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Building a law practice with social media

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Social Media

Social media can be a good marketing add-on for young digital natives to create a personal brand, make quality contacts, and engage with potential clients. Keep your smartphone camera handy and get ready to market on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube (you can skip Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, and Snapchat).

That said, forget everything you thought about social media from your high school and college days. No more online arguments, selfies in crazy situations, or political rants. Remember, the internet is forever.

Research shows that social media marketing increases your exposure, increases web traffic, generates leads, and develops loyal fans. Half of all people said they’d be likely to hire a lawyer with an active social presence, and if you isolate that to Millennials, it’s 72% of people. People hire lawyers that they know, trust, and like, and social media, when used correctly, is one place to accomplish that.

Think of social media as social networking, where the object is to meet people in real life. I’ve got 20,000 followers on Twitter, 4,008 connections on LinkedIn and 1,970 actual, real friends on Facebook. I’ve met and worked with lots of people whom I first met online.

All the face-to-face techniques that work in starting relationships have a digital equivalent. The key thing is to be a useful resource, by inquiring into people’s concerns and furnishing useful answers. Social media doesn’t replace your in-person business development activities — they enhance each other.

Preparing for social liftoff

Bear in mind that your central marketing effort should be writing blog posts, creating online content and answering client questions on the Web. Content marketing is what gets you found online, and the more you blog, the more business you will get. All of your other social media efforts should broadcast your content writing and bring people back to your website. Be sure to update your social media accounts when you publish a new blog post. (LawLytics websites can automatically publish new blog posts to relevant social media.)

Today, the most popular forms of content on social media are pictures, videos, and infographics. Your brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text and 93% of all human communication is visual. Therefore, every social media post should have a graphic.

When it makes sense to do so, you may want to include pictures you’ve taken yourself.  It adds a “you are there” sense of reality. Good examples are pictures of you helping at a charity event, a video of you giving a speech, or a picture of an office staff appreciation event.

Marketing tip: upload your picture to your blog first, and fill in the title, caption, and alt text description fields. This way Google image search will find them.

There’s Facebook and everything else

Facebook has far more engagement with people than any other social medium. It Has the highest percentage of daily users, and has the highest average number of daily sessions. It’s also where most Americans get their news.

Create a Facebook business page, not a personal page, for your practice. Business pages get access to Facebook Insights, where you can see metrics about your page’s performance, learn which posts have the most engagement and data about your audience. A personal page has a gender and birthday, but a business page has a category, mission statement, services, awards, and reviews.

For example, the Shouse Law Group of California, which is very successful at generating new business online, has a Facebook page with cartoons, statistics and scads of glowing reviews by happy clients.

Notice that Shouse has lots of favorable reviews. “Many lawyers who say they get all their business from referrals are likely to lose clients to their competitors, because of their online reputation or the lack of one,” says attorney Dan Jaffe, CEO of LawLytics. “A good client who had a good case will decide to hire a different lawyer than the one he was referred to because he had a better rating on Yelp or Avvo.”

As blogger Victoria Blute points out, you can’t offer incentives for good reviews. “Reviews are an important point of proof for potential clients. They will likely take reviews (or lack thereof) into account as they decide whether to hire your law firm,” she writes. “But offering something in exchange for reviews is not likely to benefit your law firm’s online presence in the long term.”

Four out of five potential clients check a law firm’s online reviews before deciding to hire a lawyer. You should monitor and manage your online reputation, and using a reputation management service makes it easy.

Brand ambassadors

Shares and likes are the holy grail of Facebook and the best strategy to get them is to find influencers for “brand ambassadors.” These are people who follow the law or your practice area, and who may be a sharing your update already. 95% of consumers trust recommendations from others — even people they don’t know. Engaging them is like reaching out to a reporter or journalist. A good approach is to notify them of a shareable experience that is a socially conscious initiative, like a donation program. Share the updates of the influencer, comment on their posts, and perhaps invite them to meet up at a local event.

