Is Social Media Relevant for Lawyers and Accountants?

The View From The Boardroom

Professional services firms are floundering in a rising tide of instant communication. In my experience, few have truly embraced the value of how social media can be used intelligently within a business setting. Working with startups over the years,  I’ve always held a healthy respect for nimble upstarts who run rings effortlessly around their established competitors. The change in legislation and ease with which information is being exchanged means we’re now well into this phase, in particular within the legal sector.

Increasing numbers of individuals are using social channels for business, after becoming comfortable with using them for personal reasons. Yet the total number of active users remains in the minority. Simply having an awareness of the key networks is not enough. For a sector that prides itself on effective, efficient communication, this failure to engage is confusing.

Boards of established businesses continue to debate the relevancy of ‘social’ in a business setting where the topic is even given discussion time. New does not always equal better – and nor should it. But the real risk here is that a business defaults to rejecting change simply from a lack of knowledge about what can be achieved.

If you still haven’t done so, the time is here to commit to investigating how the intelligent use of social media can benefit your business.

No-one can argue that the legal profession is currently in a state of flux, where truck companies source barristers and with the introduction of ABS in England and Wales and Scotland. In a time when competition is heating up like never before, surely it’s more important than ever to actively seek improvements in your business model?

Tradition remains a weak excuse for inefficiency. Like it or not, the world has changed. Look at how essential emails and Google have now become in legal practice. For those advisors who worry about being ‘too open’, I have only one message – you may disagree with Zuckerberg that the default is public but it’s time to face the facts. Everything that you do online is traced and that this data is increasingly being commercialised. Your knowledge of this fact is increasingly irrelevant – it’s happening. Engagement online represents the single most powerful opportunity open to you to set the tone for the discussion about your professional life and, by extension, that of your business.

There is, of course, an element of fear here. A misunderstanding of the difference between ‘facebooking’ for personal reasons with friends and using focused social media for business purposes. A concern that a hard-won reputation built up over the years could be damaged in some way by an ill-conceived tweet. After all, professional services firms has traditionally failed to reward risk and instead valued solidity. Steady, reasoned consideration – that’s always been the backbone of the advisor’s role – so I accept that any element of change must bring with it, necessarily, a risk that the status quo may be damaged.

But, here’s the rub. That status quo is a fabrication in the minds of the majority of the profession. The evidence shows that your potential customers are increasingly seeking a higher degree of engagement from those they do business with. If you don’t believe me, check out Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or the many other virtual locations where your target customers live online. The conversation is taking place about either your brand or at the very least (if you still have no significant digital presence) your niche.

Social media might still appear confusing to some. Yet it is nothing more than communication. Granted, it may be communication at velocity and on a grander scale and unlike anything ever seen before in history. But it remains, in essence, word-of-mouth. For a profession that is built on recommendation and reputation,  there’s no modern wizardry at play here to be afraid of.

Sometimes when the tide’s rising, you just have to jump in.