Various social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, have attracted a dedicated following among small firm and solo lawyers trying to market themselves.
Many jumped on the bandwagon out of curiosity, peer pressure or love of technology.
But others are wasting their time without even knowing it.
The reason: most lawyers have not developed a coherent strategy for using social media.
Here are five questions lawyers should ask themselves about their social media strategy:
Are you ready for it?
Some law firms are not ready to engage in social media. And not every social media tool is for every lawyer.
If you hate to write, don’t start a blog. If you think communicating in 140 characters or less is inane, don’t tweet.
Other social media tools, like LinkedIn, Avvo or YouTube, may be more your style.
Only after you have an overall marketing plan in place will social media be effective.
“Social media should not be #1 on your marketing plan. Social media has its place – keep it in its place,” said Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute in Gilbert, Ariz.
Ranking above social media are referrals from clients and other professionals, speaking at seminars and optimizing your website, he said.
“For our clients who say they’ve already gotten all that in place, social media can add a whole new dimension,” Fairley said.
Who are you talking to?
If you haven’t identified your target audience, namely referral sources and potential clients, you are probably spending valuable time with the wrong crowd.
“I know law firms that are putting out great stuff, but the problem is the people who follow them are not the people they want. … Having 5,000 followers if 4,999 are the wrong people is pretty pointless,” said Cordell Parvin, a law firm consultant in Dallas.
Also, your target audience may be narrower than your practice.
For example, Richard Vetstein, a recently gone-solo real estate attorney in Framingham, Mass., created the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog to fill a void he saw, even though his practice is more general.
“You can’t be all things to all people. I only let people into my network that fit within my target audience,” said Vetstein, who said he had a concerted marketing plan that included various social media when he went solo less than six months ago.
What are you saying?
Once you establish who you’re talking to, your content should be tailored to your target audience and focus on giving value to them by answering questions, sharing a news article or making a referral.
A mistake is using soft- marketing social media for the hard-sell.
Because social media are all about building relationships, users will be turned off and tune out on those who use it “as a selling tool and not a helping tool,” said Parvin.
Is everything integrated?
Even if you are using every social media tool, if they’re not working together then you’re not getting the most out of them.
One of the simplest ways of doing this is to include a link to all of your web tools on your business card and in the signature line of your e-mail.
Richard Vetstein, the real estate attorney, has garnered one of the largest fan followings on Facebook (over 600) in part by integrating his blog posts with his Facebook page and giving his blog subscribers an e-mail newsletter that also includes his Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages in the signature.
His marketing plan also integrates new media tools with traditional marketing, such as Chamber of Commerce events where he passes out his business card with his blog address on it.
He says he receives five to 10 inquiries per week and one to two new matters per week from his blog and website.
Are you succeeding?
Although social media tools have great tracking data on exactly how many people clicked on your link in Twitter or video on YouTube, it can be difficult to correlate that data directly to new business.
“The whole [idea] is to build a bigger herd, a bigger following, a bigger platform,” said Fairley.
But he added that a concrete goal of social media is to drive people to your website or blog where they then sign up for a newsletter or free special report, and provide their contact information with permission to market to them further.
Vetstein says that as long as he does not sink too much time (he spends an hour per blog post) into social media, it’s worth the low cost.
“The big question is whether this is really going to drive us business. The jury is still out,” he said.