Increasing Your Online Presence Social Media I.Q. (Information Quality)
According to Statista, there are over 244 million social media users in the US. Now consider that those millions of users are potential clients or referral sources. Many law firms today know that and they understand the importance of using social media to communicate their image and message to clients, prospects and colleagues. So how do we best take advantage of that vast resource? This article will review the types of social media best suited for law firms and discuss the importance of developing a consistent and integrated message.
Your online presence is not limited to social media as it includes your website, blogs, and referral sites. There are dozens of social media platforms out there. Law firms must choose which ones best suit their needs and then utilize all of these forms of online media, including social media, to present a powerful and consistent image of the firm.
The center of online media is your company website. Your website has the greatest impact on presenting your firm’s image, capabilities, expertise and experience in a consistent manner. It gives you total control over the information you provide and can be relatively static. Your firm website can be segmented into different parts featuring your areas of expertise, experience, professional affiliations, and personal background. A website is also a great platform to link to your firm’s other online and social media presence.
Effective Strategies for Using Online Platforms
One good strategy for marketing is known as a “push-pull” strategy and it works like this: a website relies on people visiting your site and requires a “pull” strategy to get people to visit. Social media sites, however, have components where information or communications are “pushed” out to your clients and followers.
To determine what strategies to use, think about your goals. Employ different strategies and different forms of social media depending on whether you want to generate new prospects, serve your current clients better or want to network with other professionals. If your focus is to effectively communicate to your stakeholders, you will then use social media to generate new prospects directly from the potential pool of clients; however, if you are focused more on communicating with colleagues, LinkedIn is the platform to target the professional user. If you are looking to do all three things via education and if you communicate through a weekly blog, podcast or newsletter, then there are platforms specifically tailored to link them between your website and social media sites. Remember to hyperlink your platforms while taking care to avoid linking to personal social media sites.
Keep in mind that there are varieties of social media platforms that communicate in different methods. Most of us are familiar with the biggest sites such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube but they are often misused. For many of us, our knowledge of these sites stems from using these platforms for personal use and so it is important to keep professional and personal sites separate. For example, if you have a personal Facebook page for friends and family and one for your firm, think carefully about whether they should be entirely separate. If you want to keep them separate, remember not to use your personal site to “like” your professional site.
The nature of the social media you use should also be tailored to the type of clients you want to serve.
Compare the different types of social/online media you currently use and how you use it. How often do you visit your sites? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? More importantly, how often does your target audience use the various sites? Next ask yourself, how do you use your social and online media platforms? Eliminate platforms that you do not support or find a way to devote more resources to them. All of these platforms require clients and prospects to follow you or visit your sites. This means your presence on the platform is a type of marketing and there has to be a compelling reason for them your followers to visit and revisit.
Different Types of Online Platforms and Social Media
There are various types of online platforms. Depending on the type of services you provide and the type of client, not all platforms will be suitable for your business. Determine which online platforms you want to support and understand how you will be using them.
For law firms, networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are useful for prospecting, supporting clients and networking with other professionals. SMS, text messaging or messenger are useful for communicating quickly with clients. Collaboration sites are useful for sharing and working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They can also be used to share documents with a client or to share a document for a conference call.
Webinars are another popular way to generate leads. You can focus your webinar on a particular topic that not only educates people (potential clients or fellow colleagues) but also starts to set you apart as particularly knowledgeable about that field. For example, a webinar could be offered for prospective clients that want to know how new federal tax laws may impact trusts. Podcasts are another format where prospective or current clients can view a stored video presentation or listen to a recorded presentation about current or trending topics. The podcast can be stored on your YouTube channel to avoid using up a lot of storage on your website and allow for better streaming service.
Blogging is another format in getting your views or your expertise presented and the blogs can be configured to get feedback and comments. Twitter is a form of “microblogging” where the messages are limited in the number of characters per message.
Regardless of the number of platforms you use, they need to be kept current and fresh. For example, blogs often display the date they were updated. When you visit a blog and find that it has not been updated for several weeks or several months, that date sends a message about the site and contents, especially if there have been major recent developments. Your clients and prospects may follow your sites and if you fail to update them, including your website, they will stop visiting. To make the maintenance of your social media sites more manageable, consider using an app like Hootsuite that allows you to schedule your posts for social media in advance and also gives you a dashboard to see what’s going on with all of your social media accounts all in one place, or hiring a social media intern to run your sites, keep them current with content that your creat, and alert you if someone has given feedback that requires a response or action.
You should also review your sites at least on a quarterly basis to see if they are in sync with your firm’s objectives. If you want to focus on a set of prospects and your sites are getting responses from a different set, review the messaging. Perform a periodic review of your sites and get feedback on appearance, consistency, relevancy and value. Ask some close colleagues to give you honest feedback.
Social media is ever changing. The most popular social media platforms now allow you to post videos and photos. Bandwidth has increased and storage has become cheaper. In the next few years, 5G (5th Generation) wireless technology will become the standard. Besides giving us more speed (100 times faster), it will enable newer technology to hit the mainstream such as self-driving cars, virtual reality, and more extensive use of video.
In the past, using online and social media may have had little impact on a law firm’s practice. Today, it is vital that you use them to augment your firm’s abilities to attract new clients, support your existing ones and to validate your firm’s vision and direction. Remember to align, refresh and review your online platforms.