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What Is Your Law Firm's Social Media Strategy?

By Jim Calloway

Everyone (including me) says your law firm has to have a website and almost everyone says that your law firm really needs to also have social media accounts, which are also, at least in part, websites. Most of you understand how that can be true as two of your big gateways for online information are Google searches and Facebook.

But you are also tech savvy enough to recognize that designing a decent looking website today involves more than filling out a free website template that was located online and that social media sites will have little audience and no business development impact unless they are frequently updated with interesting and relevant information.

You have little confidence that your firm is up for a major website overhaul and the launching of new social media accounts this year seems out of the question because of [insert name of huge new client project or unanticipated business challenge.] That thought reminds you that you had a similar thought when examining online law firm marketing about this same time last year.

You might look at your firm’s website and see some changes or corrections that need to be done. But how much does website appearance matter today? My Law Practice Tips column in January 2014 noted that more and more people are consuming Internet content on smart phones and mobile devices. (See sidebar for link.)

My opinion is that you need an attractive website for the same reason that you want your building to have an attractive façade and your office reception area to be professional and tidy. Often these areas have a big impact on your law firm’s initial impression on potential clients and generally they are an important part of the image of the law firm.

For law firms that do not yet have a website, I have included links to some suggested reading in the sidebar.

LAWYERS AND SOCIAL MEDIA


There has been a lot written about how law firms should successfully use social media and there have been many seminars and legal technology conferences about social media.

At this point most lawyers would, perhaps somewhat grudgingly, have to agree that a lot of people use online social media and that they no doubt make some purchasing decisions based on what they are exposed to in various social media. For the new lawyer attempting to build a new solo practice, social media definitely has the advantage of being free, although I always caution young lawyers in Oklahoma that it is not wise to make this the primary focus of your initial marketing efforts. Personal contact and developing relationships still reign supreme—today at least.

A social media presence is not required, particularly for those law firms who are currently turning away new clients and new engagements.

But social media sharing is going to continue, of that I have no doubt. The masses may migrate from Facebook and Twitter to The Next Big Thing, but there will still be baby pictures, wedding videos, graduations and other moments to share. There will still be people who need to purchase a new lawnmower or hire a lawyer who would rather hear what their online acquaintances and social cohort have to say than rely on paid advertising or digging through dozens of online reviews.

A few years ago a discussion of the use of social media had to include an outline of the different features of the various services. Today, there is a commonality among most of the social media outlets. LinkedIn looks a lot more like Facebook.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS EVERYWHERE


All celebrities must have a Twitter account, whether they are the ones who do the posting or not. Online sharing (and oversharing) has become an international pastime. Online news sources that allow readers to post comments can generate some very heated arguments — between complete strangers. All who use social media have at this point seen people that they know post things online that were shocking or indiscreet and most active users have made a post, comment or “like” that they would like to have back.

A social media account for a business or professional practice should have as a goal to generate new business or at least to enhance the reputation of the business.

Many lawyers believe that they lack the time, the skill or even, dare we say, the competency to effectively use social media.

But, the important thing for the lawyer or law firm wanting to experiment with social media is to understand that social media involves sharing valuable content and building an audience for that content. It is certainly a positive if the lawyer or law firm creates most of that fascinating and interesting content, but it is in no way a requirement.

For example, if a lawyer or law firm decided that they wanted to have a Twitter account focused on adversary proceedings in bankruptcy, it is extremely unlikely that they can generate enough original content on that very narrow topic to develop much of an audience. But a Google search for “Twitter bankruptcy lawyers” returns results for a very large number of bankruptcy-focused lawyer and law firm Twitter accounts. So the firm would set up its new Twitter account, do a few initial tweets and then visit many of the other lawyers or organizations that tweet about bankruptcy issues and follow them. Many of those lawyers may follow you in return.

I like Twitter because the 140-character limitation means that you will not be tempted to write too much. To me, the “magic” of Twitter is not trying to distill a cogent thought into 140 characters, but to use a few words and a link to direct your audience to other valuable content online. I haven’t checked precisely, but I am fairly sure that the majority of my tweets are not written by me at all but are retweets (aka RTs) of tweets by others. See for yourself at www.twitter.com/jimcalloway.

That’s the irony of social media. You spend much of your time sharing the content of others. But if you do a great job of doing that, you build an audience. They may be reading content from, in my example, bankruptcy lawyers from all across the country, but they are following your law firm’s Twitter account. And if they need a bankruptcy lawyer or have a client who needs a bankruptcy lawyer, the fact that they frequently see tweets and retweets from you in their Twitter stream about bankruptcy means that you may be receiving a call.  And if you want to make an announcement about your practice or something you have done, you have a ready-made audience.

Those who follow these things refer to the difference between online content generators, content aggregators and content curators. To oversimplify these distinctions, generators create with their original writings, aggregators collect large amounts of information online about a particular topic and curators pick and choose what to pass along to their audience. Being a content generator is valuable as it demonstrates your expertise and unique skills to those who read your original material.

But in these days of information overload, you cannot overestimate the value of a great curator or a good editor. So success in social media may be as simple as setting aside some time each week to review several online resources and articles in your subject matter of interest and then pass along the best two or three items to your audience.

Managing multiple social media accounts requires a little bit of experimentation, but if a really great article on a new appellate bankruptcy decision is worthy of being shared via Twitter, it is also probably worth posting to your law firm’s LinkedIn account or Facebook page.

This is certainly not a perfect or sophisticated social media strategy, but it has the advantage of being set up within a few hours and requiring an hour or less of investment each week.

Building a Law Firm Website


American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center FYI: Starting a Website

“How to Design the Best Law Firm Website”
By Mike Ramsey, AttorneyatWork.com, Sept. 11, 2013

“Adopting Mobile Technology- What Does that Mean for Today’s Lawyers?”
by Jim Calloway, Oklahoma Bar Journal, Jan. 18, 2014

“Web Site How-To Tips for the Small Firm Lawyer”
by Jim Calloway, Oklahoma Bar Journal, Nov. 8, 2008

Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program Director.  Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help solving a management dilemma?  Contact him at 405-416-7008, 1-800-522-8065 or jimc@okbar.org.  It's a free member benefit!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- September 13, 2014 -- Vol.
85, No. 23