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Please, don’t hire a “Director of Social Media”

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I have a message for law firm CMOs: Don’t hire a Director of Social Media.

No, I’m not a Luddite. In fact, I’m a big fan of social media marketing for law firms. I just don’t believe that a “Director of Social Media” is necessary for most law firms. In fact, I’m guessing that most firms hiring for this position may misunderstand social media — and the barriers to doing it right.

The Misunderstanding
In most cases, law firms are looking to fill these positions with people whose primary qualification is knowledge of social media tools like Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn. While this may seem logical, it’s actually a mistake. Why? Because an understanding of social media tools and tactics is not the biggest barrier to success in social media marketing.

So, what’s the biggest barrier? Content. As I’ve written before, insightful, well-written “thought leadership” content must be at the center of any successful social media marketing effort by law firms. Unfortunately, most candidates for Director of Social Media are unlikely to have an editorial background, which is exactly what is needed to help lawyers craft truly compelling content.

The Solution
If I were a CMO of a law firm, I would forget about hiring a Director of Social Media. Instead, I would bring in two different people:

  • A social media consultant – Someone to teach attorneys the basics of social media tools and tactics. This person would work on a consulting basis. There are plenty of really great consultants out there who can get your attorneys up to speed over a period of 6-8 weeks.
  • A Director of Content – This person would be a full-time employee who can help attorneys take dry legal thinking and turn it into compelling, readable stories that will attract a loyal following. Perhaps this person has a background as the editor of a magazine or trade publication.

These recommendations are built on my strong belief that social media tools and tactics are relatively easy to learn. In my opinion, the tough part is creating the kind of content that will rise above the clutter and help build the reputations of your attorneys. Those firms that understand this — and respond by bringing in content specialists — will have a clear advantage. More about this in my next post.

Comments

20 comments... read them below or add one.
  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Dion. I work as a marketing professional within a law firm and I also manage the social networks. Content is the #1 thing I require. And a content director would definitely be a great addition. Excellent topic!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Philippa Aldrich, Samantha Collier. Samantha Collier said: Please, don’t hire a “Director of Social Media” http://bit.ly/fQtk0Q […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kelly Hoey, Valerie Nelan and Jeremy , Great Jakes. Great Jakes said: New blog post is up! — Please, don’t hire a “Director of Social Media” http://me.lt/9v4be […]

  4. Such great advice. The main challenge for lawyers is to avoid starting their posts and alerts with the mere existence of change (“Yesterday, the Second Circuit issued an important decision with respect to damages in infringement actions.”) The first sentence needs to be about the change itself (“Yesterday, the Second Circuit made it harder than ever to get punitive damages in infringement actions, requiring prevailing plaintiffs to prove . . . .”).

    Ross Guberman
    President, Legal Writing Pro
    Professorial Lecturer, GW Law School
    Author, Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates (Oxford, February 2011)
    http://www.LegalWritingPro.com
    [email protected]
    (703) 209-0121

  5. Aden says:

    Dion,

    I agree that the best way to tackle this is to use a consultant to build internal awareness while also utilizing a copywriter or content king. However, the day is coming when every large firm will need an in-house social media assistant to simply move the machinery and report on successes. Here’s why: the analytics tools are improving each month. As a Director of Digital Marketing, I’m pulling in more data than ever but I have less and less time to analyze what is being said, forwarded, downloaded and linked out there. At the same time, my content marketing campaigns, team/service building efforts, attorney coaching/blog instruction/social media one on ones with attorneys have become activities with more relevancy than ever before. A social media assistant, if not a social media manager is not out of the question in the future.

  6. Great article Dion, I couldn’t agree more. I talk to Marketing Directors all the time who are completely intimidated by the prospect of having to do one more thing, so the first thought is to simply hire someone else to handle social media. This is a misguided approach because social media has to be done by the attorneys themselves, and it is much more useful to have someone to coach and train the attorneys to do it themselves.

    I’ve seen this program through at a number of large firms, and while there has been success, I get the feeling we are only at the very beginning. We are a long way away from widespread adoption of the types of behaviors (like generating blog content on a regular basis) that will help attorneys online. It isn’t about requiring the marketing department to do more, but about asking a greater level of participating from the attorneys.

    To Aden’s point, there is so much valuable information now in the way of analytics, that if a firm is going to hire somebody, it should be a person to generate reports and analyze the data in a way that will allow the lawyers to create better strategy with the information. In most firms the analytics aren’t making it to the lawyers.

    Really enjoyed the post, and I look forward to more comments.

  7. Matt says:

    Agree, then disagree.
    Social media is a part of marketing. If the marketing director doesn’t understand the value/cost of social media, that’s cool. Law firms don’t have to have social media marketing as a tactic in the same way that they don’t have to billboards or radio marketing.
    The difference between billboard marketing and social media marketing is clear: you don’t need a consultant to come in and describe a billboard. We get that.
    But, social media shouldn’t be rammed down the throat of lawyers either (not suggesting people are ramming social media down anyone’s throat.)
    The issue I would have with a consultant for social media, is that it’s only about that tactic. I would ask: how does the website fit with this proposed tactic? How about other marketing? What about HR? Does the firm have a social media policy?
    These are things the marketing manager should me thinking of as social media marketing becomes a tactic.
    How’s that for clearing things up?

