In a nutshell, there is a segment of the online population that uses social media as a core navigation and information discovery tool — roughly 18 percent of users see it as core to finding new information. While still a smaller percentage than those who use search engines or portals like Yahoo! or MSN, it is a significant figure. And as social media usage continues to increase (unique visitors to Twitter.com increased 959% YOY in August) I can only expect this figure to grow.
For those who would condemn social media platforms* as well as those who would expound its virtues, I’m not sure this use as a core navigation and discovery tool is being fully appreciated. Every day, though, those of us on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn follow the articles, blog posts and news fed to us by our ‘network’. Many are supplementing their traditional readers with these networks. Others are using their network as their primary professional news feed.
At the root of the changing nature of content discovery is the sheer amount of information that is available on the Web. If you want to learn more about the latest smartphone released into the market, your favorite search engine is sure to provide you with hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about the device. But with the increasing number of resources available, it’s difficult to know what you should believe or take at face value.
Socializers – those who spend 10 percent or more of their online time on social media – feel this effect more than others do. When asked, 26 percent feel that there is too much information available on the Internet, compared to 18 percent of people who predominantly use portals and just 5 percent of people who primarily use search engines.
But why does too much information lead one to use social media as a navigation tool? The short answer: Socializers trust what their friends have to say and social media acts as an information filtration tool. This is key because Socializers gravitate towards and believe what is shared with friends and family. If your friend creates or links to the content, then you are more likely to believe it and like it. And this thought plays out in the data.
Quotes courtesy of ‘Social Media: The Next Great Gateway for Content Discovery”.
There is much to learn here. The statement above reflects how new social media platforms are incorporating the networking/referral golden rule, “all things being equal, people will do business with those they know like and trust.” And as much as those would like to dismiss the power of followers and online referrals and connecting on Facebook they do so at their own peril.
While the percentage noted is 18% (meaning you can swim in the pool of clients and fellow professionals at 82% and build your marketing campaign based on the current majority), understand this number will grow exponentially year after year and you will very quickly be in the minority and wondering where you went wrong if you don’t get started creating and managing an effective online presence.
I know it is hard to break out of current habits and commit time to something totally new based upon few facts, wild enthusiasm from the masses and some blind faith they may be on to something, but it’s time to take the leap. But leap with some knowledge, thought and planning.
And while this may not make me very popular, I’m not in the camp of those believing there are social media gurus who understand everything and anything social media. Sorry. This is waaaaaay too new. There are, however, people to be respected and followed who are one or possibly two base camps ahead of you on the journey into this new frontier. I like to call them guides and I follow a select few. But most social media guides are primarily technicians in the sense they can help you navigate a lot of the technical aspects, where to go and how to do it effectively and etiquette. In addition, they will tout the virtues of social media, generate conversation and educational opportunities and provide you reports to show the percentage increases and creative applications.
The most important point is this: social media platforms are shiny apples on the marketing tree. Many social media platform guides, much to my dismay, use this as a throw away line ‘it’s just one tool in the marketing shed’. Or, ‘social media isn’t for everyone’. And they leave it at that. Why? Because they can’t effectively address how to create a marketing plan based upon unique needs of each lawyer. And it’s not their job. You, however, as a budding legal professional, can’t afford to leave it at that.
If you don’t know why you or your practice exists, who you are trying to reach and why, what your message is, you need to create a marketing plan FIRST before you jump into the deep water known as social media.
There are some exceptions. There is no reason why you can’t list your name and background on LinkedIn or utilize popular directories. You are at least ‘online’ with a powerful search engine behind you and able to be found by potential clients. You can confirm you are a lawyer, your practice areas and provide contact information. Otherwise, wait until you have a reasonable marketing plan which includes allocation of your time to use these social media platforms effectively.
While there is a sense of urgency, some feeling it may even be too late, the fact is only a small percentage of lawyers use social media today and the same with potential clients. You’ve got time to do it right.
Create your marketing strategy first and then see how the various social media platforms further your marketing goals and are compatible with your temperament. You won’t be sorry you took the time to think things through, created an intelligent road map and allocated time to use it effectively.
If 18% today are using social media platforms as their content discovery portals you want to be where your law firm can be discovered.
*There is no animal as ‘social media’. There are technological platforms that permit ‘social interaction’, like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. This technology is collectively (and erroneously) named ‘social media.’ Failure to utilize them effectively renders them less than ‘social.’