By A J Smith*
As a digital company working with various professions we can almost predict the following scenario: You have a successful law firm and might have just have just caught up with the latest trends and tools with your website and your website is now doing relatively ok in your opinion (although it might be outdated since it’s not been updated for the last 12 or 24 months) only to find out that you have now lagged behind the other big trend, Social Media.
Before you jump in and start doing sporadic fixes to your digital marketing plan and paying for everyone’s idea and input just consider the following and then decide it its worth investigating or getting your social marketing plan in place or improving on your Facebook page that was set up three years ago and now have 29 likes for the entire duration, (all from your mother)
What a difference a few years makes.
Social media has exploded. Over 1 Billion people now connect with each other using Facebook—more than one-half on a daily basis. And hundreds of millions more connect using other social networking websites like LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, just to name a few.
In New Zealand more than 2.5m Kiwis use Facebook at least once a month . .
News feeds report stories live in real time. Blogs are often the fastest and best source for cutting-edge legal commentary.
If we just use Facebook stats as an indicator of the market pattern then the following can be said:
In New Zealand more than 2.5m Kiwis use Facebook at least once a month and more than 2m use Facebook once a day, of these 1.6m use their mobile phone to connect to Facebook.
Further stats show that 56 percent of the kiwi visitors to Facebook are female. 80 percent of Kiwis discover brands and products on the platform, 56 percent of those who discover new brands or products on the platform remain on the platform or go to the company website to learn more, and then 35% of those will then discuss the brand or product with someone.
Setting Up Your Digital Media Plan
If that is not enough to get your social media update or incorporated into your Company’s Digital plan, then read the following:
Younger people today have grown up with technology all around them, and it is intertwined in every aspect of their lives.
Nearly all the younger lawyers at your firm will have Facebook profiles they check daily, many will have already uploaded their résumés on LinkedIn and some may tweet links to online content of some sort. And social media is not the exclusive preserve of the young. Networking sites are seeing a spike in adult membership, including senior members.
How are law firms approaching social media?
Lawyers are beginning to realize the potential of social media to market their services, build connections with other lawyers and potential clients, or gather and share information about the law and practice.
So the question now is not whether law firms can engage with social media, but how?
Creating a policy that gives law firm lawyers and staff clear direction on what they can and can’t do is essential.
Here is a quick overview of the four main social media tools you should consider using: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. In the pages following this article, four lawyers that actively use these tools share their advice for making the most of them.
Facebook is becoming the social and communications hub for all aspects of the lives of millions of people.
They use it to share information with friends and work colleagues, and it is their preferred means of communication. For many, Facebook’s private message feature is replacing email.
While many lawyers are still scratching their heads—and rightfully so—some lawyers are making it work for them.
Many have a personal Facebook account and a separate page for their firm. Task No. 1 for any lawyer using Facebook is mastering the site’s ever-changing privacy and personalization settings. You need to understand and carefully control what the world can see.
Facebook has just introduced its “smart lists” feature, which automatically assigns friends to categories—work, school, family and city. Users can then add or remove their friends from categories after Facebook makes its recommendation.
The so-called Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn is in a different category than many other social media tools because of its express business focus.
LinkedIn allows users to create public profiles that are much like Facebook profiles, only without the bachelor party photos.
It allows professionals to upload a picture of themselves—usually the standard company headshot—and most of the information you would find on a standard résumé, including employment history, education, skills, publications and awards. LinkedIn users can see each other’s profiles and connections (called “contacts”) when they connect to each other.
Smart firms actively encourage all their lawyers to be on LinkedIn and to actively find real contacts (as opposed to wannabe friends) by relying on the power of exponential networking to identify connections to potential clients.
They also request that lawyer profiles use consistent firm branding and language to ensure they make a professional presentation. A firm of 20 lawyers who each have 100 contacts may have more than 2,000 potential contacts at only one degree of separation. The trick is to connect these contacts to business development strategies.
