Destigmatizing social media in law firm marketing.
This article aligns with the focus of the July/August issue of Strategies magazine: technology.
While it remains a valuable marketing tool, social media can be difficult to navigate. The new online way of interacting has changed the way lawyers communicate and connect with each other and with their target audiences. And in the legal community, there are a number of myths that keep attorneys from accepting the full value of social media. The purpose of this article is to identify and debunk these myths.
Myth 1: "No one trusts social media, so why should I even bother?"
There’s a pervasive idea in firms that social media doesn’t work because no one trusts it, but the truth is that social media can be an excellent tool for establishing and maintaining relationships globally. While it may not work for every firm, it could work for yours.
Chris Postizzi, director of communications at WilmerHale, recently saw both sides of the argument play out. Postizzi shared that his team recently conducted social media research for one practice group that showed very little participation from firm clients, prospects or industry thought leaders on social media, so they decided not include it in the marketing mix. On the other hand, one of the firm’s other practices asked for business development efforts and the research showed just the opposite. There were multiple clients, prospects, former classmates, thought leaders and other relevant contacts who were not only on social media, but also very active. This allowed select partners to engage with these contacts regularly, which has led to multiple speaking engagements and other business development-related activities.
According to Postizzi, “The key is to conduct a high amount of research before engaging online. We regularly demonstrate to our lawyers the level of trust that exists on these platforms, but at the end of the day, it’s up to each one of them to build that trust with the people they interact with online. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and social media engagement is not for everyone.”
Research the different social media platforms to find out which platforms best fit you and your target audience. This may vary by practice and/or sector. Your research should answer:
- What are my law firm clients doing on social media?
- What are my peers and law school friends doing on social media?
- Is our target audience on social media? If so, on which platforms are they?
- Are law firm referrals being made on the social media platforms I want to use?
Once you have these answers, you can decide which platforms best fit your relationships needs.
Myth 2: Attorneys need to be on every social media channel.
Not every social media platform will align with your legal business development strategy.
Amy Juers, CEO of Edge Marketing, says, “It’s neither true that lawyers and law firms should be everywhere on social media nor is it wise. Attorneys and law firms need to think about their purpose for being on social media and then engage in an effort to develop relationships.” She shared that most of companies are using some kind of social media. Facebook is the biggest social media platform, and if you’re in a solo or small firm and/or consumer (B2C) firm, Facebook should be an integral part of your social media efforts. LinkedIn is ideal for B2B attorneys.
In addition, if you are considering engaging on Twitter, it is worth using for lawyers who want to stay engaged in policy conversation and global issues and get in front of the media.
Ask, “What is the purpose for being on social media and which social media platforms are best for the firm?”
Begin with one or two platforms. Do your research. Listen to what your clients, prospects and colleagues are saying, and evaluate how your competitors are communicating. Then continue to expand your network, participate in conversations and showcase yourself as a thought leader in your practice area. Most importantly, remember to connect on the platforms only where you know your specific audience is engaging on social media.
Myth 3: Social media is just another vehicle for sending out thought leadership — nothing more.
Not only is social media a vehicle for thought leadership, but also for validation (focus on your targeted audience), retention (post actively and frequently) and lead generation (share links to gated content).
Myth 4: Social media is too time consuming, hard to manage and complicated.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time managing your social media platforms in order to reap the legal marketing and business development benefits of listening to what contacts are saying and staying up on the latest trends. According to Pew’s 2018 Social Media Update, about 68 percent of all U.S. adults are on Facebook, and roughly 74 percent visit the site daily. That’s not even mentioning that roughly 73 percent of all U.S. adults use multiple social media platforms, according to the survey. And, according to Omnicore, the average time a LinkedIn user spends on the site each month is 17 minutes.
The important thing to remember is that all social media platforms are based on the same core principals of informing, educating and entertaining audiences. Having good content on the right platform is a universal requirement if you want to make the best use of your time.
A few useful tools to manage your social media platforms are Hootsuite, CoSchedule and HubSpot. These tools allow you to easily schedule your posts and track performance results.
Myth 5: GC aren't looking, attorneys aren't interested and it's impossible to convince them of value.
According to the 2017 State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey, 73 percent of in-house counsel use LinkedIn as a listening tool to stay informed of the latest news, developments and conversations occurring in topics that interest them.
Even if you do not see in-house counsel posting to social media, they are there listening because of LinkedIn’s reputation as a credible and trustworthy source.
Myth 6: Social media metrics are meaningless and/or hard to track and measure.
Think of social media as a platform to build your firm’s brand, attorneys and areas of practice. Third-party tools like Google Analytics make it easier to track your websites traffic, visitors, pageview and referrals. WordPress also has an analytics tool to help you track and measure data. Hootsuite and HubSpot have reports on metrics and trends that provide a holistic analysis on what is happening to your content and website’s performance, email campaigns, lead nurturing, and contacts in sales funnels to help you measure data.
If someone is engaging with you on social media, you can assume they are interested in you or your firm, or they are a competitor.
Myth 7: Social media doesn't work, drive new business or positively affect the bottom line.
LinkedIn boasts more than 530 million user profiles, and Facebook is the most widely used social media platform with 79 percent of U.S. internet users. These users are driving website traffic. In fact, 80 percent of social media B2B leads come from LinkedIn. The keys are establishing a credible presence, creating great content to effectively reach your target audience, and then engaging with that audience.
Myth 8: Social media is just a place to push out content.
As a legal marketer, you can demonstrate a real ROI if you can prove you are getting business from your work. Monitor and listen to see what your clients are doing and saying.
“Social media is an excellent way to monitor and listen to conversations that are relevant to your partners, and potentially their clients,” said Postizzi. “We may monitor what is being shared on social media about a pro bono matter we are working on, a specific change in the law, or a host of other areas when appropriate. And we, of course, are also active on social media when it comes to public relations.”
Willig, Williams & Davidson, a union-side law firm in Philadelphia, created a social media committee in which the members draft new and timely content, share relevant news stories, and engage on hot-button issues on their Facebook page. When they shared a Supreme Court decision that affected one union, they had 6,636 views, 36 shares and more than 30 positive comments within hours. In addition, one of the firm’s labor attorneys was interviewed by Bloomberg Law as a result of a Google search that brought up a relevant blog she published and shared via social media.
Law firms should also monitor comments by lawyers across matters and encourage them to share posts by other attorneys in the firm. Get lawyers engaged and encourage them to follow clients and explore opportunities from different social media sources.
Myth 9: Social media creates an unnecessary risk to the firm.
There is a lot of risk on social media; attorneys certainly have validity in their fears. But this article has addressed the various ways in which social media can be a boon in law firm marketing. Legal marketers should act as thought leaders in their firm by addressing the risks and non-risks and explaining the value of social media to their attorneys by developing a social media policy for firm management that can then be used as a training tool for firm staff. Present the value of the social media policy, and then videotape the training to post to your firm intranet for any new staff training and update it every few years.
Myth 10: Social media does not affect bottom line or bring in business.
You cannot always show an ROI on social engagement. With that said, it is important to have a good strategy that is aligned with your goals and includes talking to the right audience in the right places. Utilize Google Analytics to show trends and validate that potential clients are going to your website through social media. Having these valuable metrics on hand makes the case for having a valuable social media program and the importance of getting the attorneys involved.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq. (@ginarubel) is president and CEO of Furia Rubel Communications.
Jennifer Simpson Carr (@jsimpsoncarr) is the senior business development manager at Lowenstein Sandler LLP.