This is a guest post by Allison C. Shields, Esq. Allison is a published author and legal social media marketing expert, and the president of Legal Ease Consulting.
There are lots of ways that lawyers and law firms can benefit from using social media, including establishing your authority, building relationships, maximizing search engine optimization, generating name recognition and awareness and attracting, media attention and speaking engagements, among others.
If you want to give social media a try, here are five tips to help get you started.
As with any marketing effort, the first step in using social media to build your practice is to define your goals. Why are you using social media? Be as specific as possible. Do you want to gain exposure? Build your reputation? Interact with potential clients? Build your network of referral sources? Promote your services? Become known as an expert in your niche? Focus on no more than three main goals at a time.
Defining your goals can help you approach social media more strategically and help you to make decisions about both what to do and what not to do. Keep your goals in mind when choosing social media platforms and when creating and sharing content. Measure the success of your social media activities based on your individual goals, not on how others define success.
Develop a plan or schedule for your social media content. For example, if your firm has several different practice areas, you may want to focus on a different practice area each week so you reach all of your audiences. Or you may want to create a monthly theme for your posts to coincide with the time of the year – tax season, end of year planning, doing your will before you go on vacation, etc.
Schedule posts by using a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite to spread out your social media activity. Remember not all posts are seen by everyone; they will likely only see a very small portion of what you post. As a result, if you post important information or links to articles or other information on your website, you may want to post it more than once on each platform, making only slight changes to the wording of the post, the accompanying images, etc.
Being consistent doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time every day – or even every week – on social media, or constantly create new content. You can direct followers to articles or resources on your website or elsewhere on the internet, even if you did not create that content. Make it your own by adding commentary in a few sentences. Be a resource.
You can also get a lot of mileage on social media out of content you’ve already created for another purpose. Using what you have already done (including legal work) in new and different ways can attract the attention of a new audience or to provide valuable reminders to your existing audience.
Re-issue old content in another form. For example, record presentations to create audio or video clips, pull slides from past presentations you’ve done to post as "mini presentations," or create videos from slides.
One mistake many people make when using social media for business purposes is to post too much promotional content that turns off their audience. Focus on providing value for your audience, instead of talking all about you or your firm.
Each audience may have different needs and interests, or different ways they like to receive information, and may participate on different platforms. Let your audience and their needs dictate your choice of social media platform, your post topics, and how you interact on social media.
Your audience may change form based on the different goals you have, or may show up on different platforms. For example, on LinkedIn, you will be more likely to be reaching professionals. In some cases, that could be clients, but for many lawyers, it is more likely to be referral sources, or even the media. Your audience on Facebook may be completely different from your audience on LinkedIn, even for the same practice area and goals. It's more likely you'll reach clients on Facebook than LinkedIn.
One way to reach your desired audience and provide them with targeted content on both Facebook and LinkedIn is to join and post to groups that include your audience as members.
Think twice before posting about specific cases, clients, or results. In March 2018, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released Formal Opinion 480, Confidentiality Obligations for Lawyer Blogging and Other Public Commentary, which reminds lawyers that, “Lawyers who blog or engage in other public commentary may not reveal information relating to a representation, including information contained in a public record, unless authorized by a provision of the Model Rules.” These rules apply to social media as well.
There are many ways to participate and provide value on social media without revealing confidential client information. If you do talk about cases, get consent from your clients in advance.
Many states have issued their own ethics rules and opinions relating specifically to social media platforms. For example, some jurisdictions limit or prohibit lawyers’ use of the "Skills" and "Endorsements" sections on their LinkedIn profiles, and/or the “Specialties” section on a law firm’s LinkedIn page.
Do a thorough review of your jurisdiction’s ethics and confidentiality rules, but don’t let the rules keep you from participating on social media.
Allison C. Shields, Esq. is the President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., which provides marketing, business development, social media and practice management training, coaching, copywriting and consulting services for lawyers and law firms nationwide. She is a co-author of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, Second Edition, Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers, and How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line. Find her at www.LawyerMeltdown.com or www.LegalEaseConsulting.com.