But in the final analysis, understand that Facebook is pay-to-play. Your updates will be seen by only 2% of your followers, which means you’ll need to pay to boost your posts. Fortunately, it’s not expensive (for $20 you can reach 1,200 people) and Facebook advertising is incredibly targeted. You can target your ads to specific cities, gender, age groups, demographics, and interest in a specific legal issue.

You can also set up a Facebook pixel, which causes people who visited your website to see your ad again as they traverse the web. You can upload your list of email contacts and build a “lookalike audience” of people who have similar likes, interests, and demographics to people who are already interacting with your website.

Other media and tools

LinkedIn is the de facto online professional directory, and you need to have a fully fleshed-out profile with a photo taken in a studio (no selfies). This is the social medium to meet other attorneys and attract referrals. 40% of LinkedIn users are on the site daily.

Your aim is to upgrade your 2nd level connections (people who know your contacts) to 1st level connections, whom you can message, invite to lunch, and send relevant articles. Start to make connections by doing a search of Groups, and find one that has meetings you can attend. Begin by asking questions of the other person and inquire into business issues that have legal solutions.

YouTube as well as Facebook are good places to build a following with informal videos created with a cell phone on a tripod or stand. Impromptu recordings of office events and engaging people in a conversational way can lay the groundwork for your practice. Viewers want to learn something from the video, and it’s your opportunity to tell them how to solve their legal problem.

Keep the videos short (90 seconds), tell viewers a story and speak to your viewers’ emotions. This is a chance to show off your interpersonal skills and welcoming office environment. Start with an introduction of yourself and your staff, followed by details of the initial steps your clients can expect.

Marketing tip: 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, so it makes sense to add captions to your content.

Twitter can seem like a firehose of information, but it’s not as overwhelming if you carefully choose whom you follow. It’s a great place to learn about legal events and news and has worked for me to meet people in person. If you’re serious, check out the 5 tips in my blog post How I Got 1,000+ Real Followers in 10 Days.

To get followers, you must observe the Golden Rule: treat other people as you would like them to treat you. This means:

  • If someone retweets your post, visit their Twitter site and retweet them. The same goes for people who like one of your updates or mention you in one of their posts.
  • Thank people using their Twitter @handle for their retweets, likes, and mentions. People just love the attention, and they will retweet your thank-yous.

Online tools

Social media marketing is a lot easier if you use the online tools that are available:

Hootsuite enables you to post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Instagram, and YouTube from one dashboard. You can schedule your updates and track mentions, likes, and shares.

Buffer, like Hootsuite, automatically sends out posts in your queue to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more according to the posting schedule that you put in place.

Twittercounter presents great charts about your follower growth. It also shows who is retweeting and mentioning you, as well as how often they do it. These are the people you want to follow and engage with.

Tweepi identifies people whom you should follow based on specific hashtags and followers you identify. The logic is that if you follow them, they’ll follow back.

Commun.it sorts your Twitter followers into retweeters, new followers, influencers and engaged members. It makes it easy to thank retweeters, track mentions and monitor your brand.

What to do next

You have a strategic opportunity because brand building is in the early stages in the legal profession. You can become a major online voice with many target client groups, and many small firms have established their practices this way. Set aside time for social media — even just 15 minutes a day — and share a story that engages your audience.

Of course, don’t blast away with hard-sell updates. Social media is where you show your humane side and likable personality. Employ social media to show how approachable you are and remove the intimidation that many people feel when hiring an attorney.

Traditional face-to-face networking is always important, but it is one-to-one. Social media allows you to market one-to-many. You can build your visible personal brand by identifying your target clients, researching their needs and interests, and dominating a social media space.

The strongest brands are everywhere your target client looks. Why not start dominating today?

Larry Bodine Larry Bodine is Senior Legal Marketing Strategist for LawLytics Web Marketing Suite. He is a former litigator, New York Daily News journalist, American Bar Association publisher, and ABA Edge Award recipient. Larry has been a recognized authority in legal marketing for two decades and is a frequent CLE speaker.