Twitter gives you yet another way to send information to all who might be interested in things you might say.
The interesting and overriding condition is that all Twitter updates, or “tweets,” can have no more than 140 characters.
. . with over 200 million distinct users, few other platforms have similar instant reach
Your tweets simultaneously go to your “followers,” all those people who agreed to receive your tweets. You can choose to follow anyone on Twitter, including friends, business associates, colleagues within your firm or even total strangers. Tweets can be sent from any computer or smartphone.
Many are sceptical about how short Twitter updates that are just 140 characters long can have any marketing value. However, with over 200 million distinct users, few other platforms have similar instant reach. Tweeting what followers flock to hear is building reputations and delivering clients to some lawyers.
Law blogging, is a quick and useful way to report current developments to colleagues, clients and the general public.
Enlisting a group of colleagues, usually specialists in a given area, to commit to posting on a regular schedule helps spread the writing load around. It also means the blog remains a firm asset if one of the people posting to it leaves.
Blogs with good reputations reflect well upon the expertise and diligence of lawyers, and present valuable client development opportunities from within the readership. They can generate real leads.
And if the mainstream media follows your blog, you’ll find yourself quoted or invited to comment on television or radio—not a bad payback for something that requires little out-of-pocket investment, but your attention and time.
The newest kid on the social networking block is Google+. This is the search giant’s effort at social networking. Google+ allows users to send messages, post links and share photos with friends, family, etc. The platform’s similarity to Facebook, its main competitor, is striking.
Smart firms should make clear that their policy regarding the use of networking sites applies equally to Google+. As Google starts to integrate all those other Google tools we use every day, more people will be drawn into using Google+.
Generating Business With Social Media
Here’s a few useful tips of guidance on using social media to your benefit
- You Can Increase Your Leads
First you use the social engine to build trust, once you build and establish trust, you may find yourself receiving referrals from your online friends.
- It’s Just a Conversation
At its core, social media is a way to talk to people.
- You Can’t Build a Practice on Social Media
The truth is that having a LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook presence can raise awareness about you, or serve as a starting point to discover more about your practice.
- Don’t Get caught up in online Twitter/Facebook wars
Always remember that you’re almost never going to change anyone’s mind. Keep in mind that because of the impersonal nature of written communication, people can misinterpret comments
- Represent Yourself at Face Value
So if you think the way you represent yourself online might fall into grey area, kill those claims.
- Tools Can Help
You don’t need to stop your practice and become a full time blogger, use tools like Hootsuite that can connect it all in one message.
- The Best Way to Start, is to Start.
Don’t await get into it today, if you do not have the time or experience get help from reputable service providers
- Don’t Worry About Having Thousands of Likes, Followers, shares etc.
Finding a lot of friends, contacts, and Twitter followers can be a full-time job, take it day by day as long as you keep growing the numbers the return will follow, there is ways to increase the return quicker by using paid ads in all the social platforms as part of your digital marketing plan.
- Find out What People Are Saying about Your Law Firm
Head over to Google and Twitter and do a search for your brand name. If no-one is mentioning your law firm, why not?
- Set Some Targets or Goals
Make sure you set yourself some specific, measurable goals before you start. Your initial goals can be fairly modest. To begin with a valid goal may simply be learning; learning the platforms, better understanding your clients and their motivations, and learning what types of content works.
- Get Everyone in Your Law Firm Involved
One of the challenges of social media can be getting it to scale. The best solution we have found is to make it a little bit of everyone’s job.
- Make Sure Your Website Can Support Your Social Media Campaign
Maybe it’s time to update your website and see what new tools are available to make life easier while bringing in more business, don’t start social media when you have not updated your website for the last 5 years.
AJ Smith wrote t his piece on social media marketing for lawyers exclusively for LawFuel and is the Marketing Manager for Imperial Digital a digital design and marketing company that has considerable experience in handling online and social media marketing for law firms in both New Zealand and overseas.