to communicate with the social media world.

  • Identify your audience and the right place to tell your story
  • Use graphics and design elements to appeal to our visual nature
  • Get a lawyer collaborator, create buzz and don’t shy away from controversy
  • Slice, dice and repurpose your existing content and search engines will bring you surprising and terrific results

PR Newswire’s EVP and Global Chief Commercial Officer Scott Mozarsky gave a lively and funny review of content marketing best practices for law firms.

  • What was “custom publishing” in the print days is now the jungle of digital data we put forth on the web
  • Search

    loves content, everybody loves video (just keep it no longer than 45 seconds!), and blend it all together

  • Your “owned” content should mingle with your earned media
  • Hijack the news by writing about current events
  • Scott also boldly predicted that mobile devices will likely have changed the game significantly within 3-5 years

Blogger extraordinaire (IPWatchdog.com) Gene Quinn gave us a glimpse at how he does it (“Blogging for profit and notoriety”)

  • “Build it and they will come”
  • Set a goal, target your audience, make good content and have a viewpoint
  • Be a smart self-censor and establish yourself as an authority
  • Speak to your web audience – (aka your current and future clients) – in a fresh way (no legalese)
  • Publish once a day or more, if you can
  • Listen for fun and interesting topics and be original

LinkedIn’s Ben Ortman gave us a bit of a look behind the curtain as to what is to come there, as well as some startling facts:

  • LinkedIn adds 2-3 new members every second
  • The total LinkedIn headcount has now passed the 250 million mark
  • LinkedIn is pulling content from all over the web
  • LinkedIn users have already built 1.5 million “discussion groups” and have engaged over 200 major business “influencers”
  • Sponsored content is on the way

Ben also joined Davis Polk’s Seth Apple and Good2bSocial’s Guy Alvarez for the fantastic closing panel discussion moderated by LexBlog’s Kevin O’Keefe. They wrestled with the big questions: How to get results? How to actually develop business? Where is the ROI?

  • For now, it may be difficult to convince some of your lawyers, so get them to “listen” and watch what is going on out there first
  • Show them that valuable communication and relationship building are happening
  • All agreed that social media increasingly defines relevance in the marketplace
  • Millennials live in a social media / social business / social commentary world and their communication habits will soon define business even more than they already do
  • Mobile platforms will be needed as more and more people function off them
  • Get your lawyers to understand that this is the new networking
  • We all still need to exhibit credibility, build trust and connect personally with clients and potential clients

In other words, the rules haven’t changed – but the tools certainly have.

Alexander “Sander” Coxe is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP.


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