This paper has only one purpose: To help firms adopt social media practices as an organization. If you don’t believe that social media has the power to create and strengthen relations ships. If you don’t see the potential in platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to make thought leaders out of your best and brightest attorneys. If you would rather your attorneys stick to purely traditional marketing and business development methods. This paper is NOT for you. This paper is for the converted, those managing partners, marketing partners, or marketing professionals within a large firm structure that want to bring about an organization change. This paper is for leaders who need to influence multiple different people in different practices areas.
As case studies to guide us, I have used a number of stories from Influencer: The Power to Change Anything As well as other case studies from my own experience that may be helpful. There is a limited amount of data available on large law firms implementing successful widespread social media practices, so I will add my experiences along with cues from a few other industries.
The book Influencer focuses on the vital behaviors that lead to behavioral changes for individuals and groups. The book takes a look at very basic issues within the influence field, from trying to help an overweight person get in shape- to the much more complex issues of tackling the spread of parasitic worms among African tribes.
In these situations and many others, the authors have identified 6 sources of influence that need to be addressed to create lasting change. We are going to take a look at how these 6 sources of influence can be directed towards bringing about social media implementation within a system as complex as a global law firm. The 6 sources are: personal motivation, personal ability, peer pressure, strength in numbers, structural motivation, and structural ability.
1. Personal motivation
As I drive through certain parts of the city of Buffalo, there is a lot trash in the streets and on the sidewalks. Seeing people just throw their wrappers over their shoulders or out the window- is sadly all too common a sight. The worst event I witnessed was in a McDonald’s parking lot. An individual had finished eating their food and was sitting in their parked car. They opened the door, placed the value meal wrappers under their car (expecting that nobody was watching), and drove away leaving the mess for someone else to clean it up. Why on earth would someone leave their garbage for someone else to pick it up? Selfishness obviously, but it is more than that- it is a lack of connectedness to the community as a whole. This is a failure of the community just as much as it is a failure of the individuals. In law firms, the problem isn’t with trash- but it IS with a failure to feel with connected, and this affects motivation.
Lawyers at big firms make good salaries, and often this salary comes with the expectation that attorneys will do it all. Hit your billable hours, go to networking events, find time for pro-bono work, and be good citizens in your community at large. For lawyers to add one more task like social media to their already full plate, they need to personally value the new task. Every law firm has an older attorney that still refuses to use email. Why doesn’t he or she use email? It is likely because he doesn’t appreciate the time he could save and other efficiency gains. Attorneys taking this first step need to find a purpose behind this new activity. Without the properly aligned values, and personal motivation- any firm initiatives into the arena of social media will be as effective as yelling to those who litter to “pick up your trash!”
Another approach by law firms is to simply say, “you will do it because you are getting paid to.” This may work to motivate people to arrive on time, but will most likely not work for a vital behavior like business development that is far more intangible.
A system that will convey the benefits and value of social networking.
2. Personal ability
Have you every seen a little kid trying to dance to music for the first time? It is hilarious. They jump, they twist, they spin- and they make it obvious that they have no idea what they are doing. They aren’t afraid to move their body and just have a good time. They learn how to dance eventually, but they started out looking foolish until they learn by watching others- or until they teach themselves. Attorneys are very different from the little kid dancing for the first time. When it comes to social media, they are afraid to make a misstep- so they would rather just sit it out. Even those with the desire- that see the value- aren’t sure where to start.
In addition, there is a misconception out there that everybody born after 1975 is social media savvy. For practical purposes that is like saying that someone that knows how to operate a telephone is good at making sales calls. There is a big difference between sharing pictures from last night’s party on Facebook- and developing important business relationships online. Even young attorneys need direction and guidance when it comes to engaging online. To illustrate this point, a large group of professionals was recently asked, “how many of you are on LinkedIn?”
Almost every hand went up. In a follow-up question, the audience was asked- “how many of you have done more than create a profile, and invite a few of your business contacts to connect on LinkedIn?”
Not a single person raised their hand. In fact one person raised their hand and asked, “is there MORE you can do on LinkedIn than that?”
Joining groups, asking questions, answering questions, recommending people, asking for recommendations- these are all POWERFUL tools within LinkedIn, but attorneys need to understand how to use them before they can move past the second step in working to change. Law firms can help facilitate the training and conversations that will help attorneys acquire the ability and overcome the initial impulse of sitting on the sidelines.
3. Peer pressure
There is a great sense of inertia within large law firms, and the prevailing wisdom says to go with the flow. Even if an attorney makes it through hurdle 1 and 2, peer pressure within a firm will often keep them from really diving in to social media for fear of rocking the boat (dual pun metaphor was not intended, but will be left in for effect). Are firms unintentionally creating this hyper-cautious peer pressure? Has the firm put in place policies that hinder social media use rather than directing it? This needs to be dealt with before effective adoption of social media can really occur within a firm.
