Public Relations for Lawyers: Social Media Engagement
Since the early 2000’s social media engagement has grown exponentially. While social media platforms come and go, some stick while others do not. And much like Friendster which launched in 2002 and shut down in 2015, social media platforms that were expected to proliferate like Google+, don’t succeed. Do you remember social media platforms like Eons, Diaspora, Orkut or Xanga? Neither do I.
For some, it’s hard to imagine a world without social media.
In 2003, MySpace was the popular social media engagement platform on which individuals set up profiles and made friends. In the same year, LinkedIn launched for professional networking, and as of December 2018, had 590 million users in 200 countries.
Facebook launched in 2004 and soon became a social media giant with more than a billion active users.
Twitter, which launched in 2006, was inspired by the popularity of text messaging. It had 326 million monthly active users worldwide as of Q3 2018.
What is Social Media Engagement and Why it Matters to Lawyers
For most lawyers, if you are not on social media of one form or another, there are missed opportunity costs. Social media has changed the way lawyers communicate and connect with each other and with their target audiences. While it remains a valuable legal marketing tool, social media engagement can be a challenge to navigate if not handled strategically and systematically.
In 2018, 68 percent of U.S. adults used Facebook, nearly double the users on Instagram (35 percent), and almost the combined total users of Twitter (24 percent), Pinterest (29 percent), and LinkedIn (25 percent). However, just because the majority of U.S. adults use Facebook, that doesn’t mean it is the right social media tool for your or your law firm. Each social media has a different audience. Lawyers and their law firms need to know where their audience is communicating before jumping into the fray.
The benefits of social media engagement for legal marketing and public relations include:
- Access to marketplace insights
- Brand building, exposure, trust and awareness
- Business development and lead generation
- Client retention
- Community relationship development
- Crisis management
- Development of loyal admirers
- Discovery and research
- Exposure to relevant media and engagement with them
- Growth of business partnerships and referral sources
- Increased law firm exposure
- Increased share of voice
- Increased thought leadership, authority and influence exposure.
- Increased traffic to the firm’s website and/or attorneys’ blogs; SEO
- Lead generation
- Message management of public issues such as high-profile litigation
- Real-time communications
- Reputation management
You don’t need to be everywhere for effective social media engagement, but you do need to understand where your audience is and where they communicate.
For example, LinkedIn is most popular with professionals. Twenty-five percent of adults use LinkedIn. Therefore, LinkedIn can be an excellent tool for engaging with businesses, current and potential clients, and law firm recruiting.
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.
Here are some other trends to consider:
Get to know which social media engagement platforms are most likely to reach your target audience. Set goals regarding your use of these platforms. Always ensure that the information your law firm is sharing on social media is relevant to the audience on each platform.
How Should Law Firms Manage Social Media Engagement
When managing your social media profiles, employ best practices for law firm social media engagement.
- Determine your goals.
Review the law firm’s marketing goals and set simple, measurable goals. One goal may be to gather a better understanding of your target audience. Another may be to learn how to use a social media platform that is new to you but interests your target audience. Ask:
- What does the firm want to accomplish using social media?
- What are some of the firm’s business goals and can they be supported through social media engagement?
- Conduct a social media audit.
Conduct a social media audit to determine the target audience, engaged audience, protocol and budget needed for social media. It’s essential to know your audience and who is engaging, or interacting, with the law firm. Research what is said about your law firm. An easy way to do that is to set up Google alerts for your law firm and clients. Also, search your firm name on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Ask:
- Who is the law firm’s target audience (noting that this will vary by practice area and industry)?
- What protocols and policies are in place to effectively manage social media engagement?
- What types and sources of content are available for social media engagement?
For more ideas, read: Writing Effective blog Posts for Lawyers
One useful tool on Facebook is groups. Once you join a group on social media, you can monitor conversations about your interests, practice areas, industries, clients, and other relevant topics.
- Research where people are talking about your practice areas.
Law firms may assume that LinkedIn will be the best social media platform for their targeted audience. Research your practice areas and competitors on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to see where your target audience is engaging the most.
- Develop a content strategy.
Develop a content strategy that you can commit to and keep. Create social media posts that will engage your audience and meet your social media goals. Ask:
- What type of posts will work best to meet our law firm’s goals?
- Which social networks will work best to reach our audience?
- How and when is your audience engaging on social media?
Many sources of content can be used by law firms and their lawyers for social media engagement. Consider any or all of the following for content inspiration:
- Case studies
- Charity events
- CLEs and seminars
- Client news
- Firm news and videos
- Industry news, stories and trends
- Media coverage about your firm, its attorneys and clients
- Memos of law
- Practice area FAQs and myths
- Supreme court decisions
- Trending issues relevant to your target audience
- Trial briefs
- Implement marketing tactics.
The law firm should implement tactics, such as creating an editorial calendar to schedule, track and edit posts. Except for immediate content, editorial calendar content can be scheduled in advance. Make sure that all of your blog posts, media mentions, press releases, events, speaking engagements, articles, etc. are included on your editorial calendar.
Tools such as Co-Schedule and Hootsuite can be utilized to schedule social media content for law firms. Remember that visuals are imperative to online success. Social media posts with images and videos get 94 percent more views than social media without visuals. Using hashtags (#) allows the user to search anything relevant to the hashtag.
TIP: To find the most popular hashtags, check out https://hashtagify.me/
- C.O.P.E.: Create once, publish enthusiastically
There are many digital platforms available to help you repurpose not only your recently published article but also your blogs, CLEs, topics within briefs and memos of law, memoranda, client alerts, etc.
- Post a recently published article on your website as a media mention with a teaser and link to the full story (for copyright purposes) then share your website’s media mentions on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to help drive traffic back to your website.
