Content, Consistency, Engagement: The Makings of a Solid Social Media Strategy
Social media platforms have changed the way people choose lawyers. Gone are the days when someone in search of a lawyer reached for the local directory and called the one with the largest advertisement. Today, people Google you. They read your LinkedIn profile and your posts. They read your tweets and look you up on Facebook. They visit your website to learn more about your firm and practice area. And they do all of this before they call you for a consultation.
Why? They want to get to know you before reaching out. Many of your potential clients are not relying on face-to-face communication anymore, so why are you? Face-to-face networking can only reach a limited number of people, hence the reason why social media is so popular. A social media presence will help you reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people at a time.
TOP SITES FOR LAWYERS
Recent surveys show LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter as the top choices for lawyers when cultivating business leads. For three years running, the annual survey performed by Attorneyatwork.com has shown an increase in the percentage of lawyers using social media for business: 60 percent in 2015, 68 percent in 2016, and 70 percent in 2017.
Lawyers who regularly use social media as part of their marketing strategy reported using LinkedIn at least 84 percent of the time, with Facebook coming in second at 80 percent, and Twitter with a respectable 59 percent.
Solo practitioners seem to lean toward using LinkedIn more often than Facebook. But the most interesting numbers refer to what platform lawyers think is working for them in terms of bringing in new business. Facebook took first place with 31 percent, followed by LinkedIn at 27 percent, and Twitter coming in at a low 5 percent.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS LONG-TERM
According to Attorneyatwork.com, most lawyers, especially solos, continue to manage their own social media presence. This is all the more reason why a solid social media strategy is so important. You wouldn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time on a platform where very few of your ideal clients can be found, nor would you want to lose precious billable hours trying to maintain an active and consistent presence on every platform.
Whichever platform you choose, research it first to ensure that you will have ample opportunity to build relationships with those whom you want to cultivate as clients. But don’t expect to achieve overnight success—social media is for long-distance runners, not sprinters. Know that you’re in it for the long haul.
Social media can be a waste of time if done haphazardly or without a trackable system. A well-planned strategy is key to understanding whether your efforts are paying off. As part of your strategy, always include calls to action, links to landing pages, or trackable URLs in your social media postings.
Use these examples to get you started:
1. Calls to action, or CTA, can be as simple as saying, “Follow this link to sign up for a free …,” or “Call or text … to talk to an expert now,” or “Click here to schedule an appointment with … .” Action words are imperative because not only do you want your posts to educate your readers, you ultimately want to turn those readers into clients.
2. Use your CTA to send readers back to your website or to a landing page where you can capture their contact information using an online form. Entice them with a free newsletter, a downloadable information sheet, or a more extensive FAQ.
3. One of the simplest ways to incorporate trackable URLs is to use bitly.com or tinyurl.com to generate shortened URLs that can be customized for easy recognition. These websites will track the number of times the URL is clicked.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS MARKETING
To survive in this vast sea of professionals, a lawyer needs to be a savvy marketer and a savvy business owner. Social media is all about marketing yourself and your firm by building relationships and allowing people to get to know you long before they ever need your services.
As a lawyer, social media is your opportunity to grow your network, increase your visibility, and, ultimately, gain more clients. But to be successful at social media, a long-term strategy is required, one that consists of three things: (1) content; (2) consistency; and (3) engagement.
Content: What to Post
Video. Social media is all about video! It is the most favored content on all platforms. LinkedIn and Facebook have developed their algorithms to push out video before pushing out other posts. Video is the best way to get to know someone aside from in-person contact. Below are several types of lawyer videos that are posted to social media:
1. Explainer or educational video: solves a problem, explains a concept, presents a “know your rights” concept.
2. Hero video: positions you as the one who will fight for the client no matter what and stand up for what’s right.
3. Authoritative video: demonstrates expertise in a particular topic, responds to specific questions, uses client scenarios.
4. Thought leadership video: uses timely topics, “in the news” topics, breaks down a verdict or a specific adjudication.
5. Client testimonial video: offers a personal account and shows your trustworthiness.
6. Personal history video: tells your audience about you, your firm, and the people who work for you.
Short-form posts. Short-form posts are highly favored on all platforms, as they are designed to be concise and take up as little of the reader’s time as possible. Short-form posts consist of three lines or less. Most people add a space between lines in order to create an even easier and faster read.
Research shows that short posts receive higher engagement. According to data from Buddy Media, tweets with 100 characters or less get 17 percent higher engagement than longer tweets. Marketingprof.com states that Facebook posts containing 40 characters or less see 86 percent more engagement.
Images. Use relevant images with text posts for higher impact. Text posts can get lost among all the videos you’ll see in your news feed. A striking image associated with your text post will catch the eye of the reader as he or she scrolls. Your firm’s logo can be used as the image. For royalty-free images, try pixabay.com, unsplash.com, and canva.com.
Long-form posts. Long-form posts are any text posts of four lines or more. Platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, tend to lower the visibility of long-form posts because shorter is better. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see any posts with more than four lines or that you shouldn’t post text that is more than four lines long. Long-form posts simply aren’t as favored.
If you desire to post something long form, such as an article you’ve written, place the article on your website and use a short URL in your social media post. Include a summary of three lines or less and ask people to follow the link to read your article. This will gradually direct more traffic to your website.
Other people’s content. Feel free to post links to other people’s content, news articles, and the like. Caveat: Never post just a link! People hate that and the algorithms do, too. Always include a synopsis; better yet, include your thoughts on the subject along with the link.
Consistency: How Often to Post
Being consistent with sharing content is just as important as the content being shared. The only way to build relationships without face-to-face communication is to be seen and heard on a consistent basis on social media. Weekly posting is recommended, but more frequent posting is even better. Here is where most people find social media to be time consuming. Below are some suggestions to make your social media implementation easier:
1. Start with posting content once or twice a week.
2. Decide what types of content you’d like to post to inform, educate, and connect with readers.
3. Build a social media calendar. For example, you could post your thoughts on relevant case law or news items on Tuesdays then post short “know your rights” videos on Thursdays.
4. Block out time each week to create and/or curate content.
5. Research each social media platform and decide where you might find and connect with the most potential clients. Then spend majority of your social time on that platform.
6. Delegate the regular posting to someone in your office if you can. But, above all, do not delegate your engagement. People are not building a relationship with your assistant; they need to build that all-important “know, like, and trust” factor with you.
Engagement: Like, Follow, Share, Comment
Your posts should be consistent but your engagement must be constant. Social media thrives on engagement; it is how you will build your online community. Engage with those who like, follow, share, and comment on your posts—there’s nothing worse than leaving a comment for the poster only to have it ignored. And be sure to reciprocate by commenting, liking, retweeting, and sharing others’ posts as well.
Invite people to connect with you. Remember: Someone is more apt to accept a personalized request to connect if the person sees that you’ve taken the time to read his or her profile. You might even find something you have in common; if so, mention that in your connection request.
As a lawyer, beware of offering legal advice on any social media platform. If people have questions, kindly invite them to contact your office to schedule a consultation. Check with the bar or your ethics panel if you have questions regarding social media engagement.
Things to remember: To be successful with your social media strategy, start with a plan. And for those do-it-yourselfers out there, don’t try to split your time between all platforms—you’ll never get any work done.