When I brought in my first legal client through Twitter, I was congratulated for bringing in a new client- but then immediately cautioned against continual use of social media. Changing this stigma within a firm has to come from two places: from the top, but also from the bottom. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything tells a story about a scientist that had designed a bio-engineered seed strain that would create a huge increase in the farmer’s crop yield, but NO farmer would try it out. They didn’t trust the scientist, and they weren’t willing to risk the next year’s crop on a strain that was unproven in their minds.
Then the scientist stumbled upon an innovative farmer that wore Hawaiian shirts and always had on shades. He was willing to try out these new seeds- and he had an outstanding crop. But guess what- farmer’s weren’t convinced. The other farmers trusted the guy in the Hawaiian shirt less than they trusted the scientist. What the scientist finally found was that by getting a couple of farmers that were well liked to become champions of the new strain, and simply try it out on a portion of their field- he was able to produce credible success stories. These success stories helped to sway popular opinion enough to influence others to use these new and improved seeds.
When picking champions within a law firm, the obvious choice is often the techie that plays World of Warcraft and invented his own Ipod app. This might be the wrong strategy if that individual is viewed like the farmer in the Hawaiian Shirt. The best champions for social media within a firm will be those who are well liked and successful. Otherwise, influencing the firm as a whole is far less likely. Pick carefully champions that other lawyers can relate to- and that other lawyers will look up to.
4. Strength in Numbers
Nothing demonstrates the power of strength in numbers any better than the Grameen Bank. Also known as “Micro-credit” this is a process where very small loans are made to impoverished individuals. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything tells the story of a group of five women who come together to qualify for their first micro-credit loan. Each of the five will start their own business, but only one at a time will receive funding. The ability of the group qualifying for a loan is dependent on each venture having success. This produces a sense of personal investment within the group. One story tells of a group that meets together and through a mastermind group of 5 highly impoverished individuals comes up with a revolutionary business idea. Tanika, one of the members of the group has an idea to sell hair that can be made into wigs. Another member of the group suggests that perhaps children could be enticed to collect the hair from their parent’s wigs, in exchange for plastic toys. With an initial investment of $20 this group comes up with an idea that eventually creates jobs for hundreds of people. The secret? Strength in numbers. As my mentor Paul Brown says, “No one of us has it all together, but together we have it all.”
One of my largest clients holds brief weekly meetings to discuss how the firm is using social media. Drawing from the collective wisdom of the group, this firm has created almost a dozen separate blogs, a mini film set for short YouTube videos, and a social media strategy that is constantly improving and evolving with the technology. Many law firms have one or two individuals using social media effectively, but they function like independent rogue agents. Imagine what types of success could occur with group brainstorming and combing various strengths. Ideas would flow for blog posts or white papers – this way firms could take advantage of the collective wisdom of the crowd.
Step 5: Structural Motivation: Design and Demand Accountability
How do you motivate an large group of lawyers? Is there a good incentive? Is there an appropriate punishment for failure to act? In Influencers the book takes a look at motivating children. Offering a reward for good behavior will often have a reverse effect. Children suddenly start expecting a reward to good behavior and no longer enjoy the satisfaction that it brings. In a sense, the reward ruins the future behavior.
So how do you motivate employees to use social media, and to use it properly? One example comes from a global law firm that I have been working with for months. They realized that they didn’t want to bribe anybody to use social media- and they certainly couldn’t force anybody, so they looked for individuals that had the potential to be champions within the organization. As was outlined earlier- identifying these champions is important, but providing them with sufficient resources is even more important.
Your champions will need two things to succeed: proper access to social media platforms, and a professional web/blog presence to create their platform. For companies that pick champions, but don’t give the champions the proper tools is like giving away a racecar minus the keys. So what are the “keys” to the car in this case?
1. Let them blog
There are tons of free or inexpensive blogging platforms out there- major organizations need to be a step above, but a professionally designed WordPress blog is both cost effective and powerful. Letting your employees use social media but prohibiting blogs (part of many irrational company policies) keeps employees from really maximizing their potential.
2. Unlock Your Computers
I’m not saying banks should ease off on their security level, but for social media to work effectively- professionals need the ability to download software to their machines. One large client I was working with was hoping to gain efficiency by using Google Wave with a large group for a marketing initiative, unfortunately half of the employees could not access Google Wave because Chrome couldn’t be added to their locked machines. There are a lot of great free applications online (Tweetdeck being a prime example). These tools make social media use MUCH more efficient- so don’t make your employees engage with one hand tied around their back.
