Stephen Fairley 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Social media is everywhere these days! You can barely turn on the TV without seeing shows encouraging you to “Become our fan on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter.” Attorneys are asking, “What does that mean and can I use social media to effectively market my law firm?” We have all heard the staggering statistics about the tidal wave called social media: • Facebook now has over 750 Million registered users! • LinkedIn now adds another 1 Million users every 12 days! • Over 75 Million people have set up a Twitter account! • YouTube has surpassed over 100 million unique visitors per month! As a law firm, should you “jump on the bandwagon” and get in before your competitors do or should you “wait and see” if social media really takes hold? There are risks both ways: If you wait too long think about how many leads you will miss out on because your competitor was the “only one” who had a strong presence on Facebook. If you wade into the fray will you do wrong? Will you or your staff commit an ethical violation by directly soliciting a potential client? There are lots of questions and logistical issues to address when considering how to get started. Who will handle your social media? How much time should you, as the attorney, invest in social media? Which social media platforms are most effective for your type of practice area? How do you track leads from social media? How do you measure a return on investment? What expectations should you set? While answering all those questions is beyond the scope of this article, I believe the time has come where we can confidently say that for most law firms having a presence on social media makes a lot of sense. Our clients are finding that as the size of their presence on various social media platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, grows they are obtaining more leads and qualified referrals from other professionals. Last month a personal injury attorney obtained what looks to be a multi-million dollar wrongful death case from Facebook! Just this week, a criminal defense attorney received a request for a television interview with a local CBS station from their Twitter account. Recently, a family attorney was contacted on LinkedIn by another attorney who was looking to refer her several clients. One of the reasons why I recommend social media as a legal marketing strategy is because there is currently so little competition. Virtually every law firm has a website, but relatively few have any real presence on social media. It’s easy for smart law firms to stand out in the crowd on social media. Whether you are just getting started, would like to test out the waters, or are already using social media to market your law firm here are several specific steps you can take to promote your firm’s presence: First, start with LinkedIn. I have yet to find an attorney who could not benefit from having their profile on LinkedIn. It’s the number one online network for white collar professionals. Whether you want to connect with non-competing attorneys, non-legal professionals, or potential clients the demographics on LinkedIn speak for themselves: • The average age range of a LinkedIn user is 35 to 55 • 38% of LinkedIn users report an annual income of more than $100,000 • 47% of members have a college degree • 28% have a graduate degree LinkedIn members are highly educated and affluent. Is this a demographic you would like to reach? For most attorneys, the answer is obvious. The first step to using LinkedIn is to create a comprehensive profile. Use your entire bio into your profile and be sure to key word load it. In other words, use the exact key words that you believe prospects or potential referral sources would use to find an attorney with your skill sets. For example, if you are a business attorney in Phoenix it might sound like this: “John Doe is a Phoenix business attorney who works with small business owners and CEOs of mid-sized companies to create comprehensive operating agreements, buy-sell agreements, and employment agreements. His Phoenix business clients appreciate the fact that John is an attorney who has a strong business background having owned and operated two different companies, including a hi-tech company with 25 employees.” If you use Microsoft® Outlook to handle your email and contacts, be sure to download the free LinkedIn toolbar that integrates with Outlook and makes it super simple to connect with people you already know who are also on LinkedIn. The key to utilizing LinkedIn effectively is to be involved and be consistent. You need to commit to investing at least 30-45 minutes every week to log in, post an update or a link to your blog, reach out to your contacts, answer any questions that are sent to you, and make yourself visible. Simply setting up a profile on LinkedIn will not lead to more referrals any more than a having a business card will automatically get you new business. Second, set up a Facebook® fan page. Facebook has become the 800 pound gorilla in the social media space. Setting up a fan page is relatively easy to do, costs nothing (except your time), and is specifically designed by Facebook to market your business! If you don’t think Facebook is relevant then pay attention to this: since August 2010 Facebook has had more unique visitors every month than Google, Gmail, Google Video and YouTube combined! Yes, you read that correctly. Facebook is now the number one most visited website in the country and the average Facebook user spends over 5 hours every month on the site. Fan pages are an effective way to connect with referral sources and potential clients who are already on Facebook. Be sure to use an opt-in on your fan page to capture the contact information of your fans so you can follow up with them (here’s an example: www.Facebook.com/lawfirmmarketing). The key to Facebook is to engage your audience. Post interesting articles, link back to your blog, and use short videos to educate prospects about how you are different from your competitors and answer the top ten most frequently asked questions clients have. Next, be sure to fully leverage your presence on social media. Here are seven of my favorite tips to leverage your social media accounts: 1. Include social media links in your email signature. At the bottom of every email I send are links to my LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, Facebook profile, and one of our Facebook fan pages. 2. Get your staff involved. Have your staff include your law firm’s social media links in their email signatures. Ask them to put a link to your fan page on their personal profile page. 3. Put your social media sites on the back of your business cards. 4. Cross promote your various accounts. Send an invitation to your LinkedIn connections to “like” your Facebook fan page. Be sure to mention to your Facebook fans and Twitter followers to connect with you on LinkedIn. 5. Write a blog post about your fan page, Twitter account or new LinkedIn profile. 6. Include your social media links at the end of every PowerPoint presentation you make. 7. Be sure to “take your contacts off” of social media. If you do it correctly, social media can be a very cost effective way to build a huge herd of followers. Periodically send out invitations for them to sign up for your monthly e-newsletter (you are sending out a monthly newsletter right?) or attend an upcoming webinar or presentation you are giving. Don’t just rely on social media to build your law firm. Be sure to build your in house email and mailing list of prospects, potential referral sources, and clients. As with any marketing strategy you need to determine the amount of time, effort and money it will involve and what kind of return on investment will make it a worthwhile endeavor for your law firm. Over the last few years, social media has moved from the fringe to the forefront and from the forefront to the storefront. Isn’t it time you started wading into the waters? Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in small law firms. Over 7,000 attorneys have benefited from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Stephen is a best-selling author of 10 books and a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert. He has appeared in the American Bar Association’s Journal, Harvard Management Update, Inc and Entrepreneur. To receive your FREE copy of his book “Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make” visit: www.RainmakerRetreat.com or call 480-553-8398.
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