The benefits of social media for today’s lawyer
28 Jul 2017
Our business world is constantly changing and it is imperative that we all keep up, even when embracing tools outside of our normal realm. Social media is one example that has changed the way people do business. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay in all its different forms, and it offers immense opportunities for those that do it right, whether individual lawyers or firms as a whole.
Social media seems to fall into the “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” category, and yet its rising popularity is a direct response to our modern, dynamic lives, where everything is faster, more critical and in need of instant answers and acknowledgements. Which brings us to the first part of what makes law firms successful on twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms.
Your accounts need to be interactive. People want to feel heard and acknowledged. So many law firms simply post tweets, for example, of their news or articles and that is all. They do not respond to comments about their posts and do not interact around other posts and tweets. Social media is not a one-sided affair – users need to acknowledge that others live in this space too and, where applicable, engage with them. Your aim should be to build your profile and create an understanding around who you are and what you do.
Before creating your social media accounts, contemplate why you want them. Being on social media because everyone else is, is not enough. Being on social media to boost brand awareness and raise the profiles of individuals and the firm is the ultimate goal. Develop a great strategy – careful thought needs to go into what the personality behind your accounts should portray (that is, professional but not too severe, or relaxed and fun – it all depends on your target market), and what you will or won’t be sharing.
Your strategy should also include responsiveness – replies or messages to your firm need to be responded to quickly and appropriately. People want to feel acknowledged especially when they take the time to contact you. And they are potentially a client so, just as you wouldn’t ignore a potential client emailing you (would you?), don’t ignore them elsewhere. Having said that, read what they say carefully and respond to their actual question or acknowledge their mention. So many big brands (not necessarily legal brands) simply respond without actually helping the person who contacted them. Or worse, they then ask the person to email them – why would they email after using social media? People are busy. The reason why they use social media is because it is quick and easy to communicate on. If more detail is needed, you should ask them to simply send their contact details (privately on the social media account they are communicating on) and then contact them to assist. Don’t make the client or potential client do all the work!
Everyone is also very concerned with how many followers they have but really the question should be, how many ‘quality’ followers do we have? By quality we mean worthwhile to you and your business. We all know followers can be bought, but even if they aren’t and you have 10,000 of which most are not clients or potential clients, what is the point? You’re ‘talking’ to a wasted audience.
It is extremely important that your social media accounts are managed by experienced staff or marketing professionals who clearly understand the boundaries and possibilities as well as who your firm is. Some brush aside their accounts and delegate them to junior staff because again, someone’s got to do it. This is more damaging than if you didn’t have any social media presence. Your marketing person should be experienced and therefore trustworthy. On the other hand, some firms are extremely wary of being on social media and allowing marketing to manage their accounts. If you trust marketing in all they do with your brand, you should be able to trust them with your social media too.
However, with tools such as scheduling tweets (where you can schedule tweets ahead of time), you could insist on sign off if it is a concern. An experienced social media consultant (or marketer) understands what is possible on social media and also how to use it. For example, how to use #hashtags and what their purpose is, how to speak in a language that will attract your target audience, and what differs between each social media account and how to maximise them.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others are inexpensive marketing tools that can potentially create a very successful online presence at minimal cost. This is also ideal for smaller firms who don’t necessarily have large firm budgets (although budget for an experienced and effective social media consultant is never money wasted). What is required is time. Time needs to be spent in creating brilliant strategies and implementing them; in communicating with your audience and attracting new followers who are potential clients; and in growing each account you hold.
Individual attorneys should also be encouraged to create an online presence and there should be feed-off between their accounts and the firm. Some lawyers have very cleverly created their reputation as industry thought leaders through their social media accounts. They do this by not only sharing content but encouraging engagement – again be interactive!
Blogs also have great potential to speak to your target audience and create your online presence – however, as in all your social media communications, don’t make them sound like a closing argument. They should be addressing your target market as well as your potential market so they need to reflect the human experience.
An online presence can be one of your greatest assets if managed and implemented correctly. It has the ability to establish individuals and firms as leaders in their sector. It can’t be ignored and the great thing is, if done well, its value is immense given its longevity, unlike print publications.