Lawyers, you have a problem.
In a World of social media over-share much of the marketing that occurs on these networks is an impossible road for you to take due to liability, confidentiality and professionalism. By now most legal professionals will have heard about the warning from Attorney General, Dominic Grieve after details of the co-defendants in the high profile Ian Watkins case were accidentally Tweeted by Cardiff Crown Court.
But, I have some great news for fee earners everywhere; the World of social marketing is changingand you’re not being left out any more.
Social Media CAN work for Lawyers
Since working in social media and marketing, I have had the opportunity to work closely with a number of leading national law firms who wanted to utilise social media as an addition to their online and offline marketing strategies.
Legal publications have been using online content to appeal to legal professionals for years, so it was only a matter of time before Lawyers everywhere wanted to get in on the action and utilise the internet to attract new clients. “Selling” social media to solicitors is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and for good reason.
The legal implications if something goes wrong can impact extremely negatively on law firms, we know this. But there is a risk for anyone who places themselves directly under the noses of their market online.
So, here is the step by step approach I take to assist law firms and the reasons why I truly believe that Lawyers need Social Networking:
How to Utilise Social Media if you work in UK Law
Tip 1: Maximise LinkedIn
If you’re on your companies’ website, you should also be on LinkedIn *waits for plates to be thrown*
LinkedIn is a brilliant network if you know how to use it; it has proven Client acquisition potential, but what it doesn’t have is a ‘LinkedIn magic switch’ that automatically fills your inbox with business enquiries instead of the spammy recruiter stuff we are normally barraged with.
Fee Earners, whatever their field, are awesome people; they think in a way many of us cannot and therefore a few of them find the concept of sharing information to an online community illogical which is what makes LinkedIn such a great network to start with, it’s easy to grasp, it gives a return and it doesn’t require constant updating.
On LinkedIn, focus on these basic ingredients:
1. Build a dynamic Profile and connect with relevant people
2. Share own content and other’s content from Company page
3. Engage with Group/Company Page discussions and other users’ updates
If your LinkedIn profile is one of the first stops for anyone who is ‘Googling’ you and your firm (other search engines are available), then you need it to be appealing.
If it’s not showing up in search results, then having an updated profile with fresh content is one of the best ways to make sure it ranks alongside your website profile:
The easiest ways to make your profile appealing is to make sure that most of the information people are looking for is visible in the first few paragraphs, as well as a great picture of your lovely face.
A little tip, change your Company website address to Otherand it will allow you to hyperlink whatever text you deem fit which will improve the likelihood of Click throughs!
Posting own content or sharing others’, updates are a key part of engaging on LinkedIn. LinkedIn Pulse (formerly LinkedIn Today) is your personalised news stand filled with news relating to whatever industry you like.
Make your updates SEO, data and customer friendly when you share by using Bitly links, images and editing the title, description and adding additional images:
Liking and commenting on other users updates is always best practice as it starts to build and cement a relationship that stretches past merely being a ‘LinkedIn Connection’ you can actually start to learn from each other – fancy that!
Groups & Company Pages
You’ve got to sift through a lot of rubbish before you find a great Group on LinkedIn, but they are out thereand they are super useful I promise.
Some great ones to start with are:
Defero Law who specialise in online community discussion for Legal professionals
Chapworking a general digital marketing group with a high response late and a helpful group of people from a wide range of industries
The Law Society purely for jobs! Not much discussion happens here but if you want to scope out your competition a bit, start here
And of course Law Society Gazette get involved in a debate on here and you’ll be typing away for hours as it has a membership on LinkedIn of over 27,700 legal professionals.
Tip 2: Recognise the Next Generation of Clients
The way we interact with one another has changed, forever. The growth of digital communication is vast; you need only look at the lump of plastic in your pocket to realise that we can be contacted and contact others in a different way to 5-10 years ago.
Think about the way you interact with everyone nowadays – colleagues, friends, family, brands – where does your communication start? Do you check a search engine for their contact information? What device do you use – your phone, laptop, tablet, desktop? When you found out how to get hold of them, did you email them, phone them or Tweet them?
