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How to make social media work for law firms

Ben HollomIn my experience, social media management is probably the main area of customer engagement where law firms fall flat. Admittedly, it’s a tough nut to crack, whichever industry you’re in, but the legal sector seems particularly bad when it comes to implementing effective social media strategies.

In recent years, I’ve come across countless profiles that have been left to stagnate, languishing in the dusty corners of the Web, deemed unworthy of due care and attention because they didn’t deliver retweets and mentions. After all, who’s going to ‘Like’ a lawyer or ‘Share’ a solicitor, right?

Well, if you actually make a commitment to getting savvy with social rather than flirting with sporadic updates, you could soon find it becomes essential to your business model. By posting regular, relevant and engaging content that’s targeted to the right people, you’ll quickly establish yourself as a voice of authority, building loyalty with your followers, boosting your brand and opening the door to potential new clients.   

If your firm is guilty of social media malpractice, viewing it is an afterthought rather than a community of customers to court, you desperately need to challenge the status quo. 

Pass the bar for Digital PR

Let’s assume you’re already on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - most legal practices are, it’s just that there’s often a prevailing attitude of ‘we’re only here because everyone else is,’ rather than any pragmatic attempt at forward planning. 

Before you lay out grand plans for chasing new followers, it’s best to start by getting to know your current audience (however small it may be). There are many social media listening tools that can help you build a clear picture of your public, such as Followerwonk for Twitter. Although a premium version is available, you can use many of the features for free, like the ‘word cloud’ that generates a visualisation of the keywords and phrases your followers have in their bios, giving you a clear indication of the people interested in what you have to say. You can also monitor activity levels, allowing you to optimise output for when they’re most likely to be online.

Once you’ve got a good understanding of those in your network, you can tailor your content to them. Ultimately, you want to frame yourselves as a firm that really leads the way in your chosen niche - be that family law, employment law, medical law, or whatever - a great team of talented people that’s in touch with current affairs and always on hand to help. 

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As such, you should do what comes naturally; legal professionals are inherently good at building a case, convincing onlookers of their integrity and validity, so social media should be approached in the same vein. To achieve this, you need to share articles that are relevant to your niche or local community, passing comment on legal developments, illustrating that you’re on the ball and in the know. 

This may generate further conversation, giving a chance to highlight your expertise, but it also works on a deeper level, showing that you’re engaged with breaking news and care about the things that matter. 

Social media shouldn’t be treated as a virtual billboard with generic sales messaging - to cut through the noise you need to be vocal and jump on trending topics, getting your name out there in a way that resonates. For the most part, you’re probably already consuming and debating such content in-house, so why not extend these efforts to your social channels? It takes no time at all and puts you in front of the right people. 

Commenting on posts from journalists is also a great way of building rapport that can yield PR success. They may ask for your expert opinion on future pieces, guaranteeing column inches and adding a level of credibility to your brand. Searching for the hashtag #journorequest is another quick way to find reporters seeking quotes. 

Don’t make a hash of it

Many towns and cities have users that engage in local ‘Twitter hours’ - a regular timeslot for business networking. Search for #cardiffhour, for example, and you’ll see it takes place 8-9pm every Tuesday, allowing locals to come together and ask for assistance or promote their services. The more active you are, and the more you look to help rather than straight sell, the more attractive you’ll become. A tool like Ritetag can also help elevate your output by suggesting relevant hashtags that are likely to gain traction.

Aside from sharing and commenting on posts from other people, you should also direct followers to your own content, be that a blog post on your website or an article you’ve written on LinkedIn. Showcasing your considered opinions is the best way to underline your proficiency, and the more often you do this, the more people will take notice and you’ll naturally acquire more shares, comments and backlinks.

Many law firms appreciate the benefits of content marketing, but few amplify their efforts efficiently on social media. Producing quality content is one thing, but what’s the point if nobody reads it? Instead of posting a simple link to your latest words of wisdom, accompany the link with a quote to pull people in, and use an image to catch the eye - quick tricks to get more clicks.

Sponsored posts virtually guarantee visits to your site, as you can use highly-targeted metrics to refine ad campaigns. On Facebook, for example, you can zone-in on your ideal client by focusing on location, age, gender, profession and more. On LinkedIn, your adverts can specifically target decision-makers, the exact people that are likely to need your services.

The balancing act between paid-for content and organic posts is a fine line to walk, but a combination of the two will get you noticed and qualify you as a trusted voice. 

Show the world who you are

More than anything, you should use your social media channels to personalise your brand. It’s easy for law firms to hide behind the corporate mask but, ultimately, people buy from people, so if you invite followers to look behind the scenes, posting regular updates that give a real insight into the company culture, you’ll build much deeper connections.

Share photos from your team lunch, celebrate success as people are promoted, interview new recruits and tell their story - what motivates them, why have they taken this career path, what are they hoping to achieve? Glimpses like these will build trust in your organisation, which is why Instagram is becoming increasingly important to brands.

If you can go one step further and ask your clients for testimonials, you can let them do the talking for you. Placing quotes next to their photo, or perhaps asking if they’d be happy to record a short video to share their experience of working with you will influence others to use your service. Posts with imagery garners much more attention than plain text, so use this to your advantage wherever possible.

Legal professionals, by their very nature, are invariably intelligent, so I’m convinced a lack of understanding isn’t the reason behind social media faux-pas. It’s more a lack of time, but getting into a rhythm of regular posting will work wonders for your marketing, pushing warm leads your way. If you offer actionable advice, remain positive in tone and show the people behind your brand, followers will flock and you’ll be the first port of call in times of need.

Ben Hollom is the MD of content creation agency M2 Bespoke, specialising in Thought Leadership marketing and social media management.
 

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