Just about every attorney has been told their firm needs to have an active presence on social media. Yet, in a marketing survey sent out by Answering Legal last summer, just under 25% of lawyer respondents said they were very active in promoting their legal services on social media, and over 35% of attorneys admitted to not doing any social networking at all.
While these numbers are somewhat disappointing, it’s hard to call them shocking.
“Most lawyers are busy and don’t have much spare time to spend on social media, so understanding their time limitations is important when developing a smart social strategy,” said Melanie Trudeau, law firm digital marketing strategist for Jaffe.
In this month’s Let’s Debate Legal Marketing blog post, we’ll look to answer three questions:
- Should lawyers continue making time for social networking?
- Which social platforms should attorneys make time for?
- How can firms make the most out of their time on social media?
Before we begin answering those questions, let’s discuss why lawyers often end up failing to reach their social media goals.
The Challenge of Social Media Advertising
Imagine walking into a large park full of people with a megaphone, planning on making announcements to advertise your legal services. Once you begin making your announcements, you realize that there are a lot of other businesses with megaphones making announcements, and distracting people from hearing your message. And a lot of those other businesses paid for more expensive microphones that are a lot louder than yours. You also quickly come to the conclusion that most of the people at the park don’t really match your target customer, and many of them just came to the park to interact with their family and friends and aren’t interested in hearing announcements at all.
In a nutshell, that’s the experience a lot of lawyers have when trying to promote their legal services on social media these days. You have an increasing number of businesses fighting for a limited amount of social media ad space, trying to find the right message to grab the attention of highly distracted online consumers.
Getting real engagement on social platforms is no easy task, and in order to reach online consumers, you either need to have a lot of patience and persistence, or be willing to spend money on professional social media marketing help.
So Is Social Media Worth The Trouble?
It’s worth noting, that according to a recent study by Regina Corso Consulting, 64 percent of millennials say they are using social platforms a lot less over the past year. Why is this the case? Perhaps people are growing concerned about their privacy, as stories regarding Facebook data leaks continue to dominate the news. Or maybe it’s as simple as a new generation of adult consumers are starting to lose interest in traditional social networking.
So is it time for lawyers to jump ship on social media?
Well if social networking is a dying habit, its demise appears to be happening very, very slowly. According to a recent story from ANA, 76 percent of regular social media users still say social media is a great way to connect with brands and/or companies, while 51 percent say their social network in real life has expanded due to their social media network. So even though it’s becoming harder to reach online users on social platforms, the majority of people on them still remain open-minded about engaging with companies.
“If you are not taking the time to engage with clients or potential clients via these important social media platforms, you are missing an opportunity to fill your leads bucket,” says Amy Juers, CEO of Edge Legal Marketing.
It’s also hard to ignore the SEO related benefits that come from social networking.
Why you’ll still want to make time for social media:
- Sharing links on social media can help drive traffic back to your firm’s website and indirectly increase the organic search ranking of your pages. The more avenues you have for sharing content, the more traffic you’re likely to get. “Often, the number one referral source to an article on your website or blog is not Google, but sharing it with your LinkedIn network,” says attorney and law firm marketing consultant Micah Buchdahl.
- Social media profiles are often indexed near the top of brand related searches. Having multiple pages show up in search results for your business will add to your firm’s online credibility.
So yes, social networking can sometimes feel like a full-time job. And yes, your firm will probably struggle to gain significant attention to its pages without some form of outside help. But, we think it’s still worth the investment of time and money, as having active social media pages opens the doors of communication for your firm and consumers of all different ages, while helping your firm establish a strong online presence in an increasingly digital marketing world.
Which Social Networks Should Lawyers Use?
Most conversations about using social media to promote legal services will center around, or at least begin with, three highly popular social networks. Those networks are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. None of the three platforms are new at this point, but all three are still extremely relevant when it comes to social media advertising.
It makes since for your firm to have accounts on all three of these social platforms, as doing so provides more avenues for new potential clients and other legal professionals to interact with you.
