Per a study from Pew Research released this week, just as many Americans get their news online from social media as news organization websites.

Almost twice as many people get their news from social media as search engines (35% to 20%) and over twice as many when it comes to email, texts and alerts.

While there are a number of pathways Americans use to get news online, two in this study stand out as the most common: social media and direct visits to news organizations’ websites. When asked how they arrived at news content in their most recent web interaction, online news consumers were about equally likely to get news by going directly to a news website (36% of the times they got news, on average) as getting it through social media (35%).

What may have seemed impossible five years ago, social media (people passing information on to people whose trust they have earned) is the equal of a news organization site (CNN, New York Times, Washington Post) and far more important than email for getting the news in this country.

Social media for lawyers news

A person’s age has some effect on whether they receive news from social media – but only after age 50.

…[Y]ounger online news consumers got their news through social media 47% of the time on average, about double the rate of those 50 and older (23%), and about on par with those ages 30 to 49 (42%). Those 50 and older, on the other hand, stand out for their heavier reliance on news organizations’ emails, texts and alerts.

What does this mean for lawyers and law firms?

  • Social media is more important than other ways of reaching your target audience. You may feel comfort in knowing the number and employers of email subscribers for alerts and emails, but over 40% of people 50 and younger get their news from social media while 15% or less get their news from emails and alerts.
  • The news, information and insight you publish must be shareable. This is going to favor blogs and other publications off the firm’s website on a separate domain. Such publications command authority and are more likely to be shared by people. Websites and their content, no matter what you do, tend not to be shared.
  • You need to develop an effective social media presence, particularly as individual lawyers, versus the firm. This means sharing and citing others news and information whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or in your own blog. Those who share are better received, get followed by more people on social media and find their news and information gets shared more. No question there is the role of a law firm’s Twitter feed for acting as a “mini-AP” on news subjects.
  • Social media is twice as important as search when it comes to people receiving news. Start focusing as much, if not more, time and money on social media as search rankings.

Law firms and lawyers spend too much time and energy on websites, website ranking in search and pushing their news and information at people via email and alerts. Getting others to socially share your news and insight is in fact the key factor in getting your audience to read the insight and news you publish.