As a firm that regularly consults helps with law firm web design and marketing strategy, we are frequently running into client questions and concerns surrounding content development for social media. This is not a new worry for those in the world of legal marketing, or marketing in general for that matter. Social media content development can seem at first blush to be incredibly demanding, as questions of what goes where and when come into play.
Law firms, especially those without dedicated marketing teams, simply often don't have the time or energy to devote to developing content for their blog or social media channels. Much is asked of small-to-medium sized firm attorneys, from management and finances, to business development and community involvement -- not to mention the bread and butter of billable hours!
Believe me, as a former nonprofit social media manager, I've been there. It can seem completely overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.
Just a few short weeks ago, a client asked me if I really thought their small-to-medium sized firm could find the time to develop content for their social media channels. His question and my emphatic "absolutely!" inspired me to share my tips for law firms looking for down and dirty tips to becoming more active on social media.
1) Join the Conversation About Current Events
There's no doubt about it -- social media moves fast and loves to talk all things current events. From politics to sports to business news, there is a niche or broad topic for your firm and practice areas to embrace and join the conversation. Is there a pop culture topic that's relevant to your firm's practice or location? In our example above, Lawyers Mutual of North Carolina wrote an entire blog post on Making a Murder star Jerry Buting's time at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law.
2) Actively Comment and Share
You’re already consuming, making, and sharing news, but you’re probably just not doing it on social media. Why undertake those actions but not expose them to the broadest possible audience? An easy way to get started with social media is to just start sharing the articles and content you find interesting. After you email a relevant article to a colleague or client, take the extra minute to post it to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, where its audience and value can grow exponentially! Recent changes to the law that may affect practice areas should be distributed as well, as this information will serve to establish your firm as a resource to clients. Did the law school of a partner or associate recently announce some exciting news, like a new building or award? Share the original article and congratulate them on their success. Look for opportunities where you and your firm are or could be linked to topics of the day and then make the connection in a timely way for your followers.
3) Tell Your Story
Consumers today are more interested than ever before in knowing the culture and philosophy of a business before they buy. Get together with your colleagues and staff for a 45-minute meeting -- perhaps over lunch -- where you brainstorm the story you'd like to tell about your firm and the people who make it a success on social media. When firm events like celebrations, holidays or milestones occur, let your followers in on the fun by posting photos to Facebook or congratulating a particular firm member by name on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you have an attorney or staff member who is honored by their community or active as a volunteer, be sure to share that information as well across platforms. A firm is made up of the people behind the brand and by telling their stories, you'll connect with potential clients on a human level.
4) Highlight Your Attorneys
We touched on this in the previous tip, but it's worth stressing again. By promoting the members of your firm and their professional accomplishments, you'll further the brand of the firm overall exponentially. If a firm member is a speaker at a CLE or awarded a regional or national legal award, that information should be shared across platforms and in a way that it can be shared again by the individuals at your firm. Think a short, congratulatory blog post on your homepage that is then featured on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, before ultimately being re-shared by the members of your firm on their personal social media platforms.
By focusing a great deal of attention on the professional achievements and accolades of your attorneys, you boost the firm's reputation as a home of outstanding legal talent. Encourage your attorneys to post any presentations they give (not for CLE credit hours, of course) to their personal LinkedIn pages and then reshare that content from the firm's social media profiles. Be sure to tweet all articles firm members write for bar association newsletter, journals or publications. Any and all positive recognitions from the media should be shouted from the rooftops on all platforms, preferably with appropriately-sized headshots.
5) Engage Your Followers
This tip is where I typically get the most pushback from attorneys and staff, usually out of an understandable fear of saying the wrong thing. The simple truth is that engaging with your visitors is vital to your social media success. Gone are the days of the phone being the direct link from potential client to the firm. Now, clients can find you in a myriad of ways, including your social media platforms, and when they get there, they should see evidence of the upbeat, timely customer service and engagement they'll receive when they hire your firm. To accomplish this, stay on top of comments, questions, feedback and shares on all of the platforms where you are active. Answer them as promptly as possible -- within a business day is best -- and in as positive of a voice as possible.
A great example of diffusing a possible issue by answering immediately with the right information can be seen above from the American Bar Association's Facebook page. They offered a discount to members on Brooks Brothers suiting, and a follower asked if the clothing giant had recently improved conditions for their workers. The ABA answered swiftly and connected the visitor with third-party information confirming that indeed it had. Problem solved.
Let this example inform your actions no matter the tone of the comments you receive. If someone leaves a lovely review of your firm on your Facebook page or under a series of photos from the recent holiday party, be sure comment beneath it to thank them for their kind words. If a person, firm or organization shares your post and gives you a nod, thank them for spreading the word. Should you get a negative tweet or post on your LinkedIn, do your best to listen and then resolve the issue there on the platform. After seeing Jay Baer speak at the 2016 High 5 Conference here in Raleigh a few weeks ago, we subscribe to his method of making two solid attempts at resolving or addressing a social media complaint positively. If after two attempts, the individual complaining is not satisfied, feel free to step away from the thread knowing that you gave it your best effort and that other visitors will see and appreciate your attempt to resolve the issue in real time. Be sure to take a look at our post on common mistakes law firms make with Facebook for more thoughts on how to manage your firm's presence on that platform.
6) Focus on Your Specialty
In the same vein as establishing your firm's culture on social media, don't hesitate to focus your content development on the areas where your firm specializes. If you are a family law firm, embrace that fully and focus your writing, article gathering and content distribution on topics that apply to family law. Don't suddenly post about business litigation unless you can make a visible connection for visitors to how this informs your practice. Instead, use Facebook to share information that may be helpful to those considering divorce, whether that's changes to estate law or parental rights. Post on Twitter to show when your attorneys are speaking at family law section CLEs or are honored by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Share newsletter articles written by your attorneys or instances where they are quoted by the media on both firm and attorney LinkedIn pages.
Don't let content development scare you away from participating on behalf of your firm on social media. You're already regularly developing the majority of the content we reviewed in this post. The key now is rethinking how you deploy said content to build your firm's digital brand. Remember, consistency in posting and positivity in tone will be key to your success in this effort. In my upcoming posts, we'll review some tools that will simplify and streamline this process so that with a few minutes a day or week, even the smallest firm or solo practitioner can have a robust social media presence.