Article in North East Times

Earlier this year the Law Society became the first regulatory body to issue guidance to the UK Legal profession regarding the use of social media. The Law Society, it appears, is particularly concerned about the blurring of distinctions between public and private social media and urges practices to consider introducing a social media policy for their staff. The guidance states that “the same ethical obligations that you adhere to professionally also apply to your conduct in an online environment”.

The Legal Profession, always conservative, was late to realise the potential of Social Media but now many are proceeding, albeit with trepidation into this uncharted territory. Whatever you think about it, one thing is certain – it can only get bigger. My Social Media of choice is Twitter and I would like to share with you some of the things that I have leant about using it, especially as a business tool.

The first thing to know is that it is less about Tweeting yourself than it is about seeing what everyone else is Tweeting about. Twitter is so immediate, so available on phones, laptops and anything else connected to the internet and so easy to do that anything anyone who uses it considers vaguely noteworthy becomes a tweet, immediately. So if you want to know what’s happening, right now, on any topic, anywhere, look on Twitter. Forget the hourly radio bulletin, rolling news or your morning broadsheet; Twitter is as up to date as you can be. And you don’t have to read each of the 290 million new Tweets created every day, that’s where search comes in. Wandering what people are saying about ‘divorce lawyers’? Or Ponteland? Or Legal Reform? Just search for it on Twitter.  Not only do you see everything anyone, anywhere, has said about your topic du jour, but the search keeps running so you see what they continue to say, as they say it. As I write this the last person to tweet something about Divorce Lawyers was 2 minutes ago in Pittsburgh; about Ponteland 52mins ago and Legal Reform, one hour ago.

Once you’ve seen a tweet that interests you, either because it is on a subject you are interested in or perhaps just because it is insightful or well written, then follow them. That’s Twitter parlance for opting to receive all the tweets that person creates from now on. If what they tweeted inspires you to tweet something yourself then why not direct it back at them with an “@”, so they will definitely see it. And who knows, perhaps having read it they will follow you. Now you’ve got followers, reading (ok, skimming) your every thought. It doesn’t take long to accumulate quite a coterie. That’s where the business marketing tool bit comes in. You can talk directly, in real time, to hundreds of people (in Stephen Fry’s case 1.3 million people, still feeble compared to Lady Gaga’s 23 million or Barack Obama’s 15 million) who have registered an interested in you. It makes Direct Mail postal marketing look like something out of the Dark Ages.

So what does this mean for Major Family Law? Here is one example. In April, we organized our first “Tweetup” – a meet up (meeting) using Twitter. Over 60 Family Law Tweeters from around the UK gathered together to meet in the flesh, to network, discuss family law issues and share a little more than 140 characters. The next is already being planned.

Here is another. As a niche law practice it is essential to raise awareness about our Firm. We know our potential future clients are on Twitter, so we need to be there too. They are searching and following topics that interest them. So we need to be talking about those things too. Just like any other marketing we need to be relevant and compelling. The difference is that once we have a following we talk directly too them, in real time. No wonder many of the larger City Centre firms are now following our lead.

When prospective clients are looking for a Family Lawyer they are looking for a real, live person who they can connect with and who they can trust to guide them through incredibly important personal, financial and perhaps also business matters. It is at this point that Twitter comes into its own. The personal touch could make or break this decision.

The Law Society may be afraid that the distinction between the public and the personal is too blurred but I would advocate that actually the personality behind the Twitter account is what matters. Finding the right balance between sharing expertise and personality is the way to go.

Joanne Major is owner of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists. Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE20 9SU T:  01661 82 45 82 Twitter: @majorfamilylaw