The words we use have adapted and evolved far more quickly due to the rise of social networking and use of electronic devices – do you honestly use your landline telephone to call people as much as you used too?
If many texts, emails and social networking messages are simply to ask opinions, garner an idea of a brand, person or product before the potential customer interacts with them then the chances are that Lawyers and their firms are being spoken about via social media whether they like it or not.
By taking control of your presence online, you place yourself in a position of tactical advantage.
The Social Map of You
As everyone has a number of different ‘hats’ – professional, family, consumer and a student who is constantly learning, your social updates simply need to fit within the context of the particular hat you are wearing at the time:
Tapping into that mentality, it’s actually not that hard to construct something suited for your professional connections as opposed to your family members.
Tip 3: Becoming an Influencer
If your firm has a blog or company news section on their site, sharing it on your LinkedIn profile will help boost your market reach and encourage all-important Client acquisition.
Obviously, I don’t need to tell Lawyers that sharing personal case information is prohibited, but building content around important news you believe your clients would benefit from or cases you have permission to promote isperfect content for lawyers.
If there is something someone will always listen to a Legal professional about, it’s their opinion on something relating to their field of law. Yes, even commercial property.
Part of becoming someone who someone wants to learn from and therefore work with in the future is actually reading and sharing information around you that other’s will find interesting as it is making your own ‘stuff’.
My advice here is very simple:
- Start finding and connecting with the people who influence you on your social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+
- Share and Interact (comment, like, favourite) with posts that aren’t yours.
- Encourage discussion and opinion at the end of your blogs ‘I’d love to hear your feedback and how changes in social networking policy have effected your workplace, use the comment form below or Tweet me!’
- Be gracious and humble, but kick ass with your stats. You already know a lot – show it off! Your competitors will be quaking in their sensible shoes in no time.
Tip 4: Tone and Community Building
What it comes down to is being the voice that attracts new business while not scaring them away with a legislative or too private an approach – trying to build trust this way is counter effective.
As we explored in Step 2, the way people interact online is different to the formalities of email, letter and phone. Vernacular is more casualand conversations more are frequent.
If Twitter updates are limited to 140 characters, speaking in an overly formal way will pretty soon use up your space, rethink your approach and remember what is expected from your audience online as well as what is expected from them offline.
It’s all about balance
Personal brand is one of the most effective tools to sell your services available to you and encourage community building; it is also one of the easiest to build because everyone has a personality. Yes, even you.
Professional brand growth reflects on your personal brand, as your personal brand reflects on your professional brand – such is the cyclical nature of reputation.
Having a strong, unified brand online will contribute to
- Client Acquisition
- Positive PR and Brand Awareness
- Up to date industry knowledge
- Staying ahead of the curve & beating your competition (those pesky so and sos)
Tip 5: What Lawyers should Watch out for
One aspect of social media that some individuals struggle with is that of giving out personal information, both their own and their clients. In my experience, most fee earners I have spoken to about this find creating a profile online directly contradicts their mandates to keep certain information private.
While noble and very wise; this isn’t entirely true and the leaking of any personal information is totally manageable.
Create a Social Media policy for your Fee Earners, office staff, Clients, suppliers and third parties that doesn’t focus on what people cannot do and cannot say about your brand, but rather what they can say and should do for your brand:
Remember these key principles:
- Your Customers come first. Unless your job role specifies Social Media activity, don’t let engagement affect your job performance in a negative way, let it enhance it. And remember, our Customers come first, don’t give out any information without their permission.
- You’re dealing with people, and people come with emotions . Be mindful of discussing politics, religion or giving strong opinions; respect other people’s viewsand we can all get along.
- What you post, is posted and never can it be un-posted. Think before you post, on the internet ‘delete’ doesn’t always mean it’s gone. Don’t post anything financial, strategic, confidential or offensive. Someone will always be watching.
- It’s a small World after all. Your brand is recognised brand, what you say reflects on each Team Member.
- Be Who You Are. Your brand love Brand advocates and we love personalities. Your personal social media activity shouldn’t reflect badly on who you are or what your brand is about.
- Mistakes Happen: Tell your Manager, they are there to help.