By Robyna May, Robyna May Consulting
Many law firms have a social media presence. Very few firms take full advantage of it. You have the opportunity to be in the latter group.
A marketing manager attends a conference and comes back convinced that the firm needs to be on Twitter. Jones Law down the road set up a Facebook page and now Smith Law thinks they had better do the same thing. A close friend of a partner has waxed lyrical about LinkedIn and now that partner is sure that setting up a LinkedIn profile is the answer to the firm’s business development needs.
Those firms would undoubtedly gain benefit from social media. But what they really need first is a strategy and a plan. Taking some time to critically think about what exactly social media will mean to a firm will yield a much more effective social media presence in the long run.
Let’s look at how you can build an effective social media presence.
The First Stage - Strategy
- Look through your business plans and focus on your firm’s goals. Some of those goals may be achieved with the assistance of social media. For example, you might want your firm to be seen as the leading experts in a very specific field. Social media can help promote that. If your business planning documentation does not lead you to any obvious uses of social media but you still want to pursue it, formulate at least three realistic, measurable goals.
- What are your firm’s values? What three things do you want coming to mind when people think about your firm? Your social media presence becomes a part of your firm’s image. You need to be careful that it reflects and strengthens what your firm has built.
- Who is your target audience? Where do they congregate online? Don’t be afraid to be very specific or to prepare an audience profile. You need to have a good understanding of who it is exactly that you are trying to reach. These are the relationships you want to build into prospects and clients. There is a wealth of demographic information about social media use that you can tap into online.
- What can you offer? The internet is a crowded place, filled with content vying for attention. Think about what you are going to give your target audience that they cannot get from other social media avenues. Think about one to two things that are going to differentiate your firm from the crowd.
- Who will you connect with? Explore your clients’ social media channels and the places they are most active. Make a list of five clients or potential clients on social media and take some time noting how they use it. You may also like to do this with your referrers and competitors. This will help you asses where your time is best spent and give you accounts to follow when you set up your own channels.
The Second Stage - Planning
- Be realistic about the time and resources you have. Look carefully at the budget and time you have to spend on social media. There is a myth that social media is free. It is not. It will cost you in time and you need to clear at the outset about how much you are willing to invest.
- Decide on the social media you want to explore. Being mindful of your resources and your research into where your target audience spends time, choose one to three social media channels that you want to pursue. Don’t be tempted to try everything at once. You will receive much better return on your time if you focus your attention.
- Ensure you have policies and training in place. If you don’t have a social media use policy, you need to create one. That policy should contain the general expectations of the firm in regards to personal social media use by team members. It should also set out clear guidelines as to what is acceptable in the context of the firm’s social media channels. Your policy should include items like: guidance as content of posts, any approval processes, grievance processes should negative commentary arise, those with authority to post to social media on behalf of the firm, plans of attack in the face of malicious conduct, disclaimers to be used and confidentiality concerns. A prudent approach would be to perform a risk analysis and work back from there.
- Create a schedule for content push. You might like to follow a general template each week, for instance: On Monday, promote a firm event or news article. Tuesday, share a link written by someone else that would be of interest to your clients. Wednesday, post a picture or quote that would interest your audience, Thursday, share something personal that happens in the office. Friday, share a blog post. It may sound formulaic and inauthentic, but it will give you a structure an ideas for content. It will also ensure that you are conversing, rather than just shouting about your firms’ achievements. In addition to a weekly template, an editorial calendar is a helpful tool in planning your social media posts. A simple monthly calendar, where you can note down what you would like to share and when will ensure organisation and assist in the use of automated tools. This schedule needs to be flexible. If a breaking news story occurs that is relevant to your firm, you want to be part of that conversation, not married to a calendar.
- Plan time for engagement. Social media involves a two-way conversation. You cannot expect people to engage with you if you do not engage with them. You will need to set aside time to reply to comments, to comment on other accounts and to follow those that you are interested in connecting with.
- Plan quality control. Each piece of content that you share needs to resonate with your audience. Based on the work you did during your planning phase, create a checklist. Does this post reflect our values? Will this post add value to our target audience? How does this post help achieve our goals? Are we differentiating ourselves?
Now that you have spent some time building a sustainable strategy and plan, go ahead and set up or review your social media channels. If things are not working, don’t be afraid to tweak them. Keep in mind your end-game goals and focus on creating and maintaining relationships. Quality content will attract your intended audience. Engagement is what will build those relationships into profitable partnerships.
About our Guest Blogger
Robyna May helps professional services firms extend their reach, maximise their impact and showcase their expertise or product through the power of social media, blogging and other web content.
She has over 14 years experience in law and IT, with degrees in both. Her career has spanned working an in-house software developer, project manager, team director and consultant (focusing on social media).
Her knowledge of the legal market, combined with her IT, design and writing skills give her a unique perspective on digital media.