Facebook for Lawyers: It’s In the News

Did you know that Yahoo! News (the biggest news site on the Web) has a
Twitter account and Facebook page? True. Both accounts stream links to
latest news headlines as curated by editors at Yahoo!

No big deal. These days, everyone’s on Twitter and Facebook. At time of writing just over 13,000 people follow the Y! News Twitter feed. Over 16,000 fans (aka “readers”) connect to Y! News on Facebook. And growing daily.

Yahoo! advertises their new social media outposts on news.yahoo.com
with prominent banner ads. I’ve been struck by just how often those ads
run. Clearly the folks at Yahoo! are committed to increasing readership
on both platforms. Their Twitter ad:

Screen shot 2010-04-01 at 11.15.06 AM.png

And Facebook:

Screen shot 2010-03-31 at 2.56.39 PM.pngHere’s why I think this is a big deal: Yahoo! News is the most visited news site on the Web.

Today,
the site’s daily direct traffic so utterly surpasses its fan and
follower numbers on Facebook and Twitter that one might argue those
social media audience numbers are hardly worth the time. And yet,
Yahoo! participates – and, more to the point, actively builds a new
audience on both platforms.

Is Yahoo! News concerned by a
diminishing traffic share? I don’t know; maybe. (It’s hard to feel
sorry for the site. If you’re no longer the most visited news source on
the web – if you are, say, the third or even of fifth most visited site
… that’s still a lot of people stopping by daily.) 

Whatever the reason Yahoo! has gone in search of a new audience, I’m more interested in the way it has done it.

Fact
is, the mother of all news sites has jumped into the business of
curating and distributing stories on Facebook and Twitter – joining the
likes of The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News,
and all the other media outlets quicker to arrive at the social media
party. (To say nothing of those emerging media enterprises who’ve
founded their very businesses in part on the power and reach of Twitter
and Facebook, and probably wouldn’t exist without them.)

Much
has been written about the changing shape of journalism in these
transformative times – and I defer to those smart people who will
continue to write about it. My point is narrower:

By
jumping onto Facebook and Twitter and actively promoting their presence
there, Yahoo! News affirms what we have been saying for quite some
time: both platforms are terrific sources for worthwhile readership if
you have information to share. It’s really that simple.

To
my mind, this plunge into social media by Yahoo! News is one more
validation of the kind of engaged, viral readership available on
both platforms (especially Facebook).

Here’s a recent story to pass through my Facebook news stream

Screen shot 2010-04-05 at 3.14.08 PM.pngAn hour after posting, 58 people have “liked” the piece; 63
have commented on it. (In comparison, on Yahoo! News proper, less than
half that number – 23 people – have commented on the story.)

This
isn’t simply about the ability for readers to post thoughts at the end
of content; Yahoo! News has allowed commenting for quite some time. The
difference is: when you comment on a Facebook story (or click that you
“like” it) there’s a greater chance that your friends will become aware of that story, too.
Your actions around that news item don’t take place in a vaccuum – in
fact, they can drive attention from within your own circle of friends.

I think Yahoo! understands the “sticky” nature of readership on Facebook. What they also “get” (I suspect) is that with each new fan, they now have the chance to communicate directly with their readers in a way they didn’t have before – via fan page member updates. I also suspect they finally realize what others have known for a while: Facebook is emerging as a primary source for news. Yahoo! is going to where there’s an audience.

And what does this have to do with lawyers?

While the debate unfolds about whether the legal profession belongs on Facebook at all, we’ve been answering a related question: are lawyers’ clients on Facebook? And more to the point: is there a readership for legal content on the site? 

And so, along with other means of syndication and distribution, we’ve been building subject-specific legal news hubs of our own on Facebook, each with its own audience in mind: the people lawyers want to reach.

One such page – Real Estate Law – just reached a readership of 3,200 fans. A good start. Here’s an example of how the page’s fans (many of them real estate professionals) respond to JD Supra’s legal content:

Screen shot 2010-04-01 at 12.44.56 PM.pngAnd this example from our Business Law page, with a readership today of just over 2,400:

Screen shot 2010-04-01 at 12.50.15 PM.pngHere’s what our Real Estate Law readers have to say about the page in general:

Screen shot 2010-04-05 at 4.16.41 PM.pngPeople on Facebook interested in substantive topics like real estate and business law? Sure. At this point, the platform is too big (400 million and growing) really to generalize what people want to do there. Again, we do know from the numbers that Facebook is the world’s largest news reader – and I think that includes niche news like Law, in which lawyers with particular expertise can showcase what they are good at. (In these early times, we’ve also seen instances of lawyers hearing directly from prospective clients because of the content we curate on Facebook.)

In discussions about Facebook, so much time is spent arguing the various merits of how to use or abuse our profiles (playing Mafia Wars, connecting with friends we haven’t seen since kindergarten, etc.) that we start to miss the bigger picture. For many people in all sorts of professions, Facebook has become a primary “daily screen of engagement” (my awkward phrase) – the place to go for news and updates on all subjects of interest.

Good for brands who want to engage customers with games, conversations, and the like? Check. Good for news sites? Absolutely. Also good for professional services? Yes. Especially if you see the merits of sharing useful information online in order to establish your expertise and reach people you might not otherwise have reached. And, more importantly, if you’re willing to write to the needs and questions of your ideal audience.


Related

- JD Supra Finds a Facebook Audience for Legal Articles (Inside Facebook)
- Facebook for Law Firms (Jordan Furlong at Stem Legal)
- Why Brands are Becoming Media (Mashable)
- Three Apps for Your Law Firm’s Facebook Page (JD Supra)
- Have You Seen Your Professional Info on Facebook?
- JD Supra Everywhere
 

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