Social CRM and the Legal Industry

While the legal industry is perceived as a slow adopter of new technology, forward-thinking firms are embracing social media as a way to enhance their CRM efforts.

These firms are using a combination of social media and CRM technology, or social CRM, to offer greater familiarity with potential and existing clients, expand their "rainmaker" role, and build brands for attorneys as respected thought leaders.

Gaining Valuable Customer Insight

Building trust with clients is the key to creating and maintaining an ongoing relationship, and that trust requires a comprehensive understanding of the client. Prior to the introduction of social media, attorneys attained insight into how a client organization ticked primarily through face-to-face meetings and research.

Social media, however, has accelerated the process by offering easily accessible data about the needs, concerns, pain points, and interests of a potential client. For example, a company's blog will typically communicate the business concerns that are most important to it in the company's own words.

What articles do clients share with their social media networks? What hashtags do they incorporate in tweets, on Google+ posts, or Facebook status updates? Who does the general counsel follow on Twitter? The answers to these questions are easily discerned and can prepare attorneys to deliver more targeted and expert consultation. A social media connection may yield personal insights as well, ranging from political opinions to a recent vacation destination, which can help deepen the relationship with clients and prospects.

Social media insights can also help identify relevant, additional services to recommend to current clients. For instance, your clients' social media feeds will often signal issues and concerns that impact your client, giving you the opportunity to proactively develop strategies to expand your services.

At the same time, your clients' competitors are probably signaling their concerns or discussing industry trends—another opportunity for smart client advisement. By addressing needs before a client brings them up, attorneys further solidify their roles as trusted advisors.

Expanding the "Rainmaker" Role

In the past, a firm's "rainmakers" took on the primary role of identifying and landing clients. In the current legal climate, the task of identifying high-profile clients is no longer limited to just a few attorneys.

By drawing on CRM systems that have been enriched with social media data, almost every member of the firm can take an active role in driving demand for services and uncovering upsell opportunities. This isn't to say that the unique talents of rainmakers are obsolete—they certainly aren't—but social media has undoubtedly made rainmaking a team effort. More staffers can contribute to the process of landing new clients and feel more invested in the firm.

Brand Development

While it is critical to pay close attention to the social media feeds of potential and existing clients, it is equally important for law firms to create a social media presence of their own. Many law firms are using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to position themselves as thought leaders on a variety of topics. Just as law firms can assess potential clients' needs through social media, so, too, potential clients can use the social media feeds of law firms to see whether or not a law firm is the right fit for them. Law firms must invest the time and effort to communicate their messages and engage with their audiences through social media.

Law firms that employ successful social CRM have created powerful vehicles to communicate their knowledge about cases, legal trends, and breaking news on important legal matters. Whether through a tweet, a YouTube channel, a conversation on LinkedIn or Facebook, or a blog post, social media provides a broadly visible way to highlight a firm's key differentiators.

The paths of traditional CRM and social media have crossed, and the resulting intersection has spawned an unprecedented opportunity for businesses of all kinds to communicate and differentiate.

Embracing social media in a strategic fashion enhances a law firm's ability to find and successfully engage prospective clients, expand services to current clients, and brand itself as experts in their field of service. While social media changes on a daily basis, firms that follow a few basic strategies will quickly and cost-effectively gain valuable insights about prospects and current clients.

James Paterson is senior director of product line management at LexisNexis InterAction. Follow him on Twitter at @jamespaterson73.

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