Jeff Wolf, President, RCC
More and more law firms are creating social media profiles to interact and engage with clients, potential clients and referral sources. At first, most of these profiles were individuals and smaller firms. However, larger firms are starting to get involved now because they’re seeing the power of social media to generate business.
Social Media not only gives your firm 24/7 online exposure, but potential clients are able to research you and your firm and recommend your business to others. Every time your exposure increases, so does the potential to increase your client base. In fact, "Lawyers in the top 10% of the profession spend a minimum of 3-5 hours each week on practice development," otherwise known as meeting new people and networking with existing contacts (Source: LexBlog). So, social media marketing for attorneys can be very effective in expanding your pool of potential business and the opportunities are endless when interacting and connecting with potential clients where they already communicating.
In addition to connecting with existing and potential clients in a more personal way, social media also will enable you to (List from PR2020.com):
- Build stronger personal connections with colleagues and peers.
- Expand their business development network with prospects.
- Nurture referral sources.
- Build their personal brand and profile within the industry.
- Stay on top of legal industry trends, news and regulations.
- Monitor client industry news and trends.
- Learn from industry influentials/thought leaders.
The most important thing for attorneys to keep in mind is to take an educational approach to social media, rather than a sales approach. Social media is about building relationships so similar to all other industries, law firms and attorneys need to take a roundabout way to generating new sales. You start by building up content that will position you as a thought leader in your community, grow that community and foster relationships online using social media, and develop strategies that will get you noticed and eventually lead to… potential client and referral sources (= new business)!
Before you jump into social media with both feet, do some research online and off for a reality check. In addition to communicating with followers and readers you hope will hire you someday, you should be making connections with other industry members so that when they know of someone in need, they can refer you as a credible source. Talk to your existing clients, respected industry leaders, and your office staff about how they would like to connect with you and your firm in social media. In addition to the "how", ask:
- Where do existing clients and industry leaders want to connect with you online? Is it Facebook, your web site via a blog, forums, Twitter? As an attorney, you may not have much time to dedicate to Social Media, so you’ll want to "make it count" in the places where your audience is.
- What would they like to know about you and your law firm? Remember you want to educate, not give away free advice. Ask your existing clients what types of information they would like to know about you and your firm. You may be surprised. Depending on your audience, they might want a range of content from your commentary on recent high-profile cases to updates on your family’s trip to Disney World. The point here is to educate and build rapport to be seen as a reputable business and service.
- How much time do you and your staff have for social media? Again, it’s understood that attorneys don’t usually have a lot of spare time. Figure out how much time you have to dedicate to social media each week. Ask if staff members would be willing and able to dedicate some time (and how much) to social media efforts for your firm.
- What incentive do you have to offer? Here again, talk to your existing clients and industry peers. Find out what it is that turned those clients on to you. Was it your reasonable prices (Economical choice)? Maybe your willingness to take their calls day or night (Client Care)? That thing that hooked them will be your not-so-secret weapon, your message, when you approach your social media audience.
Now that you’ve established where your audience is, what to share, what you can offer, and when, it’s time to get started. Here are some tips for each of the social media sites where attorneys participate most:
Twitter and Facebook
- Twitter is not only ideal for sharing your own content, but also for curating industry news. Aggregating and using it effectively to share relevant information can help you and your firm brand yourself as a subject matter expert.
- Distinguish the difference between insights and actual legal advice. Include a disclaimer in your Twitter bio to express this point.
- Get personal. Feel free to share your personal interests on Twitter and Facebook, including sports, hobbies, or community happenings.
- Create a blog on your website to put a face and a voice to your practice. Blogging also helps you build content to share via other social media mediums.
- Add custom sharing tools or plug-ins (e.g. AddThis) to your blog pages so that readers are able to share your posts with friends and industry peers.
- Conduct training to show your individual attorneys how to blog for your firm (using their own name on your firm’s blog). Your attorneys have different styles and so does your audience.
- Readers may respond more favorably to certain attorney’s posts.
- Participate in online forums on lawyer-specific networks or join forums on more general online networks like LinkedIn (A LinkedIn group search for "attorney" generated 382 groups! Source: PR2020.com) and Facebook.
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your personal url includes your name, a recent photograph, and your Twitter handle (if you tweet).
- Give recommendations and connect people you think would benefit from knowing each other.
- Include LinkedIn applications such as Slideshare, Tripit, Legal updates, or any others that are relevant to your niche or community.
How do you plan to use social media to connect with your community and grow your business? What kinds of challenges do you anticipate? How will you overcome them? Wolf Management Consultants can help. Contact us today to learn more.