In a previous article, we explained why social media matter for lawyers. Lawyers have been slow adopters when it comes to social media, but by now, a clear majority of them have caught on. In the US, 76% of lawyers use social media for professional purposes, and 74% of US law firms are present on Social Media.
What are they using social media for? According to a recently published report, lawyers use social media for several reasons, including career development and networking (73%), client development (51%), but also for education and current awareness (35%), and for case research and investigation (21%).
When it comes to who uses what, the available statistics are not consistent when it comes to the actual numbers, so we’ll use approximations below. The published statistics, however, do all agree on the ranking.
- LinkedIn is the most popular network, with approximately two out of three of law firms reporting a presence on LinkedIn. It is the medium of preference for large law firms.
- Facebook comes in second place, with, depending on the published data, one third to about half of the law firms saying they have a professional Facebook page. (Up to 90% of lawyers are on Facebook in a private capacity).
- Twitter is third in the rankings, with approximately one quarter of firms using it. Of the four main social media, it is the one that is most used for research and current awareness.
- Google Plus comes in last, with 10% of firms reporting a Google Plus presence.
LinkedIn is the oldest network, and was launched in 2003. It is intended for professional networking. It was the first, and still is the largest “business social network”, meaning that is meant for professionals.
Because LinkedIn’s main goal is professional networking, most lawyers feel comfortable using it. One report states that, in the US, 91% of firms of 100 or more attorneys have a presence in LinkedIn. They are followed by 85% of solo practitioners, 76% of mid-sized firms with 10 to 49 lawyers, and 63% of smaller firms with 2 to 9 lawyers.
On LinkedIn, you can create a profile, which reads like a professional résumé. You can add contacts to build a network of connections. There are sections for skills & endorsements. You can create pages (like a mini website). You can publish a blog and/or articles. You can set up groups where you can have discussions.
LinkedIn comes in a free and a Pro version.
Facebook was founded in 2004, and has been open to public at large since 2006. It is the largest social media network: in the fourth quarter of 2016, it had 1.8 billion active monthly users.
On Facebook, as an individual you can create a personal profile, which is not the case for legal entities. Most law firms therefore create ‘Pages’, which are like a mini website on Facebook. Pages can be ‘liked’, and you can invite people to do so. It is also possible to create ‘Groups’ on Facebook, to which you can add people to interact with. Both pages and groups can have posts; you also can add videos, and photos or images, etc.
Interestingly, the most active lawyers on Facebook for professional purposes are solos at 48%, followed by 41% of lawyers from small firms (2-9 attorneys). Mid-sized firms with 10-49 lawyers were next at 22%, with lawyers at firms with 100 or more lawyers coming in last, at only 16%.
Membership of Facebook is free.
Twitter was launched in 2006, and is one of the ten most used sites in the world. It is often called the SMS of the Internet. It is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, which are called “tweets.” Tweets are restricted to 140 characters, and, as a rule, can be read by everyone (unless you make them private).
When you sign up to Twitter, you can choose to ‘follow’ other people, which means their tweets will appear in your (news) feed. The idea is to create your own followers who then get your tweets on their feed.
The strength of Twitter, however, lies in the use of so-called hashtags which allow to perform fast searches. A hashtag is a keyword or expression (without spaces!) which are preceded by a #-sign. Using the correct hashtags will make it easy for people who are not followers to find your tweets. If, e.g., you wrote an article on divorce, you could use #divorce and #lawyer as keywords when announcing your article on Twitter.
The largest pool of lawyers using Twitter can be found in mid-sized firms, with 26% maintaining a Twitter account, followed by 25% of solos, 25% of large firm lawyers, and 24% of small firm lawyers.
Membership of Twitter is free.
Google Plus is an interest-based social network that is owned and operated by Google. It was launched in 2011, as Google’s response to Facebook. Its functionality is fairly similar to that of Facebook: you can have pages and groups, where you can make posts, upload videos (YouTube) and photos, etc.
Membership of Google+ is free.
Other Social Media
Apart from the social media mentioned above, lawyers also use Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, mainly to share images and videos.
Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing site that allows its users to share pictures and videos either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms. It was launched in 2010, and acquired by Facebook I 2013. Membership is free.
YouTube is a video-sharing site. It was started in 2005, and bought by Google in 2006. It comes in a free and paid version.
Pinterest is a photo-sharing website where you can organize them in virtual pinboards. Its CEO Ben Silbermann summarized the company as a “catalog of ideas,” rather than as a social network. It was launched in 2010.