Everyone says my law firm should be on Twitter and Facebook, I don’t have time for that, what should I do?
Updated November 5, 2019
In terms of Social Media, there are four items we want lawyers to think about:
- Have a branded presence on the major social media networks
- Treat social media as it was meant to be used — A place to share ideas and network with others.
- Be Consistent & DO NOT outsource social media posting content [caveat: see our new update notes below]
- You have to pay to get attention on social media.
I have done many presentations and CLE-credited talks on the ethics of Social Media. We spend our time in those presentations going through the different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and recently even Instagram and Snapchat. I get this “But do I have to” question a lot. When I compared notes with my GNGF colleagues that also speak at legal events, it seems they also get this question often.
As I thought about answering this question, I realized that we have not talked about this topic in our Facebook Live Q&As in awhile. I wondered why that was if it is one of our top questions we get in the field. Logically, I would have thought that we would have a number of webinars talking about social media.
In fact, peeking behind the curtain, this topic was not even in our shortlist of topics for any upcoming webinars or Facebook Live Q&As.
Why the discrepancy? This one puzzled me. In fact, I almost pulled up our shared document on Facebook Live and webinar topics and inserted Social Media right at the top. Then it dawned on me.
We don’t talk about social media on its own, outside of ethics CLEs, because of our approach and recommendations for social media are very different than most digital agencies or social media “experts” who only sell packages of X social posts per week.
To repeat, there are really only four points we typically make.
- Have a branded presence on the major social media networks
- Treat social media as it was meant to be used—A place to share ideas and network with others.
- Be consistent & DO NOT outsource social media posting content [caveat: see update below]
- You have to pay to get attention on social media.
That’s it. The good news is that, at a minimum, if you don’t want to make the time for Facebook or Twitter, then all you need is a branded presence and you are done.
Now I know that you may have gone to some recent lunch-and-learn, or read a bunch of blogs that said something about there being over a billion users on Facebook, and if you are not taking advantage of that you are missing out on a lot of potential business.
But be careful because the answer to that is not to simply outsource your social media posting and activity. Let me repeat that in case I am not being clear, I tell most law firms: DO NOT OUTSOURCE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTING AND ACTIVITY.
But, you are saying, ‘Mark, are you crazy, social media is the next big thing and I don’t want to miss out on all those potential clients’.
Agreed, but let me expand on our four points.
Have a branded presence on the major social media networks
My reason for this point is for the search engine optimization issues—specifically branded searches—and protecting your referrals. What I mean by this is that if someone uses a search engine to search for your name or other key lawyers at your firm they probably already know who you are, likely from a referral or some offline advertising.
If they already know who you are in the offline ‘real’ world, then you want to make sure that what they find online supports that positive image they received from the friend or colleague that referred them to you. The steps you should take are:
- Influence the first page of Google with as many web listings about your name as possible.
- Structure your website so that it is the first or second listing associated with your name
- Then you want Google to associate your name to your firm and take over another good portion of the search result with actual Google knowledge graph information (the right side of the search engine results page on a desktop
- Make sure you are listed in the key directories that rank in your area. Such as avvo.com, lawyers.com, findlaw.com, etc.
- Create a branded presence on social media sites (because they rank well).
Creating a branded social media presence is pretty simple.
Start with LinkedIn. You want a completed profile for your own name and a page for your company. LinkedIn commonly shows up when searching for any professionals’ name with a profile.
You may have a personal Facebook account that shows up, but also make sure you have a Facebook page that matches your law firm’s branded assets you use on and off-line.
Facebook pages rank well when someone is searching your law firm name (it happens to be in the search example image above) and you can add a lot of information a potential referred prospect would want such as your phone number, hours, description about your firm, even reviews on Facebook.
Law firm Twitter accounts sometimes rank, but I would start with Facebook and LinkedIn.
Treat social media as it was meant to be used —A place to share ideas and network with others.
Social media was initially created to be able to find, connect, and stay in touch with a broader amount of people online than you could. It is still great for that purpose. Think of it as the best networking event you have ever been to. You have ready access to information about people you are talking to, you can find people based on their interests, and connect with people no matter the time of day or part of the or world.
Thinking about social media as a networking event may also help you with many of the mistakes we see lawyers make with social media. We believe that in the legal industry, and professional services in general, most prospective clients hire people, not businesses. They want to know who they are going to be working with and probably sharing sensitive details of their life with.
If you were at a networking event, you wouldn’t walk up to someone with a business card and article in hand and say, “here I wrote this, you should read it now!”. Nor would you walk up to someone and say, “Hi I am an attorney, check out the awesome case/huge verdict I just won, you should talk to me and probably hire me”. If that is how you treated a networking event in person, everyone would look at you like you had two heads and would find a way to excuse themselves to get some more mini quiches.
Hopefully thinking about this makes a lot of the social media posts you may see online—and a lot of the social media advice—sound crazy. Social media is for connecting with people. Just as at a networking event you work to find people with common interests, or work to find the common interest between you. Whether that is golf, baking, fishing, kids, or your shared passions of Star Wars trivia (maybe that last one is just me). You find some common ground and start the conversation there. Then as you build a rapport it may shift into ways you can help each other.
