A few days ago I came across an interesting infographic published by The Rainmaker Institute with survey results from a survey conducted by the American Bar Association (participants are ABA members). About 850 attorneys from across the country responded to the survey, representing solo attorneys, mid-sized practices, and large law firms from a range of practice areas. The results were published in the ABA’s 2014 Legal Technology Survey Report.
The infographic shows the growth of social media use and blogging by attorneys as well as the platforms they use the most, how often they spend each week engaging in social media, and the resulting effect on bringing in new clients and business.
Law firms and attorneys on social media
According to Rainmaker’s infographic, law firms maintaining a social media presence have increased from 55% in 2012 to 62% in 2014 and about 78% of lawyers use one or more social media platforms for professional use.
When looking at specific platforms, about 90% of law firms “maintain a presence” on LinkedIn, while about 96% of lawyers maintain a personal LinkedIn presence. I wondered about those statistics, mostly because I have a LinkedIn profile that basically collects dust, and I’m sure many others do, too. I did some digging and found a report published on the ABA site that offers a little more detail about the use of LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, by attorneys and firms.
The report says that LinkedIn use among law firms remained steady overall from 2013 to 2014 with 56% of law firms reporting using the site. LinkedIn is the favored networking site for firms with 50 to more than 500 attorneys, with between 63 – 66% of large firms maintaining a presence on the platform. It’s also the favored social media platform for lawyers with about 75% using LinkedIn for professional use.
Facebook for professional use has remained relatively steady with between 27- 38% of firms and attorneys reporting that they use the platform. Twitter use among firms hasn’t changed much, holding steady at 18%, while individual attorneys seem to have shied away from the platform. In fact, almost 90% of attorneys reported they don’t use Twitter in a professional capacity.
How Attorneys Use Social Media
As a writer and consultant, I focus on using social media for client development, so this piece of the infographic surprised me. Of the firms that use social media (I’ll note that 25% of firms don’t use social media professionally), less than half use it to obtain new clients. The most common reason for lawyers to use social media is career development and networking.
For firms and attorneys using social media, the most common reasons are represented by this Rainmaker Institute infographic section.
Do firms and solo’s score higher intakes with social media?
Despite the social media trends, surveys, and studies in the legal field, it really boils down to the question, is social media a key tool for attracting new business? If you’re considering starting a blog or joining a social media platform, you probably already know that neither will be beneficial to your practice if you don’t use them consistently. For many firms, it requires a big time commitment up front without knowing the true impact to your business. This is, admittedly, a difficult pill to swallow if you want to know what difference it will make in the short and long-term.
It’s encouraging to know that, according to the data and of all the attorneys and firms surveyed, 35% of lawyers and 14% of medium to large firms have attained clients through their social media network, even though only 13% of firms and attorneys using social media actively participate. It seems most attorneys who use social media use it for information consumption, not participation, but they are still reaching out and obtaining clients through these platforms.
Blogs aren’t really social networks, unless they are
One of the most shocking things I read in the ABA survey summary is that nearly 30% of survey respondents had no idea if they had obtained clients (either directly or indirectly) as a result of their blog. The ABA article goes on to say that the number may be so high because individual attorneys working at a firm may have no idea of the effectiveness of the firm’s blog, the new clients aren’t asked, or they don’t remember if they were motivated to action by a blog. Regardless, I’m surprised by this high number.
Why? Because nearly 40% of all survey participants said they had obtained clients or referrals from their blogging efforts, while a full 60% of solos said they had attained new clients as a result of their blog. With numbers like this, it pays to know if a blog is increasing intakes.
Most blogging platforms come with an analytics tool that will help you determine effectiveness. There are also helpful (and sometimes free) tools that can notify you whenever your name is mentioned in social networks and online. These tools, even the free or freemium ones, can give you great insight into how your potential clients are responding to your time and efforts on the web.
The biggest takeaways from the survey are that attorneys and firms continue to spend about two hours a week adapting to and using social networks and blogging platforms to gather and impart information and it’s paying off.
In a few weeks, I’m going to show you some tools that will help you discover what’s being said about you and your firm across social networks, news, websites, and blogs, so you can begin to gauge how effective your social media and blogging strategies are for building brand awareness and increasing trust.
Teresa Shaw is an SEO expert with 10 years experience helping attorneys and law firms across the country increase public awareness of their services.