This week I was invited to be on a panel for a discussion hosted by Martindale-Nolo and the young lawyers division of the American Bar Association about using social media to grow your law practice.
More than 1,400 young lawyers were on the call and there were six panelists including attorneys and social media people from Martindale-Hubbell.
I was blown away by a poll taken at the start of the call that revealed more than half of these young lawyers are not using social media for their practices. I would have expected that kind of response from people my age or the older partners at firms who view social media as a disturbing new development. However, most of these participants were in their twenties and from the social media generation
My law firm has used social media for about four years now but I still face something of an uphill struggle to persuade the older partners about its importance. Facebook is a platform their wives spend too much time posting pictures of their kids on; it’s a place for cuddly cats.
Both of these statements are true. They also go to the heart of why social media is such a powerful tool for attorneys and other businesses such as accountants that you would not necessarily associate with social media.
You won’t get dozens of cases every month from Facebook unless you are a firm like The Law Offices of Jacob J Sapochnick, a San Diego immigration lawyer who has more than 139,000 Facebook likes and gets as many as a dozen cases a day from the social media.
That’s immaterial in many ways. Facebook and other platforms are a way to get into people’s lives in a subtle and unobtrusive way without proclaiming you are a lawyer and turning people off. It’s the online equivalent of that fridge calendar from a landscaping company. You don’t think much about the company until you suddenly need a tree removed and think “I know a landscaping company.”
When my firm started experimenting in social media it was an unimportant sideline. Now it’s the third or fourth biggest source of traffic to our website and posts routinely get hundreds of views. It’s certainly not our most important marketing tool. But it’s gaining in importance all the time and the potential is unlimited. In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.7 billion active users and as many as a third of all people get their news first from social media. It’s not going away any time soon.
If your law firm does decide to build social media platforms, you should adopt a strategic approach. Here are five top tips.
Five Tops Tips for Using Social Media as a Law Firm
1 Decide Which Social Media You Should Concentrate on
Unless you have unlimited resources, you won’t have the time to establish a comprehensive presence on all social media platforms. Decide on your main platforms and devote most of your resources to one or two. You can develop others at a later stage.
Facebook remains the most popular of social medias and the one it makes the most sense to have a presence on. We also devote considerable resources to producing and posting videos on YouTube. Given that YouTube is owned by Google it makes sense to set up your channel and post videos regularly. YouTube videos show up in Google searches and Google is as dominant in the world of search engines as Facebook is in social media.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each social media and consider what people want to see. For example, LinkedIn is a lot more business-orientated than Facebook. This is a good social media for developing contacts and possibly getting referrals from other lawyers. It’s not the social media to post lots of pictures of the partner’s dog on.
People often ask me about Google+, the social network that was set up by Google to rival Facebook, but ultimately failed. I believe it is important to have a presence on Google+ but not because anyone will see your content. Rather, it sends the right signals to Google. And don’t forget to verify your Google My Business listing and seek out reviews. These are golden.
2 Don’t Treat Social Media Posts Like Ads
If you have a social media site, one of the worst things you can do is to treat is like a platform for TV ads or a place to bombard people with legal material. Some of our most popular forms of content are pictures of office staff having birthdays, their children or attorneys doing very un-attorney like things. Tag people in the posts and you’ll generate interest, shares ,and comments.
Educational posts are also great things to run on social media and may be shared. These can relate more closely to your practice. Examples can include safe walking to school tips or how to strap children into car seats.
There are also a variety of feeds you can use to vary up your content that may have little to do with your practice areas. If an important football game is taking place, think about how you can tailor your content to the game everyone is talking about. Use humor and post memes now and again.
3 Use Social Media to Promote Your Own Content
Having a social media presence is far more important if you can drive people to your own website or even to another social media channel like YouTube. You need to create your own content and share it on social media. If you get traffic to your website from a social media site, it may boost your website’s ranking with the search engines.
The proviso here is that content on your website should generally be related to your practice area. You shouldn’t be posting all of your immigration or family law blogs because your Facebook page will quickly become dull. One method we have used to drive people from social media to our website is to have competitions . People won’t mind being directed to your website if they think they will win something. It’s a win for you too because you will be boosting your site and hopefully capturing their information.
You can keep the narrative going by announcing the winners on social media and even posting a video of the drawing.
4 Be Ethical
The fact you are posting material onto a more informal platform is no reason to forget about the ethics a law firm has to abide by. Check with your local state bar association to establish the rules. In Virginia, for example, there are rules that require a lawyer to maintain a client’s confidences and secrets. You should be very wary about posting anything about a client until a case is settled and, even then, you should obtain the client’s permission.
There are also rules about misrepresentation that can get an attorney in trouble. If, for example, he or she makes a friend request to a potential client in order to solicit their business, the lawyer may fall foul of the state bar.
Advertising rules are as pertinent on social media as anywhere else. It’s one thing to blog about a case result (providing you meet the disclaimer requirements) and to post a link to the blog on social media. But you can’t make subjective comments like boasting you are the best in your field.
Also avoid using social media to vent your frustrations about a court case or another attorney and steer clear of politics and religion.
5 Consider Paid Promotions and Review Analytics
Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have increasingly moved toward a “pay to play” model. Businesses won’t get the organic exposure they received two years ago. Although this may be an irksome development, social media advertising is still very cheap compared to Google Adwords and it’s a quick way to build your following and to target the people you want to reach. Facebook has very sophisticated targeting tools.
As well as promoting posts or considering limited advertising spends, you should regularly check analytics to see which kinds of posts are working and which are not. This will allow you to develop a more sophisticated social media strategy and to concentrate on what works best for your brand.