I had been told that Australians were fairly advanced in their marketing techniques, so I was surprised to find a fairly chilly reception to social media for their lawyers. The biggest concern by the big law firms in Australia?
“We want to control the message,”
This would have made sense perhaps from a strictly marketing perspective, and that is what is so tricky about social media. It isn’t really marketing. It is a combination of business development, education, and marketing. Most firms aren’t comfortable with this amalgamation, so they are taking the extremely cautious approach of simply using a single Twitter account to broadcast their message into the ethos. Social media people have a name for this “spam-like” approach. They call it, “spray and pray.” And no, it doesn’t work. Social media requires conversations- it requires REAL engagement. Why is this such a difficult concept for law firms to understand?
I made a very different observation about the average Australian as I walked through the city or rode on the train. So many of them were constantly staring at their iPhones, Blackberry’s, or mobile devices. Australians love their technology so much that, according to a recent study, they lead the globe in the use of social media. You can read more details here, in Ross Dawson’s article, “Australian’s are #1 Globally in Social Media Use.” So if the Australian people are using social media, how about the lawyers? It may come as no surprise to you that Australian lawyers are not as linked in to social media as their non-solicitor counterparts. From interviews with many of the largest firms in Australia I have learned that outside of the marketing department, most attorneys aren’t using social media at all except for purely personal reasons. This creates a great opportunity for those lawyers willing to jump in.
Lawyers that use social media for business development won’t be competing with many others for attention. Have you seen the percentage of the Yellow Pages that are taken up by lawyer advertisements? It is huge, even in Australia. As a business with a finite advertising budget, you can choose to advertise where all of your competitors are advertising- or do what Stephen Fairley calls contrarian marketing. “Find out what the crowd is doing and do the opposite.” There is a giant market out there, and the first movers will position themselves like the unusual company that started using the internet to sell books online.
Australia is fairly conservative from a legal marketing standpoint. They are early adopters of technology, but social media seems like a different creature altogether. Australian law firms are careful, just like those in the US. They are dealing with questions like, whose job is it to handle social media within the firm? What should their policy be? Major firms in Australia are putting a toe in the water by starting a firm Twitter page. Norton Rose (formerly Deacons in Australia), Blake Dawson, and even Baker & Mckenzie are all trying Twitter out as an experiment- as a firm- but not yet as individual attorneys. A good start, but not quite on target until they involve the actual attorneys and practice groups.
The message I shared with firms here in Australia last month is the same message I have been sharing for the last year in the US. Social media is all about building relationships and creating conversations. Marketing folks can’t build relationships for your lawyers. The lawyers themselves, or “solicitors” as they call them in the UK and Australia, need to participate. They call it social media for a reason. I had the pleasure of meeting so many outstanding lawyers and marketing and business development individuals while here in Australia. Such a friendly group of people. For Australians in the legal world, using social media effectively won’t be a challenge- the challenge as always is to decide social media is worth your time, and dedicate the time to make it pay off. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is not yet an iPhone app for that.
Adrian Dayton is a New York attorney and author of the book Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition. He spent the month of March 2010 in Australia speaking about social media for lawyers. To learn more about how social media can be can become part of your overall marketing plan, join Adrian Dayton and Concep CEO Anthony Green for a free conference call on Friday, April 23rd at 9:00 AM EST. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP for the free conference call.