Facebook LogoThis is the next post in my Social Media for Attorneys series. My previous posts have focused on how attorneys benefit from the use of Google+ and how lawyers can maximize their use of LinkedIn. The next few posts will discuss a third network on which attorneys often fail to reap the potential benefits – Facebook.

You may have heard of Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation. As of this article it has a little over 1.2 billion users and was the subject of a hit movie in 2010. It’s also the network on which attorneys immediately sign up an online presence once they start their own law firm. Most lawyers and law firms, however, fail to get much out of their Facebook presence. In this and my next few posts I will be looking at what you can do about that and help you improve your firm’s Facebook reach. This article will talk about the value lawyers can gain from Facebook and will provide an understanding of how the service ranks content. My next post will discuss what type of content attorneys should share on Facebook to maximize their reach and will look at common mistakes to avoid.

Lawyers often fail to see the value of Facebook

Like with all social media, attorneys sign up a Facebook page for their firm because they feel they have to. They then don’t know how to get the most out of it, they don’t see the utility in it, and then it just sits there providing little return. Guess who was guilty of this in 2008 – Yours Truly. At first I thought the service wasn’t going to be much more than a way of providing news updates about my firm to clients who took the time to follow my company page. Over time I learned that the service provides a great way of “branding” your firm and also helps you gain social validation. My next post in this series will talk about some things I did to gain these benefits.

clicking share buttonManaging your Facebook presence correctly can go a long way towards establishing your name recognition with potential clients. Lawyers engaging in branding are nothing new. Personal injury attorneys have been doing it with billboards for decades. The same goes for television ads. A strong Facebook presence, however, gives you a chance to directly connect with people that you don’t get through those other mediums. Also, unlike traditional branding avenues, building a strong Facebook presence doesn’t cost a damn dime!

Another benefit of a strong Facebook presence is the social validation it provides. In 2011 roughly 40 percent of people used social media to validate a choice they had found via search engines[i]; while these statistics were speaking to tangible products, it goes without saying that consumer behavior would be the same for services. In other words, if you do not have a strong Facebook presence then you may be turning away potential customers.

A third benefit of the social network is its review feature. Clients can now rate the experience they received with your firm and leave a review. Utilizing this feature, and getting good client reviews, is important for obvious reasons.

Understanding how Facebook ranks content will improve the reach of a firm’s page and grow its online reputation

Getting more people to engage with your Facebook page is simple. You just need more followers and a good percentage of those followers need to interact with your content. Oh. Wait a minute. That’s the part that attorneys struggle with.  So we can get your page where it needs to be we’ll first need to understand how Facebook’s algorithm works and how you can use that algorithm to pick up more followers for your firm.

I talk with many people who are surprised to find out that Facebook uses an algorithm and that it doesn’t simply show you everything posted by your friends and pages you follow. An algorithm is absolutely necessary otherwise nothing would ever been seen by very many people. So much content is being posted to Facebook that a simple chronological stream would almost instantly be pushing any post down to the bottom and off the screen. No one would see your content unless they were looking at their screen at the precise moment you post it. Understanding how Facebook “ranks” the importance of your firm’s business page is, therefore, important. The company ranks content primarily on how popular the particular author has proven to be and, in part, on the format in which the content is shared.

How Facebook ranks content is pretty simple. The more that people engage with a page’s content then the more likely Facebook is to show that company’s content in the future. So, in other words, you need subject matter that will drive interaction such as likes, comments, and shares or people won’t see your future posts at all. This really gets back to my discussion on how attorneys can build relationships through social media. You have to provide information that is useful to people. In my next post we’ll discuss what types of content fit into the “flow” of Facebook and how to post this content in a way that people are likely to share and engage with.

The format in which you share content will also impact how many people see your updates. In January of 2014 the company announced changes to how it will rank content from business pages. After extensive study, Facebook found that people are more likely to show interest in business page posts that contain photos and links than simple text. As a result, the company has explicitly said that “text only” updates can expect to see limited distribution to one’s followers[ii]. Furthermore, the company has explicitly said to share links through the “link share” feature rather than by embedding links. This is due to differences in engagement the company has found when comparing the interaction on shared links versus embedded links.  Here is the example of a shared link that Facebook provided when it announced this update:

Example of a link shared on Facebook

And here is the example of an embedded link that Facebook provided:

Example of a link embedded on Facebook

Now that we’ve looked at the value of Facebook and you understand what the type of content that the social network will emphasize, it’s time to put some meat on the bones. In my next post we’ll look at what types of updates are more likely to drive user engagement/increase your following. We’ll also look at common mistakes to avoid.

What have your experiences been with branding your firm on Facebook? Feel free to chime in on the comment form below. Also, of course I’m going ask you to follow SEO For Lawyers on Facebook.

11/30/14 Update – Facebook announced additional changes to its algorithms after the above article was originally written. In November of 2014 we wrote on how Facebook’s new approach to “promotional” postings will impact attorneys.

References:

[i] Resarch…Sheds Light On The Role Search and Social Media Play in the Consumer’s Path to Purchase, February 24th, 2011. Accessed at http://groupmnext.com/press-releases/research-from-groupm-search-and-comscore-sheds-light-on-the-role-search-and-social-media-play-in-the-consumer%E2%80%99s-path-to-purchase/

[ii] News Feed FYI: What Happens When You See More Updates From Friends, January 21st, 2014. Accessed at: http://newsroom.fb.com/News/787/News-Feed-FYI-What-Happens-When-You-See-More-Updates-from-Friends