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Using social media

New Zealand is one of the most technologically connected nations on the planet, enabled largely by social media. Whether it’s blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, or LinkeIning, everybody’s embracing the social frontier.

Statistics, compiled by social media agency Catalyst, speak volumes:

  • 96% of New Zealanders who use the internet are active on social media;
  • 2,402,080 plus New Zealanders are on Facebook, almost half of our population;
  • there are 199,800 plus Twitter accounts in New Zealander;
  • New Zealanders are the fourth largest global user of LinkedIn; and
  • You Tube is the most viewed entertainment site in New Zealand.

High as these figures are, though, they don’t seem to translate to our legal profession, which has been doggy-paddling rather than freestyling in the social media waters. This is not surprising as using social media for professional services marketing is a challenge; there is a fine line between sinking and swimming.

The sometimes enormous exposure gained through social media use means as an avenue for marketing it’s a medium not to be scoffed at. As more people are spending more time on the internet and social media sites, they are often finding services they need through these sites, whether directly or indirectly.

A recent United States report from ALM Legal Intelligence says that the importance of social media in attracting business to law firms has grown substantially. It showed that of the law firms surveyed almost half were gaining new clients through the use of social media (49% of United States law firms said that blogging and social networking have helped produce new business leads).

This indicates that law firms may be gaining confidence in the use of social media as a serious business development strategy.

ALM’s Kevin Iredell says “the scepticism of a decade ago has given way to a growing appreciation for the ways that blogs and various other social media and networking tools can be deployed to help build the reputation of individual lawyers and practice groups, as well as enhance law firms' overall marketing efforts.”

Hayden Raw, Managing Director at the Common Room, a strategy-led business marketing company in Auckland, says that social media works really well for some people, but for others it’s a waste of time. It’s all based on what people are trying to achieve.

Law firms should first sit down and think about what they want to get out of social media, Mr Raw explains. Firms should ask themselves how social media could best be used to reach their marketing/business objectives, such as thought leadership and/or business generation.

 “We sometimes ask people what sort of persona they would take on at a party. Would they be the loud boisterous one; the quieter one who sits in the corner and has in-depth conversations; or the funny entertainer for the frivolous side of conversation?

“Once you understand that, you can know what kind of personality you should portray in a social space. It all depends on the marketing goal.

Whether it is content on your website, blog entries, tweets, posts or press releases, what gets your firm attention is valuable content. When using social media it is important to be relevant and insightful.

“Through social media, professional services should be trying to break down that barrier that people have with lawyers and accountants and making people want to interact with you. It’s not about huge numbers, it’s about quality,” says Mr Raw.

In New Zealand, Twitter currently has over 50,000 active users. If you manage to grab the attention of a few of your followers through 140 characters, your musings have the potential to spread like wild fire through many social media channels.

To do this, your content needs to be direct and to the point; concision is what fuels social networks, especially Twitter.

Tom Reidy, CEO at Catalyst, says that being brief is important as people nowadays have short attention spans.

He says that to be attractive to the social media market you should engage as an individual first and interest in you and your brand/company will follow.

“I’m a fan of using people within the organisation and championing them and making them be the voice of the company through social media.

“Accountancy, for example, is not the sexiest profession to be in, which provides a challenge for social media, so we try and build a bit more of a relationship with the key staff, rather than making it too corporate. That way it’s more accessible. If it’s too corporate, it’s not that fun and people won’t be interested.

“It comes down to just having conversations with people but through a different medium. What I would be doing on the professional services part of things is providing useful information about the industry you are in,” he says.

Mr Reidy also stresses the importance of someone in a company taking ownership of social media activity and being brand advocates in the process.

“People should own the content. Social media is person to person not business to business. If a business is personable, you will get followers/likes.

Through social media, ultimately you want to lead people to your website somehow to get in touch with you, Mr Reidy explains.

“Facebook can be a great way to connect with other New Zealanders because there are 2.4 million people on it but you can’t search Facebook through Google. Twitter, on the other hand, is really great for search and you can engage with more influential people.

“One of the simplest social media strategies to put in place is that if someone talks to you though one of your channels, talk back!” he says.

In the ALM report mentioned above, more than 40% of those surveyed said that blogs and social media networks have helped to increase the number of calls their firms receive from the media and also increased the number of speaking invitations their lawyers receive.

Lawyer Joshua Hitchcock runs a blog ( and a Twitter account (@jcphitchcock) and says that his public profile has grown substantially since he started using the media.

“I have been approached by various media about Māori issues, native affairs and indigenous law. I certainly have much more of a profile than I did a year ago when I started,” he says.

If social media is used right, it can be a powerful tool for lawyers to engage with communities and potential clients and build their profile, Mr Hitchcock explains.

“You always need to remember, though, that it is a public medium. One of my professors once told me to never say anything, or write anything down that you want to see on the front page of the Herald.”

He says that this is great advice to conduct your social media dealings.

“It’s quite apt because there have been days where I have seen my blogs quoted in the New Zealand Herald. My advice is similar. Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do in your professional dealings.”

This article was published in LawTalk 796, 25 May 2012, page 4.



Last updated on the 11th June 2012