For many lawyers, the thought of combining social media with legal practice is enough to bring on cold chills.
Traditionally lawyers have observed strict boundaries with clients, and for good reason: a certain formality is necessary to maintain professional conduct and ensure clients take advice seriously. Plus, using new communication channels can entail all sorts of concerns about client confidentiality.
Yet social media can be a friend as well as a foe. A pro-active approach to engaging with clients can really pay dividends – so long as you follow a few basic ground rules.*
Fear of the trolls
This cuts to the heart of the fear factor for lawyers – will social media open up a channel for every unreasonable client in your firm’s history to post terrible things about you?
To a certain extent, the answer is yes. Clients who would previously write angry letters to you can now write angry posts or tweets instead – but they may well be doing that whether you have a profile on a given platform or not. Social media shows up firms with poor customer service, but it can highlight good performance, too.
Communication is a two-way street
To be successful you need to do more than just churn out blog posts and LinkedIn articles. You can show yourself to be engaged and up-to-date by engaging with those who comment on your posts, or commenting on posts by your target audience. People will value knowing that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Over time, this approach will develop your reputation and increase new business, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Your social media strategy should commit to developing consistent and on-brand messaging that clients and associates come to trust over time. Engage with key influencers and partners to grow your audience.
Use thought leadership to increase authority
We’re all familiar with the most faithful of legal answers: ‘it depends’. Lawyers are often out of their comfort zone when asked to produce an abstract viewpoint, rather than writing on a given set of facts. It is all too easy to produce social media posts that either drown in detail, or lack a muscular argument.
By thinking through a seasonal campaign of content you can avoid falling into this trap. Perhaps you want to devote three months to exploring proposed insurance reforms, or changes to legal funding? A structured campaign with well-developed arguments setting out different viewpoints will be far more engaging than a haphazard series of posts on whichever topic the writer happens to choose. It’s all a matter of knowing the audience and planning content to attract and retain them.
By carefully choosing your social media platforms and developing a strategy for engagement and thought leadership, you can increase your firm’s visibility and authority.
*For good measure you may also want to revisit the Practice Note on Social Media.