“Depending on just one form of marketing is neither sustainable nor smart,” Dhariana Lozano of Supremacy Marketing writes in a recent article for Social Media Today. “You don’t own the networks, or the followings you’ve built on them. That’s why with my social media agency clients (and throughout my career) I have always advised an integrated, multi-channel approach.”
When it comes to which networks your firm will have the most success using, the answer won’t be the same for all lawyers.
“There are a number of factors that come into play when figuring out where a time investment in social media makes the most sense for an attorney,” Buchdahl said. “First, determine if the platform and participants match your goals. Is the goal direct new client generation, brand awareness, or visibility (to the media and others) as a thought leader in the practice? Sometimes it is simply ‘virtual networking’–personal interaction with colleagues and clients. The answers will determine the time and platform that makes the most sense.”
With Buchdahl’s thoughts in mind, let’s take a closer look at some top social platform options.
Should I be using Facebook?
Everyone is on Facebook these days, from your 67-year-old grandpa, to your 13-year-old niece. It’s a place where family and close friends share personal stories, memories and pictures. Facebook is very aware of this, and in recent years has been changing up its news feed algorithms to give posts from family and friends higher priority on a user’s feed, while burying posts from businesses and advertisers. This obviously makes it much more challenging for lawyers to get real engagement on the platform.
If you are able to break through all the noise (you’ll probably have to use paid advertising to do so), and get your firm’s post or ad in front of peoples’ eyeballs, you better make sure you’re promoting a message that they can personally resonate with. According to Buchdahl, lawyers with practices that are consumer-driven, such as family lawyers, residential real estate lawyers, personal injury lawyers, or estate planning lawyers, tend to have more success with Facebook. For these types of attorneys, posting about problems that the average person might be dealing with or can relate to, such as going through divorce, missing work time due to an accident, or handling a death in the family, can be a great way to achieve an emotional connection with a consumer.
“Attorneys who practice more personal types of law are welcome on Facebook because they’re trying to help people with common life events that can happen to anyone,” Presser said. “But, nobody wants to come across a complex or securities litigation attorney on Facebook. They, just like everybody else, are on Facebook looking at their nieces’ graduation photos or pictures of their grandkids at the zoo. And you are tapping them on the shoulder and interrupting their leisure time. Big no-no.”
Should I be using LinkedIn?
The intentions of LinkedIn’s social audience, are much different than that of Facebook’s. People on LinkedIn are strictly looking to perform actions that will improve their career, whether that be finding a new job, connecting with colleagues, or searching for career guidance. That is why the lawyers we just mentioned with practices that are consumer-driven, might not have the same level of success on LinkedIn, as they do on Facebook.
Buchdahl believes that the lawyers that should spend the most time on LinkedIn are the ones with practices that are more business-to-business focused. This seems to make a lot of sense, as the platform is full of accounts made by other business professionals.
LinkedIn is also a great place for lawyers that rely heavily on referrals for new business. LinkedIn is the ultimate social network for building professional relationships with peers, and allows you to communicate with other lawyers in and outside of your field of law, that you may never get the chance to meet in real life. You never know when those new connections might pay off in the form of a new client.
Why should lawyers use Twitter?
Twitter can be a difficult platform for lawyers to master, as they’ll either need to showcase expertise in the form of a very concise message (280 characters per tweet), or make an intriguing enough tagline to get people to click on a link to an off-site page. Another thing about Twitter, that may provide a challenge for certain types of lawyers, is that its user audience seems to skew younger. According to Hootsuite, 45% of 18-24 year olds use Twitter against 19% of 50-64 year olds.
So with all of the above being true, why is Twitter still worth using? Well, while other social networks like Facebook and Instagram are more cluttered with personal posts, Twitter is generally used by people looking to find out what is happening in the world, learn something, or be entertained. All of those are things a good blog or vlog can accomplish, which is why Twitter is the best place to show off your law firm’s original content.
