22 Apr 2016
Social media presents a tremendous opportunity for solicitors although in my conversations with legal eagles it appears that few of them realise this. There’s a common misconception that social media isn’t for them, that Facebook is for kids and not for a professional firm of lawyers. Solicitors often consider social media to be risky but the reality is that it’s no more risky for them than it is for any other business. When making a decision about using social media the business benefits outlined below should be considered along with any risks.
In the following article I’ll debunk the theory that social media isn’t suitable to those in the legal world and that the benefits outweigh the risks. I suggest that LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook can play a worthwhile part in a solicitor’s marketing strategy and I’ll illustrate how a law firm can make the most of the social media.
There are many business benefits for solicitors who engage on social networks which all contribute to what is probably the practice’s key goal - generating new business.
- Finding and communicating with prospects
- Building a good local reputation
- Brand awareness and thought leadership to the wider community
- Obtaining leads through social listening
- Accurate targeting of prospective clients
- Development of relationships with barristers and counsels
- Increased website visits via links on social networks and improved SEO
Finding and communicating with prospects
Using LinkedIn you can seek out prospects using Advanced Search. This is a great feature which enables you to target and communicate with prospects. For example, if you’re a commercial lawyer and you want to contact Managing and Commercial Directors of local companies, you can do this in a matter of minutes. Once you’re happy with the search filters you’ve selected, you can save your search making it easier to get updated results the next time you need them. You’ll also be emailed any new results on a weekly basis. Using the results you can then communicate with a prospect by connecting with them or sending them a LinkedIn email. InMail is LinkedIn’s version of email and whilst you do need to become a premium member to access, it’s extremely powerful. It gives you the ability to directly communicate with the 400 million members on LinkedIn <tweet this>, even if you don’t know their email address or phone number. But make sure you don’t get for the hard sell so start a conversation or suggest a meeting to discuss how you might work together. Make sure you show an interest in your prospect and refer to shared contacts and interests to build rapport.
Twitter also has an Advanced Search feature although it’s not widely used as it’s poorly signposted. Like LinkedIn Advanced Search it also has filters so you can search by location. It has one-up on LinkedIn with the ability to locate ‘sentiment’ in tweets ie you can search for tweets that are positive, negative or which are questions. It can be rewarding to search for key terms that are questions. For example, searching for the word ‘solicitor’ in a tweet that’s a questions can yield leads like this:
Building a good local reputation
Using the Advanced Search features on LinkedIn and Twitter mentioned above you can contact local business people to network and provide value. For example, would they find a guide on the latest legislation on employment law useful? You can also enhance your reputation by sharing posts and tweets from local businesses on Facebook and LinkedIn and retweeting on Twitter.
You should follow (Twitter) and connect (LinkedIn) with local influencers. For example, if you practice personal injury law it’s not a bad idea to connect with health and safety experts, insurance firms, constructions workers and electricians.
Most areas in the UK have a #Townhour chat every week. For example, #CardiffHour is 8pm-9pm on Wednesdays. Take the time to join in at the appointed time and build your reputation by answering questions, retweeting using the relevant hashtag and tweeting useful content.
In terms of content, make sure you post and tweet about any activity or involvement in the local community. For example, photos from sponsored events and charitable initiatives are likely to prove engaging.
Brand awareness and thought leadership to the wider community
The key to raising awareness of your brand on any social platform is to show an interest in others and to get active. For example, sharing relevant and useful content by retweeting puts you on the radar of the person whom you’ve retweeted as well as providing useful content to your followers. Add an insightful comment to the tweet to demonstrate your thought leadership.
LinkedIn rewards activity more than other social networks. For example, liking an update will result in the person whose update you’ve liked receiving an update just like other social networks but in addition your action of liking will be published in the news feed of your connections.
You can also use LinkedIn posts to provide commentary and advice on the latest legal issues. Posts give you the ability to easily write blog posts or articles on LinkedIn. It’s a simple, easy to use system - upload a photo, write your title and the article, hit the publish button and you’re done. Posts are great for raising awareness as all your connections are notified when you publish a new post, plus might also be seen in the news feed. If you’re lucky LinkedIn will publish to people outside your network too. Encourage discussion and opinion at the end of your posts. For example, ‘I’d love to hear your feedback on how changes in your social media policy have affected your workplace. Please leave a comment below’.