- Share your media mention in an electronic newsletter or alert driving traffic back to your website and social media platforms.
- Repurpose your content into a blog post making sure that it’s completely different from the published article so as not to violate copyrights and share those on social media.
- Take the main points from your article and write a guest post for a client or other blogs and share those on social media.
- Create a video on the same topic as your article and upload it to YouTube. Not only do videos provide SEO value, but they build trust and appeal to mobile users.
- Create a PowerPoint presentation using statistics, quotes and thought leadership. Share on SlideShare for additional opportunities for social media engagement.
- If you have a lot of data in your presentation, create an infographic. For the non-designers, Piktochart and Canva are useful tools to help you break up your article into data and talking points.
- Include a link to the article in your email signature for a few weeks: “Read my latest article on law firm differentiation for ALM’s Mid-Market Report.” And don’t forget to link to your social media profiles too.
- Consider hosting a webinar that will allow you to present your topic and engage your audience in conversation and share it via social media.
- Write an expert Q&A relating to the topic of your original article. Ask several experts to answer a question about your topic, then publish their answers as a new post, linking to your old post, and sharing via social media.
Here is a visual of what law firm content marketing and social media engagement using C.O.P.E. looks like:
As long as you have added value to your original content, you can utilize these suggestions to repurpose it. Adopt a C.O.P.E mentality – create once, publish everywhere.
- Get lawyers and staff involved in social media engagement.
One of the challenges of social media is getting attorneys and staff to engage on the various social media platforms. Teach lawyers and staff how to get online, connect, share, re-tweet and re-post timely, relevant and valuable content. This doesn’t just pertain to content about your law firm; it should also include material about the attorneys in your firm, your clients (when not confidential), your industry, your practice areas, articles and stories my journalists that you follow, and much more.
DID YOU KNOW? GCs are looking at social media. According to the 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.
- Monitor, track and adjust.
Monitor, track and adjust your social media messaging to allow the law firm to determine whether or not the audience is engaging and to adjust messages and timing accordingly. Use relevant tools and apps to track engagement, and refine plans based on the data results to focus on what is working best. Once you find what works best in your social media engagement, repeat it.
Social Media Engagement Policies for Law Firms
Law firms must develop policies and smart, ethical habits regarding social media engagement. It is important to have a social media policy on hand and to educate attorneys and staff members about the policies.
Elements of a social media policy include:
- Acceptable Use
Acceptable use policies outline a law firm’s position on how lawyers and staff are expected to represent the firm on social media, restrictions on use for personal interests, and consequences for violating the policy. Acceptable use may also encompass the law firm’s purpose in establishing and maintaining social networking sites.
- Account and Content Management
Account management policies provide guidance on the creation, maintenance, and deletion of social media accounts.
- Employee Access
The employee access portion of the social media policy should include which staff members will have access to the law firm’s social media platforms. The policy should also caution employees that they do not expect privacy while using the internet on any law firm-owned computer, cell phone, or other internet-equipped electronic device.
- Employee Conduct
The employment code of conduct includes three rules of engagement:
- Your presence in social media must be transparent through disclosure.
- Protect your employer and yourself.
- Use common sense and remember that professional, straightforward and appropriate communication is best.
- Legal Compliance
Policies should include rules of ethics and legal marketing for law firms. Address intellectual property when researching and using content that you find on the internet. If you use content or images, you need to make sure that to provide proper credit.
NOTICE: The ABA Model Rules relevant to law firm communications changed in 2018. The ABA has revised Model Rules of Professional Conduct 7.1 – 7.5 relating to lawyer advertising. Resolution 101 passed in Aug. 2018. While most states have not adopted the changes, as is, just yet, keep in mind that the rules have changed.
Law firms should work with their IT staff to ensure that the social media policy includes necessary guidelines regarding the security of data and technical infrastructure for new uses, users, and technologies related to social media. The technology concerns addressed in the policy may focus on password security, functionality, authentication of identity, and virus scans.
Many social media platforms allow users to set their privacy settings, which often cover many areas including who viewed their profile, who can post comments and other content on the profile, and who can search for their social media page or channel. Although the vast majority of these privacy concerns apply to individual users, public sector users should be equally as conscious.
Make it a short-term goal to create a thorough social media policy that will protect the law firm.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Importance of Law Firm Social Media Policies
Debunking the Myths of Law Firm Social Media Engagement
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 among themselves as well as with their target audience. And in the legal community, there are countless myths that keep attorneys from accepting the full value of social media engagement. If I haven’t yet convinced you of the importance and benefits of social media engagement, perhaps debunking these myths will do the trick.
Myth: No one trusts social media, so why should I even bother?
There’s a pervasive idea in law 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. Research the different social media platforms to find out which platforms best fit you and your target audience. Social media engagement will vary by practice area, industry and sector.
Myth: 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 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.
All social media engagement is based on the core principals of informing, educating and entertaining audiences. Valued content on the right platform is a universal requirement if you want to make the best use of your social media engagement.
Myth: 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: Social media is just a place to push out content.
When tracked and measured, it is possible to demonstrate real ROI to prove you are getting business from your work. Monitor and listen to see what your clients are doing and saying.
One of our clients, Willig, Williams & Davidson, which is 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.
Myth: Social media does not affect the bottom line or bring in business.
You cannot always show an ROI on social media engagement. Have a 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.
The Future of Social Media Engagement
No one knows what is in store for social media or what the next best social media idea will be. It is clear that social media is here to stay.
With the constant changes in technology, it will be interesting to see how social media continues to change our daily work and personal lives.
For now, suffice it to say that smart lawyers and marketing savvy law firm are strategic and systematic with their relevant and timely social media engagement.
Copyright © 2018 by Gina Furia Rubel. All rights reserved.
First published in 2007 | Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007941911
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