This post is actually Lesson 29 from 50 Lessons for Lawyers – Earn More – Stress Less – Be Awesome. Want to learn more check out the book here.
“Social media is no longer an option for your small and medium sized law firms, it’s critical for your success.”
– Kevin O’Keefe, Founder of LexBlog
“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
—General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army
Lawyers are not the earliest of adopters when it comes to, well, just about anything. Social media is no exception. But the reality is that social media is here to stay. So you can either embrace the change or not. It’s your choice.
Social media has fundamentally changed the way we connect and communicate. So if you want to thrive in the years to come or, at the very least, not become irrelevant, you’ve got to embrace it.
Although many lawyers were late to the social media party, their numbers are growing. In fact, the number of lawyers using social media has risen dramatically in the past four years. According to the American Bar Association’s 2014 Legal Technology Survey Report, 62% of respondents reported that they use networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, compared to 55% in 2012, 43% in 2011, and 17% in 2010. According to a study by LinkedIn reported in February 2014, 81% of small and medium businesses surveyed use social media.
75% of B2B decision makers use social media to learn.
Be a teacher – not a seller.
– Gerry Moran, Head of Social Media at SAP North America
Change how you think about social media.
Don’t think of social media networks as merely marketing tools for your firm. Instead, think of them as learning tools for your clients, potential clients and referral sources. Social networks have created new ways of communicating with your referral sources, current clients, and even potential clients. On a broad scale, social media allows you to establish your credibility, share your knowledge, and be viewed as a trusted advisor. Social networks give you the opportunity to expand your influence far beyond your local community. And although social media is not a replacement for relationship marketing, it will support and enhance the personal marketing you do. Social media allows you to build your brand in a variety of ways.
Expand your network. Social media gives you the ability to create relationships with people you would never be able to connect with otherwise. You can connect with people all over the world. You never know where that next “A” client might come from. I’ve worked with more than one attorney who has generated “A” clients as a result of a robust presence on LinkedIn.
Build your credibility. Use social media to educate your followers. Give useful knowledge away through articles, blog posts, and white papers. Post articles you’ve written or articles that would be of interest to your network. The greater your presence on the Web, the more credibility you have. Social media lets you become THE source for news in your practice area. LinkedIn and other social networks make it easy to share articles from a wide variety of news sources.
Start relationships online; follow-up offline. When you connect with people on LinkedIn or follow people on Twitter or comment on interesting blog posts, you’re opening the door to not just online communication, but offline, real-world relationships. If you connect with someone in your city, ask them if they’d like to get together for coffee so that you can learn more about their business. If your connection is in another part of the state or country, look for opportunities to connect with them when you’re traveling.
Finding the time to get social.
Let’s face it, as powerful as social media is, it can also be a huge time waster. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a flood of information. So make sure you do all that you can to avoid social media burnout:
• Create a social media plan. What are your objectives? What networks do you want to participate in? LinkedIn is a must for lawyers. But you should also consider Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Do you want to start a blog? Blogging can be incredibly valuable, but it also requires a significant time commitment.
• Budget and block your time depending upon your objectives. Plan on a couple of hours a week to get started.
• Get help. For example, if you blog, enlist the help of young associates, virtual assistants, or law school interns to research topics for you. They can even write drafts for you. But unless you find a fantastic writer who understands your voice, write the final product yourself.
• Use online tutorials. LinkedIn has an excellent help center.
• Use social media tools like www.HootSuite.com or www.Buffer.com. These tools let you organize all of your social media accounts in one place and schedule updates and tweets in advance.
• Post content on the weekend. According to www.MarketingProfs.com, content posted on the weekend is shared more often than content posted during the week.
• Give yourself a couple of social media breaks each day. Spend a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the afternoon checking in on your networks. Share an update on LinkedIn or comment on a discussion in one of the groups you belong to. Post an update to your firm’s Facebook page. You can share a post from someone you follow or link to an article that would be of interest to your followers.
• Mix up your posts. Make sure that you’re not just sharing information. Be sure to comment on posts by other people and reply to comments on things you’ve posted. And from time to time, share something personal. If you love dogs, share something about dogs. If you love wine, share a link about one of your favorites. People want to get to know you. Let them. • Here are rules of thumb for posting, from Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier:[29:1]
o 40%: Links to articles and blogs of interest to your network. Retweets and shares from your network. Remember, your goal is to teach, not sell. Sharing valuable articles and information from others is a great way to establish yourself as a trusted advisor.
o 30%: Replies and comments to other people’s posts or your own.
o 20%: Self-promotion like your upcoming webinar or other accomplishments.
o 10% Personal Stuff – dogs, wine, fitness, sailing, food. Stuff you love outside the practice of law.
The suggestions below are focused on LinkedIn, but the concepts apply to any social network: Listen. Find your niche. Connect and teach. Build your network.
Listen. Before you join the conversation, spend some time listening. Learn what’s important to the people in your network. Do you do a lot of construction litigation? Join one of the construction law groups or other construction-focused groups on LinkedIn. Notice what topics are of interest to the members of the group.
Find your niche. Your practice area creates a natural niche for you. Share information and articles relevant to your potential “A” clients. For many practice areas, your ideal clients are already on LinkedIn.
Build Your Network. Start building your network by reaching out to people you already know. Connect with members of your groups who post articles or who start discussions you find interesting.
Connect and teach. Focus on teaching and sharing information.
A few words about ethics.
The world of social media is moving much faster than bar associations’ ability to regulate it. Focus on teaching and sharing information, and you’ll steer clear of most ethical pitfalls. That being said, you must know your jurisdiction’s advertising rules, and never use social media to solicit clients.
Use of social media doesn’t transform otherwise appropriate conduct into something unethical.
– From Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier
Living the Lesson
• Create your social media plan. Decide what networks to join and how much time you’ll spend each week on social media.
• Build social media breaks into your day. Schedule time in your calendar to check in on your networks.
• Set goals and measure your progress.
• Have fun.
[29:1] Black, Nicole and Elefant, Carolyn (2010). Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier. American Bar Association.
Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users, by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick.
The Social Media Management Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to get Social Media Working in Your Business, by Nick Smith, Robert Wollan, Catherine Zou.