A few years ago, when less than a quarter of law firms were using any social media platforms at all, just being part of social media sites was an indicator that your law firm understood the technological landscape better than most. Today, though, 9 in 10 law firms are using social media in some way, and 7 in 10 have specific social media plans for 2013. If you're looking to go above and beyond in your approach today, you can't just sign up for accounts. You need better, smarter ideas that will help you get ahead of the competition. Here are seven ways that you can push your social media in 2013 beyond what you've done in the past.
#1: Get a Social Media Dashboard
If you're still actually logging into each social media website to make your updates and comments, stop! While logging into individual websites is fine for individual users, law firms and other businesses need a more efficient way to handle their social media posting. The easiest way to make sure that you're posting efficiently is to download a social media dashboard.
There are many of these dashboard programs, each allowing a different array of social media sites. The programs are at a huge range of price points, from free to those that cost both an upfront purchase price and a monthly service fee. Your law firm's needs and social media budget will determine which of these services is best.
When you use social media dashboard tools, you'll be able to monitor what people are saying about your brand on social networking sites. You'll also be able to easily and seamlessly reply, ensuring that you always have a certain amount of control over the buzz surrounding your firm.
#2: Cross-Promote Blogs and Request Comments
When you write a blog—and most lawyers have one, today—you probably want to make sure as many people can read it as possible. However, you may be promoting your blog on social media sites in a way that's likely to leave some people turned off. A brief summary of a blog entry and a link won't get most people there.
Instead, try asking a question about your link. Ask for comments, or stories, or anything—the main component of this strategy is to ask not just for a read, but for a response. This keeps people reading actively and framing the issue in the way that you want.
#3: Start Conversations—Even Silly Ones!
Too many law firms think of social networking as a one way, outbound communication medium. However, considering it a two-way communication medium will serve you much better. Listen to the kinds of discussions and conversations your followers seem most likely to start.
Consider using laughter as part of your marketing arsenal. Even if the conversation you're starting is a silly one—for instance, “name something you don't want to hear at your meeting with a personal injury lawyer,” with a few funny responses to get the ball rolling—this gets people to feel like they have a seat at your table and are honestly interacting with you. This kind of genuine interaction is worth far more than yet another staid, professional post about your firm that gets no traction on anyone's social media feeds.
#4: Monitor Your Competition and Interact With Them
In the social media world, you can sometimes consider your competitors to be among your best friends. Monitoring competitors to see how they're interacting with social media lets you see experiments performed—without you being the one to take the risk. If you see something that your competition does that's successful, you can consider the best way to use similar strategies for your firm. Don't copy too closely, but instead take a look at the underlying reasons that a competitor's strategy worked to gain new followers or spark a great discussion.
You should also consider actually talking to your competitors using social media. There's no reason not to, and you can keep your interactions professional and aboveboard.
#5: Use Social Media Knowledge When Interacting
Before you start posting on any social networking site, you should make sure that you have a handle on the community norms and expectations. One of the ways that law firms can truly go above and beyond in social media is making sure that they understand social networks well enough to look like regular users of the site, not just people there to make a quick marketing buck. Consider having a personal account totally unattached to your real name, just so that you can start to learn the ways that people interact on each website. This surveillance gives you a huge leg up on competitors who only know sites as marketing tools.
#6: Answer Questions With a Quick Turnaround
When someone asks a question on your Facebook wall or other social media feeds, how long does it usually take you to respond? For most businesses, this turnaround time is anywhere from 12 to 48 hours on average, during business days. However, businesses that go above and beyond can do better. Consider using your social media dashboard tools to make sure that you're answering all questions to the best of your ability within just a few hours. This kind of fast turnaround will set you apart from your competition in a way almost nothing else can—people like when their attorneys are quick and responsive to their needs.
#7: Keep In Touch With Brand Ambassadors
If you know that one of your former clients or a social media connection is particularly good about evangelizing for your firm, that's a person that you need to stay in contact with. Making sure that your brand ambassadors are informed about firm happenings is a great idea. You can also ask brand ambassadors to help you by posting some of your best links.
An ideal brand ambassador is one who is connected to your firm voluntarily, rather than through bonds of employment or family. Finding even a few former clients who can brag about your legal services is a great way to boost the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.