According to Lawyer2B in an article published last week, accountants are outperforming solicitors on social media in terms of influence, outreach, brand presence, content and frequency of postings. You can read the whole article here.
What interests me is why law firms are failing to match their accountancy peers in terms of social media presence. Every firm knows about social media (or have at least heard of it). Many have some sort of social media presence but very few have implemented a successful social media strategy that maximises the potential benefits.
For a long time, professional service firms have mostly thought of social media as a secondary channel for marketing. In a number of firms, I’ve seen marketing departments ‘palming off’ the social media cause to junior and even temporary staff. Which tells me there’s still a feeling that social media isn’t considered important enough to warrant a proportional amount of time, money, or – importantly – expertise.
From my research, it seems that a lot of firms are forgetting the “social” element of social media. Here are my thoughts on why lawyers are failing at social media and what can be done to fix it!
- Making excuses: Saying “oh I tried it for a couple of weeks but we didn’t get any clients from it”. You can’t be that naive. Social media is not purely there to gain new clients. It is there to drive traffic to your website, build up your brand and engagement with your audience and create connections with other referrers and business connections. It is also a great tool for carrying out market research and keeping your finger on the pulse. Bottom line is, if you aren’t on social media, you are going to be left behind!
- Not showing enough personality: The majority of accounts set up by law firms that I have seen have their firm’s logo as their avatar, a generic piece of information about their firm on their profile page and only send updates about legislation, new cases or information about their firm. Show a bit of your personality! Get solicitors to take it in turns by tweeting on different days and introducing themselves (e.g. “Hi it’s David here, the firm’s family lawyer. What’s everyone up to this weekend?” or “Lisa from Private Client has just completed the London Marathon in record time!”). For me, I believe keeping it personal is best and that means using your own face as your avatar and using your name. Also this is SOCIAL media, and sharing a bit of your personality will make it easier for people to follow you and engage with you since they feel like they know who they are talking to after seeing your face and name. People trust people and showing your personality is the quickest way to get followers to trust you.
- Not interacting with followers: Statuses/tweets that finish with a question are 15% more likely to get a response than those without. So try to finish at least some of your tweets/statuses off with a question that just begs to be answered. Show an interest in your followers and respond to their tweets – I guarantee it will pay off!
- Not following relevant people: I know how people long to have a huge following, but you have to resist the urge to follow anyone and everyone - you need to focus on following/connecting with targeted people in your niche. If you’re an employment lawyer then follow or find users working or writing about employment law. It makes no sense for you to follow people that aren’t even interested in the law.. right?
- Inconsistency: The best way to get results from your efforts on social media is to be there and be active. I recommend a status update at least every day, but preferably every couple of hours during the day. Ideally, send a few messages in morning then a few in afternoon and then a few at night. That way you get in front of the most people throughout the day. You don’t want to be a spammer, but you need to show activity and people will connect with you faster if they see your active daily.
- Being boring! Not many social media users want to know about the latest piece of legislation or history of your firm. Too many law firms just fill their social media feed with posts like this. Try instead thinking about what effect that particular piece of legislation will have on your readers. E.g. “Fathers now gain improved rights to contact with their children following new Act”. Users do not even need to know the name of the Act, just what it means for them.
- Not being helpful: Do you want to know the best way to build a community on Twitter and drive traffic to your website? Be helpful. Fix Problems. Helping people with a problem they have will get you a follower for life. When you help people, you automatically make yourself the “expert” in that area (or at least the expert to them). How about hosting an “ask a solicitor” question time once a week where you encourage followers to tweet or post their legal questions. You can answer the questions in a follow-up blog if longer answers are required.
- Scheduling tweets/posts without following up: Imagine this from your followers’ point of view. They read an interesting tweet sent by your firm (that has been pre-scheduled) and respond with a comment or by asking a question. You fail to go back to twitter to follow-up and don’t see their comment/question (and therefore don’t respond). You have a follower who feels ignored, or worse, has an unanswered question. You have missed an opportunity to interact and damage your brand.
- Firms are too scared of the risks: Social media can open a firm up to possible risks including PR and HR issues. While these risks are very real, it’s essential not to let them inhibit progress. The key is to develop a sound social media policy that identifies the risks and mitigates them. (Confused about social media policies? Check out Canopy Law’s useful article here.)
Social media is here to stay. To get the right social media strategy in place, each firm should identify which platforms suit their sector and then listen into the relevant conversations that are happening across those platforms. This will generate insight that can be used as a starting point for engagement strategies.
My advice to firms is that social media isn’t a quick fix – it’s a long term process requiring a well thought-out strategy. It takes persistence, time, confidence, tweaking and a positive attitude. It’s about having realistic expectations. You are not going to get results overnight. As long as you get into it with the expectation that it will take some time to develop strong relationships, you’ll be fine. And if you’re going to do social media, do it well, and do it with a can-do attitude.
If you have any questions about social media for solicitors, or you need help in getting started or keeping your profiles up to date, please do get in touch!