The LinkedIn Group - Legal Marketing Network UK carries discussions on all aspects of marketing for law firms. It’s a good place to learn, contribute and network with your peers.
A LinkedIn company page (see example from Barr Ellison Solicitors below) gives your practice a corporate presence on LinkedIn from which you can post short news updates and links to relevant articles. A good strategy to employ with your company page is to encourage partners, associates and paralegals to share the updates from the company page onto their personal profiles and therefore onto their connections.
Obtaining leads through social listening
A key benefit of social media is the ability to listen to public conversations about your law firm. Make no mistake; you can be certain that people are talking about you online just as they do offline. Using a tool like TweetDeck (owned by Twitter) you can setup columns containing keywords in tweets. For example, to find conversations about your business you should setup columns containing the name of your practice and your website address. To find leads, you could setup a column with the phrase ‘recommend solicitor’. It’s worthwhile experimenting with different words and phrases as there’s no limit to the amount of columns you can setup.
You can also use a tool like Mention who say, ‘Monitor you and your brand’s online footprint, find buzz about your business, and generate awareness for your company.’ Subscriptions start at $29 per month.
Accurate targeting of prospective clients
Social advertising allows you to communicate directly with potential clients who are interested in your services. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have advertising platforms that are easy to use and great value when compared to other forms of paid advertising. Your chosen platform depends on a number of criteria, but it makes sense to advertise on a social network that’s popular with your potential clients. The key strength of social advertising is being able to target potential clients on a number of levels. For example on Facebook you can select age, gender, location, relationship status, education level, profession and perhaps most powerful of all, interests and behaviours.
Facebook is suitable for solicitors providing conveyancing services and other business to consumer services whereas LinkedIn and Twitter would be better for commercial lawyers. On Facebook those in the solicitor’s locality who are ‘Likely to be 1st time buyers’ - a Facebook behaviour - can be targeted with posts from the practice’s Facebook Page. On LinkedIn all the details contained in users profiles such as locations, job title and industry can be used when targeting.
Development of relationships with barrister and counsels
If you’re a law firm who works with a barrister or counsel, you’ll want to maintain a good working relationship. Find out more about them by following them on Twitter and connecting on LinkedIn. Show an interest in their activities by liking and retweeting on Twitter and liking and sharing on LinkedIn. If you wish to communication in private you can use Twitter’s Direct Messaging which is no longer limited to 140 characters plus you can have group conversations too. LinkedIn also supports this functionality with the messaging function having also just been through a revamp.
If you need an introduction to a barrister or counsel, ask your 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn if they’ll make an introduction. LinkedIn is a great resource for networking and developing relationships with other legal professionals.
Increased website visits via links on social networks and improved SEO
Social media is becoming increasingly important when it comes to attracting more visitors to your website. It’s important to ensure that links to your website are included on all your pages and profiles as well as in posts and tweets as appropriate. If there’s more information on your website about the subject you’re talking about then make sure you include a link to the relevant website page.
As well as gaining visitors from those that click on links, social media can also help your website appear higher in search engine results or to use the jargon, it can help your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). It’s not only your website that appears in search results but your brand gets exposure from other web assets too. Your Twitter profile plus your tweets, employee LinkedIn profiles and company page are all surfaced in results and will help people find you.
Links themselves can help SEO, especially if others are sharing and retweeting your posts and tweets but you should also include relevant keywords in your social network profiles and in your social media content.
In summary, there are risks regarding professionalism and confidentiality but like any other company, a law firm should provide training and have a social media policy in place (I can help with both). For those advising on employment law, then you’ll already be advising clients on this area so you won’t have any problems drafting or updating your own policy.
As can be seen above there are many business benefits to be obtained for law firms and I’ve not included other areas where social media can help, such as customer services and employee engagement so the case for solicitors using social media is strong.
Are you a solicitor using social media? Let me know your experience in the comments below.