“For thought leadership and exposure to media, I’ve seen Twitter be key to some tax and immigration lawyer colleagues,” Buchdahl said.
Perhaps the most important thing attorneys must remember when sending out tweets is to include something of value in their message. People usually scroll pretty fast through their Twitter timelines, and in order to get them to stop and process your Tweet, you’ll need to include a message that not only grabs their attention, but gives them a reason to click your attached link. The good news is that Twitter is one of the best networks for getting posts shared and carries the most potential for going viral. So if you send out a Tweet that one of your followers decides to retweet, it could end up appearing on a lot of other people’s timelines as well.
Should lawyers use other social networks?
The one social network outside of the big three that a lot of law firms seem to be exploring is Instagram. The picture and video sharing platform, which initially seemed to be used by almost exclusively young people, has grown up a lot in recent years.
“The latest numbers show that Instagram has grown to 1 billion users,” Juers said. “Currently there are a lot of teens using Instagram, but the platform is seeing a steady increase of adults engaging in the platform.”
At first glance, Instagram wouldn’t seem to be a good fit for law firms, as many attorneys would prefer to get a message across through words rather than images. However, a rising number of law practices seem to be experimenting with what they can do with the network.
“I’ve seen a few firms experimenting with Instagram to convey their firm culture – usually for recruiting purposes.” Trudeau said.
For firms looking to humanize their firm, Instagram can be highly useful. Posting pictures and videos of caring lawyers and staff members, firm events, client success stories, and charitable efforts can be a great way to stay on the radar of former clients, and show prospective clients that you’re an active and caring member of your community.
Snapchat is another highly popular social network, but we’re not sure consumers are too eager to get a 10-second message from their lawyer, that disappears right after viewing it. Not to mention, Instagram’s stories feature has made Snapchat’s stories somewhat irrelevant.
For the moment, we have a hard time recommending any other social networks for lawyers, but things can change fast in the ever-evolving world of social media.
How Can Lawyers Make The Most Of Their Social Networking Time?
So we’ve identified the value of social media, and offered some advice on which social networks lawyers should be focusing in on. But, there is still the issue of attorneys having limited windows of time to actually dedicate to social networking.
While finding more time for social media probably isn’t realistic for attorneys, learning how to use it more efficiently and effectively can be. Here is some advice on how to do so from a number of legal marketing experts.
“Finding time can be an issue, but by leveraging (scheduling) software like Hootsuite, and utilizing a few other tactics that we have up our sleeves, a lot of time can be saved and benefits can be reaped.”
Gina Rubel, Founder and CEO of Furia Rubel
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach – strategic social media plans must support the firm’s and practice groups’ business development and retention goals. They must include created, curated and sponsored content, and must be well-thought-out, long-term, and always executed with ethical engagement in mind.”
Micah Buchdahl, Founder and President of HTMLawyers, Inc.
“Carve out a strategy that works for you—it may be logging on ten times a day, once a week or once a month. You know what your time and schedule will allow. And, third, to really have success you need to enjoy the platform—not all are for everyone, and if you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t have much success.”
“In the past, when marketers focused on television, radio, and print, interrupting prospects’ leisure time was the goal. Advertisers strove to be the best at doing it well and often. But today, we can do better. We have so many social networks and places to connect online with specific audiences. We don’t need to interrupt and potentially agitate prospects during their personal time. Legal marketers should move beyond interruption marketing and instead endeavor show up where people expect to find us with informative, interesting content they’re deliberately seeking out.”
Stephan Futeral of JustLegal Marketing in his August 2018 Let’s Talk Legal Marketing feature
“Overall, social media is no different than real life. Introduce yourself, share in others’ online conversations, reply when someone comments online, and generally speaking – be social.”
There’s a lot to know when it comes to social networking, and before embarking on large social advertising campaigns, you may find it worthwhile it to reach out for professional marketing help. For any smaller scale questions or issues you may encounter, try asking the members of our legal marketing discussion groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.