By: Lori T. Williams, Owner/Managing Attorney Your Legal Resource, PLLC
The general consensus is that social media is about engagement, rather than broadcasting your company’s message 24/7. Of course, there are times when making an announcement about the company is appropriate, it just shouldn’t be the main form of communication on social media.
Many Law Firms are still struggling to find their voice on social media, while others are not using these platforms at all. Some of the common reasons law firms choose to opt out of using social media include:
We all know we make time for those things we deem important and/or urgent. Some solo practitioners feel there are too many other demands pulling at them, and there’s no time left for social media communication. However, with Hootsuite and other platforms which allow you to schedule the time of your communications, lawyers can take a few minutes during evenings and weekends, or early in the morning, to craft a message and schedule it for release during business hours, if that’s the time frame their clients and prospects might be reading social media. Or they can use their downtime in between appointments to post a comment or reply to someone else’s comment. The time objection needs to be addressed on a case by case basis, but it is possible to use time effectively on social media for those who want to do so.
Attorneys who charge by the hour sometimes argue that social media communication is a time waster, because they can’t bill a client for the time spent. However, what if they looked at it as an investment of time that could eventually lead to a new client?
Privacy/Attorney Client Privilege
While it is not appropriate for attorneys to share confidential information about their clients with the public, using social media or other communication tools, it is still possible to share tips of what to do and not do through case studies that protect the anonymity of their client and still educate the public.
Social media is not an effective tool for business development
Some lawyers will tell you “my clients aren’t on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.” That may be true in some cases, but what about your prospects? Maybe your current clients aren’t using social media, but what about your prospective clients, or referral sources? Since almost all industries are using social media to one degree or another, blanket statements about who does not use social media offer little credibility.
If social media isn’t bringing awareness of the firm to new prospects, existing clients, and referral sources, then it might be because of how the firm is using social media. There are always things that can be improved to yield better results.
Return On Investment (ROI)
Some lawyers are afraid to spend time on social media, because they don’t want to give away information that their clients should be paying for. No one is suggesting they give free legal advice, or legal advice at all. As soon as there is some type of engagement with a prospective client who wants to discuss the particulars of their legal matter, that conversation should take place off line so there are no privacy concerns and so the lawyer can properly counsel the client about their specific circumstances rather than generalities. It is a good return on investment to showcase your expertise through a blog or other written material, or a video of a lawyer speaking on a particular topic. It lets people know who to call for that type of information.
Not every hour spent on social media will produce a tangible result such as a new client or referral, but that shouldn’t concern anyone. Not every dollar spent on marketing materials or websites correlates to a new client either. Yet no one stops spending money on all marketing efforts because they didn’t’ see an immediate return on investment. You have to participate in the arenas that your clients and prospects are in to see the return on investment. You don’t dedicate your whole day to posting comments online, but you make an appearance for a few minutes each day so people know you are there.
The question isn’t “should I be using social media?” It’s “how can I use social media more effectively?”
A recent article in the Legal Intelligencer illustrates a few examples of firms who are using social media effectively.
Dave Benjamin is a local social media strategist for professionals, restaurants, and retailers. When working with professionals like lawyers, financial advisors and CPA’s, he advises them to use the tools and strategies that work for their firm’s culture and within their industry’s rules of professional conduct or compliance. “Marketing your business has always been important but the rules and landscape have changed our online connectivity, resulting in a shift of how and where law firms connect with prospects, clients, and colleagues.”
Dave shares some examples of how he helps professionals engage on social media:
- Case Studies - Demonstrate your expertise through testimonials and case studies
- Videos - These could be testimonial videos, demonstrations, behind the scene, or other applicable content
- Blog - Share expertise through thought provoking content as well as comments on other relevant blogs
- Questions posed on social media - Learn how to filter specific topics or questions to your inbox or Tweetdeck column thus allowing you to answer questions when you have a free moment
“To see significant results from social media marketing and outreach, professionals will need to put in time, resources, and patience. Building relationships in person takes time to develop, and online relationships are no different. Creating the proper strategy and dedicating consistent effort towards executing your social media strategy is necessary, and often overlooked.”
Today, more solo practitioners are benefiting from their social media activity than are large law firms but Dave believes that will change over time. “As more firms realize the true opportunities present in effective social media participation, we’ll start seeing increased participation throughout the legal industry.”