Social Media Use by In-House Counsel at All-Time High

by Adrian Dayton
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law firm social media useOriginally published in The National Law Journal on April 18, 2013 

A study released on Thursday by Greentarget, Zeughauser Group and Inside Counsel has shone a bright light on a topic that has seemed somewhat mysterious: How do general counsel really use social media—or do they really use it at all?

The report confirmed findings suggested by surveys conducted since 2010. First, LinkedIn remains the king of the legal social media jungle, with more than 67 percent of in-house counsel reporting having used it either during the past 24 hours or past week. Sixty percent of this group used LinkedIn to connect with outside counsel.

Second, GCs continue to value Wikipedia for researching outside counsel, with 69 percent using it during the past day or week for personal reasons and 49 percent for professional reasons.

Third, according to Greentarget’s John Corey, “is the ‘invisible user’ trend whereby in-house lawyers are operating in listen-only mode versus contributing to the on-line dialogue.” According to his research, 74 percent of in-house counsel used social media in “listen-only mode.” Which tells us that just because potential clients aren’t commenting on your blog, it doesn’t mean they aren’t reading it.

The study confirmed that blogging continues to be a sound strategy for attracting the attention of in-house lawyers. Fifty-five percent read blogs written by attorneys and 53 percent “envision a future in which a well-executed blog will influence hiring decisions.”

Perhaps more important is where in-house lawyers find and consume information. Although a healthy 74 percent continued to read print publications regularly, 53 percent read news on their smartphones, 39 on tablets and 23 via mobile applications or apps.

How are in-house lawyers finding your writing? This is where the data are more provocative. A scant 2 percent of in-house counsel considered Twitter a credible source of “legal, business and industry news and information,” while 11 percent viewed blogs that way. That latter number more than tripled when news aggregators like JD Supra, Lexology and Mondaq got involved: 35 percent viewed blog content distributed by these aggregators to be very credible and 37 percent found it somewhat credible.

Connecting the dots for you: If your firm does a substantial amount of writing and blogging, but doesn’t use aggregators to disseminate that content, you not only are getting fewer readers; your content is viewed as less credible.

While Twitter accounts may help connect lawyers with thought leaders and reporters, that’s not necessarily true with in-house lawyer clients. Use of Twitter by in-house counsel continued to be quite minimal, with a mere 7 percent using the platform during the past week and an additional 7 percent within the past 24 hours. A full 72 percent said they never use Twitter. The survey showed Google+, Facebook and even YouTube were more popular with in-house counsel for professional use.

The last finding, which may turn out to be controversial, is that 2 percent of in-house counsel “say their decisions to retain outside counsel are influenced to a ‘great extent’ by peer-driven rankings,” according to the survey. We’re talking about Chambers, U.S. News-Best Lawyers and the like. While these listing still have some influence, it appears to be declining.

The entire survey results can be found at http://insidecounselsurvey.com.

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Adrian Dayton
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