As social media marketers for attorneys, we know how social media and search engine optimization work in tandem to improve the rankings of any law firm website. Having said that, we see many lawyers who are making mistakes in the ways that they handle their law firm’s social media marketing efforts. In this article, I’ll explain the benefits to attorneys and law firms of engaging in social media and some tips from our digital marketing experts for how lawyers can use social media to build an online audience of prospective clients and referrals.
Fishing for Leads – A Metaphor for Social Media Marketing for Lawyers
Think of your online marketing strategy as casting a fishing net into open waters to capture business. You and your competitors are standing side-by-side on the shores of the Internet trying to take in the biggest haul. If you’re using just your website, then your net is small, and your competitors who are engaging in social media are landing more clients.
Now let’s suppose that while “fishing” on social media channels, your competitors are using only the best, most attractive lures available. You, however, have opted to use only the most basic tackle. In other words, while your social media channels are barebones, your competitors have filed out their profiles, branded each one with custom images and logos, and they’re posting regularly to their audience. If you’re ill-equipped, don’t be surprised when your competitors who have immersed themselves in better social media marketing are landing all the business.
Let’s take it one final step further. Let’s imagine that your law firm’s competitors are hi-tech and they’re using the best depth finders, sonar, chart plotters, and other fish finding gear. Meanwhile, you’re haphazardly casting your line anywhere. Stated another way, while your law firm’s competitors have used analytics and reports to figure out the best spots to “fish,” you’re wasting your time in the wide open waters of the Internet. Get the point? Good! Now let’s talk about some tips for better social media marketing practices.
Be Genuinely “Social” in Your Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing on Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media channels only works if you’re being “social.” Aside from the medium, there’s not much difference between being digitally social and social in your every-day affairs. For example, let’s say you decide to join your local Rotary club as a way to connect with others to market your firm and develop referrals. If you sit in a corner and keep to yourself, then you’ll never make connections. Overall, social media is no different that the real life. Introduce yourself, share in others’ online conversations, reply when someone comments online, and generally speaking – be social.
Don’t Get Fixated on the Numbers of Fans or Followers
Many attorneys mistakenly believe that social media marketing is a numbers game and they get fixated on their number of fans and followers. In fact, some lawyers actually buy followers. Buying followers is a waste of money and it results in little to no leads. When you buy followers or fans, you’re just buying numbers. The follower and fans you purchase aren’t people who’re interested or willing to engage with you or your firm. Additionally, you’re likely buying a large number of fake social media accounts.
Instead of worrying about the numbers, be patient and concentrate on growing your followers and fans organically. Your end goal should be growing an audience that actually is interested in, and will engage with you, your firm, and your practice areas.
Not only does it take time and effort to grow your followers and fans, it takes considerable time to engage on social media by posting relevant content. Many attorneys don’t have the time to devote to posting and sharing, so they turn to a cheap and convenient solution by using [tooltip title=”Don’t confuse auto-posting with social media scheduling, which allows you to optimize your reach by selecting future days and times to post content.” placement=”top” trigger=”hover” class=”” id=””]auto-posting[/tooltip] tools and applications to automatically distribute their blogs or other content to their connected social media accounts. Setting your social media profiles to “autopilot” is bad for several reasons including:
- When you’re auto-posting, you’re not engaging or listening. In other words, you’re not being “social.” Successful social media marketing for lawyers requires the human element of engagement.
- Different social media platforms allow for different styles of posts. For example, Google Plus allows for embedded photographs, font styles (such as bold post headings), and more. However, Twitter only allows 140 characters. Facebook posts can be significantly longer and can include location and tags. When you auto-post the same message to different social media channels, you’re missing out on opportunities to customize your posts and to increase engagement with your followers and fans.
As a side note, at JustLegal, we don’t auto-post content. Instead, we increase your social media marketing efforts by posting and sharing content that is relevant to your firm’s practice areas.
Schedule the Best Times for Your Social Media Posts
Effective social media marketing for attorneys requires timing especially since social media posts can have a short shelf life. For example, Twitter is perhaps the most difficult platform where your posts disappear the fastest depending on the number of your followers. The reach of your Facebook posts depends on Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm that takes into account how relevant and engaging your post is to your audience. The point is that you should schedule the timing of your social media posts to reach and to engage the maximum number of followers and fans.
With enough historical data from your social media platforms and the right analytic tools, a social media marketing expert (like JustLegal) can create a precision schedule for engagement. However, the following information should give you a rough idea of the best and worst times to share your law firm’s content on social media:
|1PM to 4PM||8PM to 8AM||Weds. at 3PM||Weekends|
|1PM to 3PM||8PM to 9AM||Mon. to Thurs.||After 3PM Fri.|
|7AM to 9AM
or 5PM to 6PM
|10PM to 6AM||Tues. to Thurs.||Mon. & Fri.|
|Google Plus||9AM to 11AM||6PM to 8AM||Work Hours||Evenings|
Engage With Other Lawyers
In my experience, lawyers will readily engage with other lawyers through social media. Don’t overlook this engagement as a potential source of referrals. In fact, over the years, several lawyers outside of my jurisdiction have referred clients to my firm solely off of the basis that they follow me and my firm on social media platforms and they’re aware of my practice areas.
Don’t Get Into Arguments Online (“Flame Wars”)
As lawyers, we have opinions and we enjoy expressing them. If you’re a trial attorney, then you probably have a penchant for persuading people to come around to your point of view. However, in the world of social media, a healthy exchange of ideas can easily turn into a nasty [tooltip title=”A flame war is an argument between Internet users who repeatedly provoke each other with personal attacks through forms of online communication.” placement=”top” trigger=”hover” class=”” id=””]flame war[/tooltip] between you and others online. Sometimes these flame wars arise because people easily can misinterpret your comments or your tweets. Sometimes, online bashing happens because others want to purposefully get a rise out of you. Either way, resist the temptation to match wits with others online.
Here’s a real world example of just how bad things can get. In this example, a patron brought her dog to a restaurant that does not allow pets. The restaurant manager asked the woman if the dog was a service animal required for a disability (which is a permissible question under the ADA). The woman became enraged and left the restaurant in a huff. Within a matter of days, the restaurant’s Facebook page went from having a handful of likes to having 430 1 star reviews and numerous negative posts on its feed.
In this case, the business owner attempted to apologize for the situation but also laid blame (where it truly belonged) on the customer. This response only drew more fire from the woman and her social media friends. The only real solutions was to disable comments on the Facebook page, disable the rating system too, and to contact Facebook directly to request that the inordinate number of negative reviews be removed.
In the end, always stay professional and avoid these confrontations. After all, in the words of comedian George Carlin:
Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.
Don’t Be Overly Self-Promotional
It’s always nice to be recognized for your good works, so an occasional post about an award such as an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell or inclusion in Super Lawyers is OK. However, if you’re constantly bragging about your accomplishments and accolades instead of being social, then you’re going to alienate your followers and fans.
Don’t Try to “Game” the Social Media Marketing System
A targeted strategy on Google Plus and other social media platforms doesn’t equal engagement with your followers and fans. Google eventually catches up to every “system” SEO enthusiasts engage in to “game” social media to boost their online rankings in Google’s search. If you grow your social media organically and naturally and authentically engage with your audience, then you’ll never have to worry about the next algorithm Google implements to penalize spammy online marketing efforts.