Social Media Marketing: Hype vs. Reality

December 1, 2016

Three part series: Social Media: WTF? | Social Media Marketing: Hype vs. Reality | Is Social Media Marketing Worth It?

Does Social Actually Work?

There's a great deal of anxiety surrounding the idea of social media marketing. The general consensus seems to be "If I'm not using ___________ (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), then I'm ___________ (not engaging with my audience, not savvy, not reaching enough people, a failure at marketing, missing the boat, obviously old and out of touch, etc., etc., etc.).

According to the "2016 Attorney at Work Survey Report", most lawyers use social media (88%) and many of them have social as part of their online strategy (68%), but:

"Only 3 percent say social media is “very” responsible for actually getting them clients, compared to 4 percent in 2015..."

3%?... yep.

We hear echoes of the same from our clients. Nearly everyone thinks it's an interesting idea, but few have been able to point to actual returns on their investment of time, effort and money and many think there is real downside.

A 2012 report from ALM Legal Intelligence asked: "Why does your firm not use social media networks?" 

  • 34%: The firm thinks it needs to use social media but it hasn’t decided how to approach it
  • 28%: The firm does not believe it is needed
  • 17%: The firm is worried about data risks and has decided against using social media
  • 21%: Other

This survey is a little old, but these continue to be the questions firms are asking. The full white paper is here.

An observation from the very smart Conrad Saam at Mockingbird is really on-point:

"With few exceptions, legal issues are extremely private.  I’m more likely to publicly  “like” my anti-herpes medicine than my DUI lawyer. It’s not because I hate my lawyer – in fact I love her – its that I don’t want anyone to know that I need her because I’m facing incarceration, divorce, arrest, unemployment, deportation, or the IRS. And if I need a lawyer for one of these private issues, there is no way on God’s green earth I’m initiating that search on anything remotely public like social media."

His point (and I enthusiastically agree) is that lawyering is not a social activity -- and that's what many marketing firms that don't work with lawyers fail to understand.

Ask yourself this: would you search on Facebook for a lawyer to do a $100M dollar deal? How about a child custody case or a DUI? Does Facebook then know you're looking for something like that? Are they tracking that info? You bet! So is social marketing good for the consumer? That's an entirely different subject and one we may tackle in another post.

Then there's the liability perspective.

The NYC Bar has clearly stated that if someone endorses you on LinkedIn, it's the individual attorney's responsibility to police and correct those endorsements if not 100% accurate. They are also required to state "Attorney Advertising" and keep advertisements on hand for 3 years. For our clients, that means we have a monthly snapshot of their website permanently stored and reproducible on demand. But if you're using social media to market (advertise) do you need to keep your tweets in a cage for 3 years and be able to produce them on demand as well? Should you be marking your posts as "Attorney Advertising?" In many cases, this is uncharted territory and evolving quickly - so check to see what your local bar requires from a social compliance perspective (and check again in six months).

What kind of company are you?

We know many companies who live and die by their Facebook pages for actually generating leads, but every single one is a B2C business. It's all we hear about and there's a tendency to think we should too, but comparing B2C and B2B impact is a false equivalent.

Social media for B2B is typically not used for direct lead generation. Rather, it's used for reputation building, network building, or extending what you do face to face into a larger sphere. For instance, someday this post may reinforce a warm referral, which may lead to our company not being dismissed out of hand, which may lead to an RFP, which may lead to 20 conversations and 4 meetings, which may lead to a deal. But this is not a direct line and again, probably all started with a referral from another client or colleague, not a Tweet or Facebook post.

There are many YouTube 'stars' with 5 million subscribers who bartend because they don't make enough money through social to survive (seriously: here's the link). Most professional services businesses would kill for 1,000 subscribers -- but what does that mean and what does that get you? How do you connect the dots from social media marketing to your bottom line?

We'll wrap this up in part 3. Is Social Media Marketing Worth It?


Animus Rex builds world-class websites and provides no-nonsense, well-considered advice like this to all our clients. Want to know more, or have a question? Please reach out. We're happy to help.

Thanks and be well,

- Todd

If you have any comments or questions, or just want to say hi, please email me at


This series:

Want to explore further?

How In-House Counsel Use Social Media - The article takes a positive view on in-house counsel use of social media, but it does point out that "74% percent of in-house attorneys are deemed “invisible users”: they use social media in listen-only mode" and "in-house counsel increasingly read and value blog articles." In other words, SM is good for paying attention to industry trends and news, but otherwise, in-house counsel lawyers aren't really using SM for self-promotion.

State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey 2015 - Quoted several times in this series.

Every Social Media Consultant is Lying to You - "Legal is not a social issue." The author points that there are issues of privacy when it comes to lawyers being on social media, as well as the fact that it is extremely unlikely that people are using social media to find specific lawyers. [P.S. We love these guys. They're smart.]

Why lawyers don’t always need social media - This post states that social media and blogging can often be too general, especially when you're trying to reach out to specific potential clients. Social media could be a waste of time since a more direct approach can yield better results.

Why social media engagement is overrated - This LinkedIn article is more specifically about social media engagement, it emphasizes that engagement on social media in itself is not a strategy, nor is it an indicator of success. Engagement also requires time and resources that could be used towards an effective strategy, considering that engagement may not always lead to the results that we want.

Fans, Follower, and Connections: Social Media ROI for Law Firms: this is a white paper with some really useful stats and charts

There's still a substantial amount of lawyers (54%, according to this report) that believe social media marketing is all "hype" and isn't very useful for lawyers, even though some statistics show otherwise.

And a few on the Pro side for a little balance

This blog post brings up why lawyers should have a social media presence: clients and potential clients expect lawyers to be on social media, social profiles give clients an opportunity to brag about their lawyers, and social media can build brand awareness.

How Can Lawyers Use Social Media to Their Advantage? Uses for social media: marketing your law practice, helping your firm set goals, networking/building authority, using social media as courtroom evidence

"54% of consumers [e.g., B2C lawyers] say they would be likely to hire an attorney who is active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and SnapChat." Lawyers: 54% of Consumers Base Hiring Decisions on Your Social Media Presence