Does your firm have a social media game plan? If not, you should. A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog on why law firms need to be on Twitter which included suggestions for how law firms could use Twitter effectively. I received more comments to that post than I have ever received. So, obviously lawyers are interested and have opinions on the value of social media. Senior lawyers in your firm may not see the value of it. I didn’t see the value at first either. Then, I discovered the opportunity.

I believe most clients consider lawyers and law firms for a first project based on recommendations by friends, colleagues and others who influence them. When your practice is local and is in a small town, word is passed on in person. If your practice is in a larger city, or covers a larger geographical area, in person word of mouth is more challenging.

On recent flights I have been reading “The Anatomy of Buzz Revisted” by Emanuel Rosen. In the book Rosen mentions a study on how people found their jobs done by Mark Granovetter, a graduate student at Harvard. To his surprise, Granovetter found it was rarely from recommendations from one of the closest friends. People more likely found their jobs based on recommendations by acquaintances. This phenomenon he called “the strength of weak ties.” Importantly, for lawyers it goes well beyond just the job market.

What should lawyers and law firms get from this study? Strong-tie buzz will spread word through a certain cluster, whereas weak tie buzz spreads the word from one cluster to another. In other words, people with whom you have strong ties, likely run into the same people and go to the same places you go. People with whom you have weak ties see people in different groups and go to different places than you go.

Lawyers and law firms need to consider the possibility and even likelihood they will be recommended to potential clients based on the strength of weak ties. Every lawyer I know who has gotten on Facebook or LinkedIn has found weak ties he or she had not heard from in many years. Those who have gotten on Twitter have likely connected with people they have never met personally.

Two blog posts worth reading that explain how social media can expand and leverage weak ties are The Strength of Weak Ties: Why Twitter Matters in Scholarly Communication and Facebook and the Strength of Weak Ties.

If a law firm or lawyer creates content that their weak ties find really helpful and insightful, those weak ties are likely to pass it on to others. For example if a lawyer tweeted about an article or blog post she had written and those following her on Twitter found it valuable, they will likely retweet it to the people following them.

Social media provides a really great opportunity for savvy law firms and lawyers who take the time and make the effort to figure out what is happening that will impact potential clients and create helpful content that can be easily spread. If you are a managing partner or a department head, have you thought about the value in creating a social media strategy and marketing plan? If you get there before your competitors, your message will be spread first.