If you want to get ahead in the social media game—and, with over half of legal referrals now coming from online sources, who doesn't?—you need to understand the right and wrong ways to engage with the internet community at large. If you don't seem internet savvy, it's easy to make rookie mistakes that can actually affect people's perception of your law firm for months or even years to come. In this guide, we'll explore some basic do's and don'ts of the social media world, so that you know some best practices for online marketing while also learning some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid in legal marketing.
DO: Use Your Personal Connections
Some attorneys, especially those who are new to legal marketing efforts, feel like they shouldn't make too much use of their personal connections. Because social media can sometimes seem to blur the line between purely social relationships and business or networking connections, it can sometimes be confusing to know what side of the line to walk on while marketing your business.
In general, its a good idea to have a personal social media account that is locked and only visible to your close personal friends—if for no other reason than to make sure that you have a place to put your personal observations that just don't belong on a news feed used for marketing purposes. However, your business social networking accounts should also connect to people you know personally.
Why? Because these personal connections can actually be one of your best sources of referrals. When someone already on your friends or connections list refers a new client to you, they'll already be able to see the connection when they message you.
DON'T: Get Fake Followers
One way that many businesses have used to get a higher search ranking for their social media accounts is to purchase followers. Many businesses online allow people to buy followers, often by the hundred or thousand. However, these “followers” are really anything but—most or all of them tend to be accounts run by spambots, rather than by real people.
While these kinds of services can sometimes grant a temporary jolt to your search rankings, at the end of the day they don't really help you build quality social media backlinks. They're the empty calories of the social media world—they seem like they're doing something, but there's nothing in them that will give you any kind of lasting nutrition. If you're found using services to purchase fake followers, depending on the service you're using, you may also find your account suspended.
DO: Make Content To Attract Social Media Attention
You'll be able to market your content online better when you make it ready to go viral. Don't make articles too long, and don't make them so short that people are left feeling like they wasted the click. Design social media friendly content, including easy to read lists and quick analysis of current cases in your field of expertise.
DON'T: Make Up Identities to Post Content Online
While it may be tempting to use false identities to try to propagate your content, including by posting fake comments to blogs or by posting submissions to social bookmarking sites, this strategy is actually incredibly risky. Called “astroturfing,” this fake grassroots lobbying for your firm is actually more likely to lead to people finding you out and thinking that you're being unethical.
If you want to post your content, do it ethically: be clear about who is posting the content. You might try doing a question and answer session, or talking to people about common issues in your legal field. Use your expertise to your advantage, rather than trying to hide it in the name of having “buzz.”
DO: Post Content Regularly
You should only join as many social networks and online groups as you have time to actively participate in. While you may want to belong to some of these groups only to read, if you're making posts in a location, do so consistently. Usually, blogs should be updated at least once or twice a week, and Facebook updates can be done one to two times per day without giving your audience pause—as long as the content is of sufficient quality.
DON'T: Repeat Content or Spam Followers
On the flip side, even having a few Facebook posts a week can seem like too much, if your content is boring and repetitive. If you're just spamming people with what amount to ads, you're not using social media correctly. Social networks are designed for two-way interaction—to talk with people, not at them. You'll lose followers and friends by posting advertising instead of entering into dialogues, asking questions, and giving tips. Follow other law firms so that you can see what other people are doing to talk to their clients without being perceived as spammers.
DO: Make It Easy For Site Visitors to Connect
When people connect to your website, they should be able to connect to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ accounts with just a single click. If they can't, you may be losing out on valuable business opportunities. Make sure that your website includes easy to use buttons that connect users to the individual and firm-wide social media profiles you're using to market your services. Internet users today, especially younger ones, often see social media as the natural first place to check to make sure that someone's personality will mesh with theirs. By projecting a confident brand persona in your social media accounts, you'll make it easier to get business from these web users.
DON'T: Require Social Media Connections For Content
While some companies think that it's a good idea to get followers by having contests or other content that requires “friending” to access, this is not overall a winning strategy for attorneys. People who are looking for lawyers don't want to have to jump through additional hoops, and these strategies can seem manipulative and even petty. You may find that forcing people to follow you leads to few new followers and a significantly increased bounce rate away from your website at the point where friending is required.