Social Media: Don’t Forget the Details

Social media is an ongoing experiment. It holds great promise for marketing, yet still perplexes many companies. However, ignoring it is like someone in the year 2000 saying “we don’t need a website”. The challenging (and fun) part of social media has been figuring out if, where, and how a company should play. The variables are a veritable Rubik’s Cube of choices.

I enjoy working through these strategic struggles with my employers and clients. But the fact is many companies fail to anticipate the demands of the required day-to-day details. And this is why countless efforts crash or disappoint. Shocking too, is how little this is mentioned by the experts who prefer to tantalize with metrics of social media’s use.

I am assisting a North American law firm on their marketing strategy, a subset being social media. The work has retaught me a lesson: if you choose to go for something, really go for it. To their credit, this law firm has decided to pursue, for their industry, an aggressive social media strategy.

This means they have to go for it. It requires that their online presence be strategic, creative, authentic, relevant, different, Social Media: Dont Forget the Details image timthumb.php  479x230 300x144Social Media: Dont Forget the Detailscurrent, and complete. This is important stuff because the firm’s goals include attracting and retaining clients, attracting and retaining hot talent while demonstrating that they truly get social media.

The decision demands much more than a junior marketing associate writing a weekly status update, ghostwriting a few posts, and regurgitating business law Tweets from USA Today.

After setting a marketing strategy that guides the firm in positioning and messaging, we identified the social media sites where the firm would be present (based on desired audiences). Then came the tough parts, which was not lost on the firm’s leadership and marketing group. These included:

Time: for the strategy to be appropriately executed, there would be new demands across the firm, for both lawyers and lay staff. This was a concern given the profession is based largely on the chargeable hour.

Authenticity: related to the time challenge is the fact the firm needed to ensure the content of their social media was legally correct and genuine. In other words, lawyers will do the writing, reviewing, and responding.

Creating Conversations: social media is meant to be conversational, many businesses are more comfortable broadcasting their marketing and are unprepared for dialogue. My client was no exception and had very real concerns given specifics of their profession.

Winning the Sprint/Losing the Marathon: projects large and small come and go in all organizations. Enthusiasm for this type of activity can wane shortly after introduction. The firm was comfortable that their culture would be in support but were concerned that eventually competing priorities will overtake (not unheard of for any business or industry).

These were legitimate but not insurmountable challenges. Working from the precept that strategy guides tactics and tactics validate strategy, we put a granular plan in place to make things happen. I was quickly reacquainted with a quote from Charles Eames who said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” The same is true for social media, details make the strategy.

The details were extensive and it began with a great deal of housekeeping. One example was the state of each lawyer’s presence on LinkedIn. Not all were on the site and the vast majority who were had terribly incomplete or dated profiles.

Since the firm decided all lawyers would be on LinkedIn, this precipitated three-hour workshops covering an explanation of the site’s purpose and benefits and moved to profile construction (often reconstruction). Going forward, every quarter, the marketing group will review the profiles for relevance, currency, and completeness. Other tactics include:

  • launching a fresh quarterly campaign to direct content and to keep up momentum and discipline
  • weekly meetings of the marketing group covering social media metrics, spot checks across platforms, and new content brainstorming
  • revised thought leadership program given the demand for more content
  • practice leaders are undergoing reinvigorated media training to assist with video and live webinars
  • multimedia will be used liberally to counter an industry reliance on text, text and more text
  • an impressive focus group of existing clients to meet quarterly and provide feedback

As efforts progress, I am interested to see how the firm does creating content that drives conversation. To that end, we wrote up a set of guidelines that ensures each communication has a call-to-action as this is the key to lead generation.

One of the partners references a quote from Dale Carnegie that gives context for their content, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people that you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” That is the right way to think about social media. The firm is using it to reach out and engage rather than yell out and then be silent.

Not surprisingly, there have already been a few tactical tumbles. And the firm is well aware that where they are today is going to look much different even a few months from now. But they understand that it is an experiment that depends on a commitment to the details. This is no guarantee of success but it is a much better position than most companies who get excited by social media and never follow through.

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