Google Plus IconThis is the next post in my series on how attorneys can better leverage social media in 2015. My last article provided some tips on how attorneys should approach social networking websites. That was an important discussion because, unfortunately, the common mistakes I mentioned tend to be the norm when it comes to the legal profession. In this article I’m going to start looking at specific social networks by discussing Google+. My, oh my, how times have changed.

In 2014 I discussed why I considered Google+ to be the most important social network for attorneys. At that time data from the social network was actually being used in Google’s search algorithms; in other words, your popularity on Google+ impacted your site’s search performance. The search giant subsequently stopped tracking Google+ “authorship” for search purposes. For a time it appeared that the network may still be a good place for attorneys to spend their time. Due to recent changes, however, attorneys should consider the network dead when it comes to trying to establish themselves or grow their law practice.

Over the last several months Google has been decoupling several components of Google+ into stand alone services. These have included popular features such as Google Hangouts and Google Photos. The largest of these developments came recently when Google announced it would stop requiring a Google+ account to sign up for other services such as YouTube, Gmail, etc. The company has repeatedly affirmed that the social network is not being shut down but that it, instead, is going in a “new direction.” This new direction includes new features such as “Collections” and a continuing of the “Communities” feature, both of which are geared towards allowing users to easily find material of a particular subject matter which interests them.

The changes to Google+ show a few things. First, the network will not be achieving large scale reach (i.e. that of Facebook) but, instead, will be a niche service. Second, the niche which G+ will serve is similar to that served by a site such as Pinterest; people will be coming to G+ for very specific purposes. Third, user growth on G+ will likely slow dramatically, if not stop, due to the fact that people are no longer required to have an account in order to access other Google services. In other words, the network is not going away. It is, however, going to be a place which is not worth an attorney’s time.

designing a brandAs I mentioned in my last post, the primary focus of social networking is about branding and relationship building. The narrow appeal and newly focused niche of Google+ mean that it is not going to be a good place to “brand” your law practice. You wouldn’t put a billboard on a highway which has few people driving on it and where those who do drive on it are only paying attention to very specific billboards. Well, if you try to promote yourself on a social network which has few people on it and where those few people are looking for very specific information you’re doing exactly that. Google+ is also not a good place for networking for these same reasons – when you go fishing then hopefully you stake yourself out where the fish are actually swimming. A niche service isn’t it.

Want to brand your law firm? You need to leverage Facebook. Want to establish quality professional relationships? You need to leverage LinkedIn. I’ll be taking more about those networks in coming posts.

One way in which attorneys absolutely need to use Google+ is in the establishment of their law firm’s business page. You need to 1) establish your page and regularly post content relevant to your audience, and 2) obtain positive reviews from Clients. Outside of establishing a robust business page, however, I see little use for G+ in terms of building your firm.

I recognize that many attorneys have put extensive time into Google+ over the last few years. These lawyers will be disappointed to see the changes from Google. This gets to the point in my last article – you should never prioritize a social network over your own website and blog. In the end, when you rely on a social network, rather than building up your own content, you are putting your faith in others.

The next post in this series will begin to discuss how law firms can do better on Facebook.