The legal profession has its own special language, but that doesn’t prevent today’s lawyer from knowing what a “tweet” is.
A recent national study shows that 77 percent of U.S. law firms have at least one social media presence, though many of those firms don’t actively use these new forms of communication.
The most popular social media network among law firms is LinkedIn, though many have failed to use it to the fullest. For example, firms generally don’t utilize LinkedIn for spreading their firm’s news or for recruiting purposes. But LinkedIn is an excellent way to obtain and exchange law firm referrals and display your expertise.
Twitter was the second most-used network among law firms. But here, too, only about one-third of the law firms surveyed in the study have a profile. Just like LinkedIn, few law firms exploit the power of Twitter in any significant way.
It’s not hard to determine why law firms are slow on the social media uptake: Many firms’ senior attorneys spent a good part of their professional lives in front of typewriters. That’s why it’s important to enlist the involvement of young minds fresh out of law school to provide practical lessons on the do’s and don’ts of social media.
The distribution of information is the primary purpose of social networks, so it can certainly benefit law firms to educate their targeted audience utilizing these relatively new tools.
A source of news First, it’s important to establish policies for your firm’s use of social media, and that will depend on its culture. Guidelines should be drafted on what information lawyers may share online. The priority here is professionalism and ethics. Always consider how communication reflects on the individual and the law firm.
Next, make sure you know what the bar’s policies are as they relate to blogging, tweeting, and posting content on Facebook. A law firm’s tweets won’t be able to have the same kind of anything goes character as those from a high school student, for example, or a popular celebrity.
Social media tools themselves are simple to use but very powerful, so that a law firm can get a lot out of relatively few words. Adding social media to your law firm’s activities can be as simple as tweeting about breaking news on topics that you know something about. Remember, content is king, though it’s best to stick to your practice area. By doing so, you can quickly become a reliable source among your followers. It shows them that you have views that extend far outside your office.
Many law firms have set-up blogs. Here, attorneys express their thoughts about new laws, as well as national and local news. The most effective bloggers post new content at least once a week. The post should be relatively short, about 200 to 300 words. It should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes to write a blog post.
A professional Facebook page may be worth considering, as long as posts are made a couple of times a week. Again, content is everything in social media, and the freshness of that content is critical. With a well thought-out business profile on Facebook, the firm can generate new clients.
When posting to any social medium, refrain from controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects, including politics, sex, religion or any other topic unrelated to business. You’ll find that there’s still plenty of things to post about.
For lawyers with personal social media accounts, posting doesn’t need to be about legal matters all the time. You can certainly balance your content with news about your hobbies, favorite sports teams, family, or vacation plans. You’re a person with a life outside your career. It’s often a great way to connect with a potential client.
After all, social media has changed the way the world communicates, and we’re all in this tweeting world together. With the right guidelines in place, law firms can confidently embrace this new reality and make it work for their long-term benefit.