I’ve been asked to talk to some firms about helping them with their social media implementation. The firms see it as a way of increasing the number of leads they get and in some cases as helping the firm develop the tag of The Go-To Expert in their niche. As the conversation starts to deepen, it appears that these firms have already done some social media training in the last 12-24 months. At this point, an alarm bell starts to go off in my head…

Training in isolation is not effective


Changing behaviour needs new conversations with staff

If you look at the introduction of social media into a firm in an abstract and theoretical way, it is a classic example of change management. Ultimately, by embracing social media, firms need to change their people’s behaviours. However, if you want to get sustainable behaviour change you need staff who are informed, willing and able. Let’s look at these three in more detail…


In order for any change or project to be successful the people impacted by the project need to be informed about the project. In particular:

  • The reason why
  • Their role
  • What they will be required to do differently
  • The timescales involved

In my humble opinion, I have seen many firms roll out social media training sessions in isolation;  there has been little or no expectations for staff to behave differently in their day job. I’ve yet to see a competency framework (unless I have written it) which shows in black and white how staff are expected to integrate social media into their day job.

In many cases social media training has been offered to staff because ‘we know we need to embrace it’ or ‘staff are asking for it’.

Hardly motivating reasons to change how you do your day job?


Change projects often fail as not enough time is spent helping gain the hearts and minds of staff concerned. In the case of getting social media fully embraced throughout the firm, the problem often lies squarely at the partner’s doors. If partners are not role modelling using social media, and not talking to their teams about their use of social media, is it any wonder that staff have gone back to doing what they always did?

If your conversations with your staff still revolves around their billable time, recoverability and current client work, then there is little or no incentive for your staff to use social media for lead generation.

Ultimately, if you are going to get sustainable behavioural change in your firm you need to start by changing the conversations that partners are having with their teams. Only then will change start to happen.


Many firms have, in my opinion, wrongly assumed that if they train their staff, their staff will magically be able to use social media, and start to do this without any more further support.

It just doesn’t work that way! Just showing people new tools is not enough to help them start to use them daily. People need to be supported to make these changes in their day job. They also need to be given time to use them.

Let me repeat that: People need to be given time to use their new tools and skills

Is it any wonder that if you expect your fee earners to achieve all their targets, and then tell them they need to make time to win new business via social media, something is not going to happen.

I’ll tell you what won’t happen – making time for business development. This goes back to the ‘willing’ part of successful change. Telling people they need to do business development on social media in their own time is not going to go down well. As well as telling people how they will change what they do, you also need to tell them what they will stop doing. For example, if they use social media every day they should be able to reduce the amount of time they spend going out to physical networking events.

In summary…

Before you decide to roll out yet more social media masterclasses or training programmes, take a long hard look at your firm. Are you helping fee earners be informed, willing and able?


Written by Heather Townsend. I help professionals become the 'Go To Expert'. I am the co-author of 'How to make partner and still have a life', 'The Go-To Expert' and the author of the award-winning and bestselling book on Networking, 'The FT Guide To Business Networking'. To find out whether I can help you read 'is this you' Connect with me on ,  LinkedIn and Twitter