3. Teach Proper Principles and Let Them Self Govern
“No social media use at work.” “No Internet access at work.” These are very common components of the social media policies of many Fortune 500 Companies, and it doesn’t make sense. If you build a wall around your company this encourages employees to use aliases, find work-arounds, and basically waste much more time then if they just had access. An employee with an alias is far more dangerous than the employee allowed to blog in the open because the company has no idea what the individual with the alias is talking about- but can easily monitor company employees with free tools like Google Alerts.
4. Direct the Power
“So should we just let the employees do whatever they want online?” Is the question I often get. The answer? “Yes, you trusted them when you hired them, and you should trust them now.” Direct them, give them metrics and sales goals that work together with their social media efforts. One white shoe firm in New York has a policy “NO SOCIAL MEDIA USE.” Not only is this policy unwise, it may also lead to additional liability for the firm because some employees will find a way to interact through social channels whether it is by using their phones or while they are at home.
Step 6: Structural Ability
It isn’t hard to convince professionals that using social media is a great idea. They get it. I have presented to attorneys all over the country, and I imagine that as they watch me shoot out messages on Twitter and engage users across the world- they feel a certain confidence that they can get home and do the same thing. Then they return to their busy lives, they start a Twitter account or a new blog, and they are confronted by something as terrifying as the first day at Jr. High- a blank screen.
New users aren’t following anybody, nobody is following them, and more importantly, they have no clue what to write and how to get started. This really isn’t too different from your first day at a new school, with no friends and no idea where to get started – new social media users can’t help but feel completely alone, and this awkwardness usually extinguishes any enthusiasm they originally had to get started using social media.
at the Managing Partner Forum in Palm Beach, Florida where Dennis Snow, an ex- Disney World Exec turned consultant and author spoke about the challenges of implementing new initiatives within an organization. Mr. Snow broke it down into 3 stages that occur over time: acceptance is the easy part, then comes a certain awkwardness that prevents many from actually succeeding and implementing, and finally with enough effort, a certain percentage will assimilate the new process. It struck me as a fitting analogy for developing good social media habits.
Stage I: Acceptance
It is the prevailing wisdom that use of social media and networking through platforms like LinkedIN or Martindale Hubble Connected is a GOOD thing. We have seen tremendous growth with millions of new users joining these platforms. One challenge the owners of social media sites face is that only a small percentage of users are engaging, really using the site. A recent statistic showed that only 10% of Twitter users post on a regular basis. This is no surprise- in fact, it is human nature. How many people raise their hands to ask questions in large lectures? How many people call in to radio shows? It is a very small percentage of the total group. The larger group, also referred to as “lurkers” online, can’t seem to get past the proverbial first base online. There is a certain shyness or awkwardness that inhibits engagement.
Stage II: Overcoming Awkward
How many of you have been in an awkward situation before? Whether it is starting at a new school, working out a gym for the first time, or even working in a new office- we all can relate to these awkward situations. It just isn’t easy starting a new habit or a new process.
This is the same trial faced by those trying to start out in social media communities. Whether they have a goal to write a blog, engage potential clients on Twitter, or even just identify prospects on LinkedIN- it takes time, and most are so discouraged by their first bad experience that they never make it back for a second try.
So how can you get past this awkward phase? Here are 3 easy steps:
1. Set measurable social media goals- groups joined, contacts added, phone conversations created. These can serve as benchmarks that will keep you motivated.
2. Make it a habit. Schedule time for social media each week. Schedule just a couple days a week at first, then ramp it up as you feel more comfortable. Social media has become part of the minutiae of my life. I check Twitter and blog posts like others check voice mail and email. As you set aside time each week or each day to do SOMETHING online- it becomes part of your routine. The more you do, the more comfortable you will feel.
3. Move conversations offline. I can’t emphasize this enough. Finding a new contact or client through social media is such a great feeling- and once you actually speak and create a real offline relationship, it gives you the feeling that you are making progress. This single item will, more than anything, help you feel like you are getting past the awkward phase.
Stage III: Assimilation
Stage three is a great feeling. For some people this happens after the first weeks of using social media, for others it takes months. The important thing is that it happens, that these social networks become a part of your routine.
I shared this idea with a Chief Marketing Officer this past week, and she asked me a very important question. “Why?” Why would she want her attorneys making social networking part of their lives?
The answer is simple, if they don’t- they are going to miss opportunities. Decision makers often go with the professional that is at the top of their mind- and social media provides an easy way to gain that status. The secret is “touch touch touch” as Allen Fuqua said this past week as part of the Social Media panel at the Marketing Partner Forum. Lawyers are too busy to make it to every dinner and cocktail party their contacts attend- but they can find time to engage a few minutes online each day. Your competitors are most likely already online, and if they aren’t- don’t you think YOU should be?
There isn’t a silver bullet that will help influence your organization one way or another, only developing a continual process will get you there. When designing a strategy, make sure you hit each six steps, or your efforts are unlikely to be successful.