  8. Seth Duncan says:

    Dion,

    You’re absolutely right. As a recently hired Social Media Strategist at a legal services firm, my primary task has been to create compelling content that will stimulate our audience, strengthen our brand and deepen our relationships. It’s easy to build profiles on the popular SM platforms, but it’s something entirely different to build and maintain a following and engage users. In addition, I also provide training to staff on the usage, advantages and disadvantages of various social media tools. In some ways it would seem as though my position encompasses both of your suggestions. This could be an alternative solution to your proposal – don’t hire a DSM, hire a SMS.

    Look forward to your next article.

    Seth Duncan
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/sethjduncan

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adrian T Dayton and Ron Coleman, Jon Harman. Jon Harman said: RT @adriandayton: Please, don't hire a "Director of Social Media" http://bit.ly/eUWR7S […]

  10. Amy DeLouise says:

    Very wise words. As a marketing and social media consultant to law firms, I see a worrisome trend. Many firms and attorneys want to quickly get up to speed on what social media is all about. But senior partners either ignore this new tool or want to outsource using it to first-year associates or someone on the admin team, because they don’t see it as part of their portfolio. And yet playing golf with clients, speaking at conferences, and doing other networking to develop business and relationships has always been in their purview. Because, as you say, they have the “content”–deep knowledge of their field of expertise–to be able to communicate meaningfully about the law. Of course, when the telephone was first invented, lawyers also debated whether this new-fangled communications tool was appropriate to the profession. ‘Nuf said.

  11. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve seen too many law firms hire someone to do their social media marketing because they know Facebook. That is like saying because someone knows how to swing a hammer they must be able to build a house!

    Paula Woolley
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulawoolley

  12. Completely agree, content strategy is just as important as social media strategy and training. Hiring the right social media consultant that understands this is key.

    Rob
    Co-Founder, http://FandomMarketing.com

  13. Anne Balduzzi says:

    Your post is spot on. As a former AOL and Apple product manager and former marketing director for two corporate law firms, I have seen first hand the difficulty both attorneys and marketing departments have when it comes to incorporating new technologies and social media strategies. Having recently consulted to law firms on these issues, there isn’t a one size fits all solution for every law firm. Consultants need to first understand the firm’s culture and customize solutions that will easily integrate within the firm’s existing marketing structure while also setting the stage for their social media activities to scale as they become more successful. Consultants also need to truly understand the law firm’s audience by practice area, the competitive landscape, how to integrate social media with their business development goals, how to best leverage existing content and much more. In short, social media marketing is more than just educating attorneys about tools and tactics. It is about using social media to both highlight a firm’s expertise as well as open new avenues to build stronger more profitable business relationships.

  14. […] “Please, don’t hire a social media director,” says Dion Algeri. He’s right. Too often organizations start their journey into social media by hiring someone to do social media. Instead hire someone to collect, curate, repurpose and create content. Hire a chief content officer. Ok, you don’t have to call it that, but focus on content as a tool to create conversation and connections. […]

  15. Julie Ketover says:

    Hello: I work in the Knowledge Management department at a global law firm. We are looking for a social media consultant to educate and train our attorneys on the uses and potential pitfalls of social media- focusing on linked in. Do you have any recommendations for consultants who have a good understanding of LinkedIn, law firm culture and ethical obligations attorneys need to consider when crafting their profiles? Thanks.

  16. Julie, I’m either happy to help or point you in the right direction (see my earlier post above). I’ve used Linked In since it launched and have worked with dozens of large international and mid-sized law firms since 1990. As far as ethical obligations go, that area gets a little fuzzy due to differing state regulations or regulations that have yet to keep pace with technology, but there are some common sense strategies and a few pretty good thought leaders on the subject. Feel free to contact me ([email protected]) if you would like to chat further.

  17. […] 2. Bring in professional content assistance. Even lawyers who’ve drunk the kool-aid and are ready to write will need help organizing their thoughts and creating client-focused content. And virtually every lawyer, enthusiastic contributor or not, will need editing help to turn typical lawyer prose into something that clients would willingly read. On this point, I echo the advice of Dion Algeri at The Great Jakes Blog: hire a director of content, […]

  18. I do not think the discussion should be about the title. I think, first, you have to look at where social media fit into your overall marketing strategy. It will be different for different organizations. Then, once you have that figured out, figure out how best to place it organizationally. That is a function of numerous things, including size, existing organizational structure, etc. A multinational firm that identifies social media as appropriate marketing channels may very well need a “Director” level position for this.

  19. “the tough part is creating the kind of content that will rise above the clutter”

    Interestingly, law firms are beginning to outsource the content writing. It’s cheaper than hiring an in-house writer, and the lawyers say their billable time is better spent on client work. The outsourced writers conduct a deep interview with the lawyer, learn their voice and point of view, and submit 5 blog entries a month for $700, or a weekly Facebook update, 5 tweets a week and 1 LinkedIn update a week for $600.

  20. As a content creator, I could not agree more. If you focus on the tools rather than the messaging, you’re going to fail. You wouldn’t hire someone to build your house just because he knows the names of all the tools in his toolbox and seems to operate a table saw well. You want someone with the vision, perspective and care to build a great quality home. While I’m billed as a social media marketing professional, I know my first responsibility is to create effective, compelling content.

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