January Program Recap - Chicago

New research on the social media habits of in-house counsel is giving law firms better direction than ever on where to focus their social media programs. The findings of these studies were the topic of January’s LMA Midwest Chicago Luncheon, “The Social Intelligence Quotient of In-House Counsel,” presented by Aaron Schoenherr, founding partner of Greentarget.

In 2010, Greentarget completed an industry-first study, confirming that in-house counsel were beginning to adopt social media in both their professional and personal lives. A 2012 updated study, completed in conjunction with InsideCounselmagazine and Zeughauser Group, showed even greater adoption rates and dove deeper into social media usage, perceptions and behaviors of in-house counsel.

What is Social Intelligence?

According to its original definition by Edward Thorndike, social intelligence is “the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls to act wisely in human relations.” People can have high or low social intelligence quotients, and one’s not better or worse, Schoenherr said. It’s just a reflection of different attitudes, hopes, interests and desires. So how does this psychology talk fit into law firm marketing?

Social intelligence quotients provide a framework for understanding why some attorneys are more effective in using social media than others. Using this framework, marketers can steer attorneys toward the social media channels that best match their social intelligence quotient, Schoenherr said. On a social intelligence quotient sliding scale, LinkedIn starts at the bottom, requiring the least, followed by Facebook, Twitter and then YouTube.

The key for marketers is to help attorneys find the right level of social engagement while using the right tools to deliver compelling content, he said. “You can have content that is quite good but isn’t being delivered as your audience expects it should be.”

Today’s Information Flow

Gone are the days where traditional mass media are the supreme outlet for delivering messages to opinion leaders. New media is upending up the system, giving lawyers and legal marketers unprecedented control over their thought leadership and public relations programs.

A 2012 survey of 500 marketing executives by Webmarketing123 found that 70 percent of B2C companies describe themselves as “engaged” with social media, compared to 63 percent of B2B companies. This “surprising” finding dispels a common perception that B2C is significantly ahead in B2B on social media, Schoenherr said.

Although both the B2C and B2B sectors are marketing their products and services over social media at roughly similar rates, a gap lies in the level of interaction and online dialogue between businesses and their customers/prospects: B2C companies have a much higher level of engagement in dialogue. Users of B2B social media are “largely consuming information without commenting or providing content themselves,” including in-house counsel who are a largely “invisible users” of social media, according to Greentarget’s study.

“This creates a challenge for you,” Schoenherr said. “We have invisible users out there who are difficult to capture in how they’re using your content.”

Research Findings

The 2012 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey provides a trove of information and insight for legal marketers to dig through to expand their knowledge and gain insight on their social media audience. Here are some of the top takeaways from the study, as identified in its executive summary:

  • Blogs, when executed well, influence hiring of outside counsel.
  • Client-side counsel prefer firm-branded blogs.
  • LinkedIn is the “serious” social network for lawyers.
  • New media usage is (steadily) going mainstream.
  • In-house counsel largely “invisible users” of social media.
  • Wikipedia is important, but not for researching law firms.
  • Firm-to-client communications are going social.


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