Social media is taking the business world by storm. Some industries are embracing digital communications with open arms while others are approaching them in a slower, more calculated fashion. The legal industry tends to fall into the latter group.
As I look ahead to the next 12 to 18 months, I believe social media will begin to have a more profound impact on the legal industry especially for the purposes of business development and customer relationship management (CRM). Here are five legal industry predictions for social CRM for the next 12 months:
1. As business development takes center stage, law firms are beginning to realize that social media is an asset worth exploring.
For years, firms have bundled marketing and law firm business development together into one category. Now today’s firms are starting to realize that business development needs its own identity and its own budget. Part of this change stems from a realization that business development is more closely aligned with effective client management. Partners can uncover new business leads through a combination of client communications and coaching, along with strategic selling. This shift is driving a change in law firm culture that puts more and more value on business development as a standalone growth strategy. Social media, given its broad reach and relative ease of use, will continue to play a significant role in business development efforts as law firms compete for business in the coming years.
2. Social media use will center largely on branding, thought leadership and education.
It’s no secret that attorneys are a risk adverse group of individuals. The truth is many attorneys are still somewhat cautious, if not skeptical, about social media. However, as law firm leaders begin to realize that their corporate brands are tied closely to their attorneys’ online presences they are starting to see that social media channels have a silver lining to them. Social media channels such as blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn can be powerful vehicles for spreading a firm’s unique thought leadership, and cultivating a community, among diverse audiences.
3. Spending on social media will continue to grow, albeit modestly.
According to a recent BTI Consulting survey, which polled firms of various sizes (including those big and small), law firms are spending about two percent of their marketing budget on social media. While this may not seem like a lot, it’s important to note that social media didn’t even appear on the same survey two years ago. This figure accounts for roughly $69 million in spending, a number that is expected to increase to $96 million in the next year. While moving slowly when compared to legal investments in other areas, you can see the way this one is headed.
4. CRM systems, as a whole, are changing and social media will continue to play a vital role in that change.
The biggest challenge with many of today’s CRM systems is they take too long and require end users to do too much work. This year, you’ll begin to see social media and analytics embedded into CRM systems like never before. Newer CRM systems will be more intelligent through the workflow process requiring end users to do much less data entry.
5. Welcome a new legal industry executive: The business development leader.
In today’s ultra-competitive legal market, firms are putting their money where their mouth is and are hiring business development staff at the executive level. These business minded professionals represent a new buyer in the legal industry. They typically hail from sales backgrounds and will be looking for law firm CRM tools that help the firm’s bottom line. Many of these new business development experts view social media as a treasure trove for uncovering new prospects and business leads. While social media is moving more slowly in the legal industry when compared to other industries, I predict that the firms that understand how to harness the power of social media will have an edge over their more traditional counterparts in the years to come.
Do you agree or disagree with predictions? What predictions do you forecast for the profession of law firm business development?
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