Maximizing the effectiveness of your social networking strategies should be one of your law firm's top priorities for 2013. Surveys of attorneys show that over 1/3 of lawyers are still not using Facebook or Twitter,and many of those who are using them aren't using them well. This guide will help you understand which strategies are actually effective for social networking professionally. Along the way, you'll learn a few key things not to do if you want to make your social networking campaigns effective.
#1: Differentiate Your Presence on Different Sites
Today, most of the major social networks are linked up, and many allow you to cross-post the same update to several different networks. Even on networks that don't offer this feature natively, social media dashboards allow law firms to release a comment on several different social media sites simultaneously.
Before you go too wild with the possibilities, remember this: just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should. Crossing too many social media wires isn't good for your business, and you won't get far targeting the same material to fellow attorneys and professionals on LinkedIn to users on Facebook who are more likely to be consumers with less legal knowledge.
#2: Understand Your Market
The era of the attorney who takes any case, big or small, about any issue, is long since gone. Today, you need to look at niche markets if you want to succeed in the legal field. When you're marketing to niches, effective social networking requires understanding the concerns and questions of that niche.
Do you notice that at initial consultations, clients tend to have some questions that it seems like almost everybody asks? Effective social networking depends on your ability to address some of those questions and concerns before people ever come to your office. By seeing how you respond to their real, commonly asked questions, people can get an idea of what it would be like to hire you as their attorney. That means that they'll be more likely to pick up the phone and call, instead of just thinking about calling—remember, potential clients who just think about calling won't keep the lights on in your office.
#3: Don't Be Afraid to Advertise
When you're getting involved in social media, you might think that the best indication of effective social networking is not spending money. After all, if you truly go viral completely organically, you won't have spent much or any money promoting your work. However, keep in mind that the chances of actually having legal content go viral on a global scale aren't really very high.
What is more likely is that your content could become viral—on a smaller scale, to a legal community or consumers with a particular legal concern. The best way to get your content passed around and create effective social networking content in these audiences is to make something that's informative, yet entertaining. If you've managed to make something effective, though, advertise it! Don't just wait for people to recognize your genius. Self-promotion isn't just optional in the legal marketing game today. Effective social networking requires you to actively advertise your brand and get your message in front of new people on social networks.
#4: Have Social Networking Goals
The goals that you set for your social marketing campaigns don't have to look like traditional ROI goals on something like direct e-mail marketing. Effective social networking doesn't always look like it results in new clients. However, with more than 85 percent of legal consumers now doing research on the internet before they contact an attorney, you'll do best if you put your best foot forward on social networks.
This means that you may want to have goals for metrics like how many times you engage people in discussion on social media websites, and how many new contacts you make on these websites. You don't have to see immediate quantitative results for your campaign to have been effective social networking. Reputation pays off dividends slowly over time.
#5: Listen at Least as Much as You Talk
Don't just use social media as your soapbox. One of the best things about effective social networking is that it lets you make contact with people and find out what your clients actually love and hate about your brand and your law firm. If someone has a problem with how you do things, it's not an effective social networking strategy to just shut them down. Let them speak, hear them out, and you may find out something about your company that you didn't know before.
#6: Guide Discussions—But Don't Dominate
Many attorneys have a tendency to over-police the discussions occurring on their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Just because a discussion starts with you doesn't mean that you need to interject all the time. While you should delete harassing comments as part of an effective social networking moderation policy, you should also allow room for dialogue to develop.
This means that a policy of “hovering” over discussions and steering them in a desired direction isn't as effective for social networking as simply asking questions and encouraging people to converse with each other.
#7: Apologize for Mistakes and Move On
Everybody makes mistakes, and it's very likely that at some point you'll try to implement an effective social networking strategy and instead will find out you've offended someone. When this happens, some law firms react with defensiveness and an unwillingness to apologize.
Effective social networking doesn't require you to be perfect, but it does require you to own up to your imperfections. When you make a mistake, it's much better for your online reputation if you admit to it, take steps to ensure that it won't happen again, and stop re-hashing it over and over. Attempting to silence critics will often just lead to online campaigns that will smear your firm and hurt your reputation for the mid and long term.