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Law firms not yet taking full advantage of social media

Study of 110 global firms reveals that they’re using it mostly for marketing and little else

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A survey released yesterday by LexisNexis and Martindale-Hubbell examining law firms’ social media usage finds that while all of them are perhaps painfully aware of social media at this point—and are using it—the extent to which they’re delving into its deepest depths is relatively nonexistent.

Specifically, the study examined 110 global law firms’ usage of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other social media channels from April to mid-May 2011. The firms, operating in 22 major cities in seven regions spanning the globe, were audited on both quantitative and qualitative levels to measure activity and engagement levels as well as macro and micro trends for each firm’s activity in a given social media channel.

According to the findings, 77 percent of law firms are using at least one or more social network. Drilling deeper, 85 of the 110 firms have a LinkedIn network, but from there, the numbers drop precipitously for other channels—Twitter (35), Facebook (32), YouTube (12) and blogs (9).

Of the 85 law firms that are on LinkedIn, just 27 own a group and just nine have somewhat serious member engagement.

“LinkedIn emerged as the primary non-sector-specific platform used by the law firms audited ... Yet, while many law firms have created ‘company’ profiles, a much smaller percentage are taking advantage of some of the more advanced features of virtual networking, such as groups or LinkedIn Answers,” the survey notes.

Of the 35 firms using Twitter, just 24 broadcast news and only three have much follower interaction.

“At present, Twitter is mainly used as a broadcasting channel, rather than as a tool to hold conversations with the firm’s followers,” the survey finds. “At present, only a small percentage of firms studied use Twitter interactively.”

And as for Facebook engagement levels, of the firms on Facebook, 12 have 10 to 100 fans, 10 have 100 to 1,000 fans and only one has more than 1,000 fans.

The numbers, however, get worse for other forms of social media.

“YouTube remains largely unexplored as a platform by law firms,” the study says. “This lack of usage was seen across all world regions—even in cities where adoption of social media tools was comparatively high, such as in New York, Johannesburg and London. Amsterdam-based firms stood out as YouTube enthusiasts, with three audited law practices in this city actively using this platform for graduate recruitment, thought leadership and promotional marketing.”

Broken down by region, North American law firms are embracing social media more than firms in other regions, with 19 of the 20 North American firms surveyed having a LinkedIn presence, 14 on Twitter and 11 on Facebook. Asia Pacific and Europe followed somewhat closely behind with LinkedIn, but dropped off dramatically when compared on Twitter and Facebook usage.

The survey went on to note that just 7 percent of law firms are blogging, and of those that do, the firms with the most robust efforts are located in Sydney, Johannesburg and Brussels.

To read the full survey results, visit Martindale-Hubbell’s website.

For more analysis, read the Wall Street Journal.

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