By John Zaher
With the exponential growth of social media, lawyers and their firms have begun to adapt to changes in online marketing and social networking to grow their brand and attract new clients. In 2012, the American Bar Association acknowledged the trend by dedicating an issue of its Law Practice Magazine to social media. A diversified and well-maintained social media strategy can lead to client referrals, better event publicity, increased interest in a law firm, and a stronger brand. Social media can also establish firms/partners as thought leaders in their fields. Although there are dozens of social media forums, the most relevant for the legal profession are blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Attorneys who conduct extensive research on their field often receive little recognition outside of legal circles. By editing this research for public consumption, via blogs, lawyers can build a solid reputation among social media enthusiasts, people who share their interests, and potential clients. Sharing self-written (or ghost-written) blog articles enables lawyers to establish credibility and become leading experts recognized by their peers and followers.
Many attorneys, especially in personal injury, employment law, and traffic law, use blogs to inform others about current events and developments in the industry. Prosecuting attorneys use social media and blogs to communicate recent charges, verdicts, and safety information to the public. Blogs can engage readers in dialogues about important legal issues, and thereby, attorneys gain more recognition for their hard work.
Blogs can also help in business development and expanding an attorney’s professional network. Frequently updated blog content can increase a legal website’s ranking on a search engine, which makes it easier for clients to find the firm when looking for an attorney or legal information in general. Furthermore, a recent LexBlog study shows that there has been a positive correlation between AmLaw 200 firms with blogs and firm revenue, with an average increase of $1 million per firm. Although time-consuming, blogging lends attorneys a personal voice and strengthens a firm’s reputation. Whether it is run by an individual attorney or under a larger corporation, personal voice and relevant content are the most important steps in creating and maintaining an active blog.
More than any other type of social media, LinkedIn is tailored specifically for professionals, which makes it an ideal forum for lawyers to expand their network and connect with potential clients and others in their field. Nine out of ten executives use LinkedIn, and membership has swelled to more than 200 million users, creating a large community dedicated to networking and professional development.
With LinkedIn, lawyers can create individual profiles and a profile (“company page”) for their firm. Through individual profiles, attorneys list their accomplishments, education, and areas of expertise, while connecting with others and building a network that connects the company internally and externally. When a law firm creates a “company page,” it can frequently post status updates and links to blogs, other social media, and online articles. Furthermore, with LinkedIn’s recommendation feature, the individual attorney and the company can compile recommendations from previous clients.
Attorneys and firms can also follow other companies and organizations relevant to their field, such as the American Bar Association. Most importantly, attorneys should join and participate in Groups that fit their industry, such as ABA Young Lawyers Division Group, American Bar Association’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Group, or the Legal Marketing Group. These groups serve as online forums to discuss industry trends and changes and, like a blog, can allow a firm to establish itself as a leader.
Overall, LinkedIn is meant to build relationships and requires more than a passing “Accept” on an invitation to connect. View it as an extension of in-person networking and a way to become an industry leader, and the results will become apparent.
Leave behind the legalese for the convenience of 140 characters. As the world’s most popular micro-blogging website, Twitter allows users to post short updates called “tweets” to their profile and to “follow” each other’s updates as they occur. Twitter is more flexible than LinkedIn, and the tone can be casual, professional, or somewhere in-between.
Attorneys can expand their reach when they follow professionals in their field or follow those who are interested in the field. By tweeting blog posts and news stories in regard to a practice area, a lawyer can position himself as a thought leader in the field. Thanks to the fast pace of Twitter, it is one of the best places to repeatedly include links back to one’s own websites and blogs. Likewise, Twitter can used for event promotion—lawyers can promote or tweet links for event registration and livetweet about events they’re attending.
It is most important to remain engaged with followers, so attorneys should share or comment on their followers’ content. Use hashtags (symbolized by the # sign) relevant to the industry/topic, like #traffic or #personalinjury, to join a larger conversation on Twitter. Keep in mind that clients are using Twitter to find attorneys, so a strong profile and active engagement on Twitter is certainly beneficial.
Unlike LinkedIn and Twitter, Facebook has a stronger focus on personal rather than professional factors, so it is not used as extensively by lawyers. Still, this personal touch can be humanizing and remind potential clients and followers that lawyers are not always as intimidating as they seem.
If a lawyer chooses to use Facebook, it is important to carefully monitor relationships and posted content to avoid violating any ethical rules. Some firms create a business page rather than individual attorney pages to stay within these ethical boundaries, but individual attorneys can also adjust their settings to only show certain content to a certain audience. As with Twitter, lawyers can use Facebook to post interesting blogs and articles and share legal insights with Friends. However, unlike Twitter, it is easy to include both written and visual content, such as videos. Lawyers should try to post several times daily and use a respectful, though informal tone. It is also important to enable others to post on the firm’s wall in order to respond, react, and share their own opinions. Furthermore, lawyers can join relevant Facebook Groups to engage like-minded individuals in conversation about law and specific industries.
As with the previous social media forums, Facebook can include links to the attorney’s website and blog. Using Facebook effectively can cause the transition from “Friend” to “professional ally” or “client.”
Social media is a time-consuming, but ultimately rewarding marketing strategy that can increase business and promote professional development. Remember to use only as many platforms as your time will allow, and whatever platforms you choose, be sure to add links to your social media profiles in your email signature and on your website.
A quick word of caution: be sure to differentiate industry insights and legal advice! It is perfectly acceptable (and highly encouraged!) to share current events and news relevant to the legal profession, but prohibited to directly solicit clients and offer legal counsel via social media. Good luck entering the world of social media!
If have any questions about your social media strategy or would like to implement one, contact Aimee Dineiro at 1-866-PR4Lawyers or firstname.lastname@example.org.