Why should we treat the ability to connect with a wider audience on social media any different? If you talk about the things you are passionate about or even chat about your hobbies, family, favorite music, etc. you will attract people who resonate with those things.
Be consistent & DON’T outsource social media posting
UPDATE: I still feel pretty strongly about the general spirit of this point, however, after an interesting discussion with some legal marketers on an LMA webinar panel I was on recently, I am modifying this a bit. I still feel that the best use of social media for a lawyer is to put your brand and personality out there as authentically as possible. That being said, I was challenged about the amount of time that takes and can’t a marketer help with that. I talked to in-house marketers at larger law firms and found a great solution to this. While a lawyer should be the one engaging with their network on social media, you CAN outsource the curation of your own content to social media for top-of-mind awareness. What this means is that if you have been doing online marketing the past few years or more, you probably have a lot of good content and resources on your website. There is a very strong chance that very few people in the region you practice have seen this content. Therefore, you can have someone create an editorial calendar to put out a post or two a day highlighting the content and resources you have already written. This is a great way to keep your firm’s top-of-mind-awareness with your prospects. What I DO NOT mean by this is to just buy some package of [insert number here] Social Media Posts per week that are made up junk by the marketer. I have seen some bland posts out there that really do nothing for the law firm’s brand because of these spammy packages that are incredibly profitable for an agency to sell. We jokingly call these the ‘hot dog day’ posts, because it seems most of these spammy agencies just take whatever the ‘national holiday flavor of the day” is and create a post. That is how one animal rights lawyer (and vegetarian) client ended up with a post celebrating ‘national hot dog day’ – which certainly did not match her brand.
If you want to outsource this correctly, have your agency create a strategy for posting your existing content with a call to action then create an editorial calendar of the posts each month. You only have to approve the editorial calendar once a month. Yes, you can do this on your own, but I keep getting asked by law firms how to outsource social media effectively and wanted to offer this solution. Now in full transparency — I will get back to my typical answer on outsourcing social media which in spirit I still think is what people need to hear [end update]
Thinking about the above point, you are ‘networking’ online with social media. At a networking event, you have the ability to read people’s body language and play off of the conversation. But you don’t have that benefit when using an online social media platform. In fact, if you think it is extremely hard to be yourself and keep the professional voice you want to portray in a short one-way social media post, then it should be obvious that it is significantly harder for someone else to do this for you.
If you are thinking of this the right way, then you are connecting with and interacting with like-minded people on social media in a natural way and you should be having back and forth conversations with people. You post something, people comment, you comment back, and you build a good rapport with your new social media friends, colleagues, and yes even potential clients.
This conversation often happens naturally because you find someone worth conversing with online because you are both passionate about similar interests, be it work related, like an area of constitutional law, or just a personal passion like fly fishing.
If you are outsourcing your social media all you will have is an editorial calendar of bland posts that won’t convey you as a person. It will be next to impossible to build a strong enough relationship or personality online that people want to call or refer you when they or someone they know has a problem that you can help solve.
Once you start working to engage in a natural way on social media, the best advice is to be consistent. It often takes seeing the same person almost seven times at networking events, coffee, lunch, etc. before maybe some business or referrals happen from that relationship. Social media is no different. If you are on social media and being authentic a few days each week, just as in the ‘real world’ it may take many interactions with someone before you can tie a social media relationship back to your business.
You have to pay to get attention on social media.
Most networks have continued to reduce the ability for businesses to reach people on social media ‘organically’. This actually makes sense when you think about it. Your post about the awesome stuff your law firm is doing is competing with pictures and posts about babies, pets, and best friends.
There was such a push back to Facebook about this that they recently adjusted the algorithm in their feed to really cut back on the posts from businesses and brands in the newsfeed.
One on one, person to person, you can still connect and engage with people, but posting as your law firm is not going to get much attention.
What is a law firm to do then if you don’t want to spend the time and effort engaging one-on-one with people? You are left with good ole’ paid advertising. Call it what you want, sponsored tweets, boosted posts, etc. you are paying for your law firm to get to a specific set of people.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I just want to make it clear that when people say, “social media,” it has become an umbrella term for both engaging with people as yourself on social media AND paid advertising on social media. When it comes to “paid social media” advertising, that is the part of social media that can, and often should, be outsourced
But they are different strategies.
Either way, we recommend that whichever method you choose (or both) that you have a social media strategy. While we say that engaging one-on-one on social media should never be outsourced, getting help with your social media strategy and with the myriad of ways to advertise and target on social media is a valid use of experts outside of your firm.
I hope that by diving into the detail of our four recommendations, you may have a better understanding of the approach you want to take with regards to Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media.
Of course, if you have this question because you don’t really want to do anything with social media, rest assured that you just need to do two things:
- Have a branded Facebook page
- NEVER outsource your social media engagement.