This is the second post in my series on how attorneys can better leverage social media in 2015. My last post offered a quick overview of topics I will be discussing. I decided to write this series due to a simple fact – I regularly hear attorneys talk about “doing well on social media” as if doing so is one of the great mysteries of the universe when, in fact, it couldn’t be more simple. I’ll be using this and the next several discussions to show that doing well in social does not mean that you have to be this guy:

Albert Einstein

While we would all love to be as smart as Dr. Einstein, the truth is that doing better online simply means you have to be good with people. Let’s take a look at 1) the purposes of using social media in your law firm and 2) common mistakes you should avoid.

Attorneys need to understand that social media is about branding and relationship building

If you want to get value out of social media then you need to understand that it’s about two things. Branding your firm and building meaningful relationships. When you see this as the focus, and go about it the right way, then the reward on time invested can be huge.

Attorneys continue to spend a fortune on branding their firms. You see this everyday when you see a television ad for personal injury attorneys, a billboard for a criminal defense firm, etc. People driving down the road, who see a billboard, aren’t going to pull over and call that particular lawyer. That billboard, however, burns an image of that attorney into their head and when they need a lawyer they may be more likely to call. Well this same effect can be had, for a lot less money, by effectively leveraging social media. Think about it for a minute – the point of billboards, television, radio, putting your name on the Goodyear blimp, etc., is that those are things meant to stand out to people at a time when they are paying attention. Those methods of getting attention, however, cost a ton o’ cash and paying for them leaves you looking like this guy:

Man with empty pockets

Let’s look at a better way.

There are other places where people pay heavy attention and you can grab a part of that attention – just like people do with billboards. That place is social media feeds. The truth is that many, many, many, many (many) people check their Facebook feeds in the morning and take an interest in it. If your firm has posts showing up in that feed then you grab the person’s attention and begin to “brand” yourself. All this takes is some time and costs a lot less than that frickin’ billboard. Focusing on social media as your branding platform will give you a greater reach and save you ‘da cash. Such an approach will help you look like this guy:

Man hoarding money

Later in this series I’ll talk more about how to get this branding effect through social media.

The second big purpose of using social platforms is networking. Attorneys have been going to networking functions for centuries (whether they go about it correctly is a rant discussion for a later time). Properly leveraging the web gives you the best networking opportunity you’ve ever had. Suppose you go to some type of event and there’s a few hundred professionals there. Good opportunity right? Now ask yourself this – how many professionals in your area are on LinkedIn? The answer is “a whole lot more than there will be at that networking event.” Am I saying to avoid networking events – absolutely not. It’s important to remember that there are only so many hours in a day and much of the time one is spending may be better invested in starting relationships through online resources. We’ll look more at this when we dive into how lawyers can better leverage LinkedIn.

Four social media mistakes attorneys should avoid

Do quite a few attorneys try to do well on social media? Yep. Do a large number of them strike out? Yep. Do you need to be one of the people who strikes out? Nope. Let’s take a look at four mistakes lawyers should avoid.

Lawyers err by thinking they can delegate their social media efforts

Would you pay someone, or have someone from your office, go to a networking function and hold themselves out as being you? Hopefully the answer to that is “no.” Now let’s get one thing straight.  Social media is a conversation and those are other people on the other end of the screen. The physical world conversations which yield results are those which have some depth. Online conversations are no different and you can achieve a meaningful dialogue when someone is speaking on your behalf. Want to do better in social media? That means YOU have to do it. Having someone else speak on your behalf? Good luck with that.

Attorneys err by treating social media like a billboard rather than a place to interact

 

Why do so many attorneys struggle with social media? Simple – they don’t understand what it’s for! I recently wrote about the changing state of law firm marketing. One of the big problems attorneys are running into is that they’re trying to take tools which exist today, such as social media, and put them into the same type of marketing models that existing thirty years ago. In the case of websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. this has resulted in a fundamental misunderstanding; lawyers are treating social websites in the same way they used to treat billboards and the phone book when, in fact, they need to be treating them as a networking function.

When you go online and post something, without interacting with other people, that’s the same as walking into a room, shouting something really loudly, and leaving. Social networking is “networking.” Treat it as such.

Law firms should never pay for followers or “likes”

Would you pay someone to be your friend in the real world? Hopefully not. People who follow you because an ad was shoved in front of their face are far less likely to interact with your content. For reasons I’ll explain later in this series, this actually results in fewer people seeing your content and hurts your social networking efforts. Paying for likes and followers is, therefore, counter productive.

Attorneys should never prioritize social media over their own website

You own your website. You control it. No one is featured on it except for you. Your efforts should revolve around driving traffic to your property. This point is made pretty well in the following video – Darren Rowse is one of the most influential bloggers in the world and has turned his blogging into a seven figure business. This discussion (while not geared towards lawyers) really drives home the point of focusing on your own website:

Want to ensure that you have sustained online success? Focus on properties that you own.

My next post will start the discussion of specific social networks by looking at the demise of Google+.