Ask the Experts
Does Social Media Really Work as a Marketing Tool?
Question: I read so much about lawyers engaging in social media, but I see little evidence of its effectiveness. How is social media being used by lawyers in a way that is beneficial?
Stacy A. Smith: Social media has transformed the way lawyers communicate, giving them the ability to publish, broadcast and circulate information quickly, easily and inexpensively. With nearly 1 billion people actively participating in social media worldwide, your competitors are already out there and your clients and prospects are their audience.
Social media has the potential to be an abundant source of business development for lawyers. That being said, social media is not for every lawyer. When it’s done poorly, it can do more harm than good. When it’s done well, using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like can help build relationships and trust, develop a following and ultimately generate business.
To use social media effectively, it should be part of your overall marketing plan and include detailed goals and strategy. What is your objective? What is your niche? Who is your target audience? What are their primary issues? What content can you produce to engage them? And what are the best social media networks to use? You want to generate content that will present you as an authority in your field without hard-selling or boasting that will turn people off.
Think of it as social networking. You want to engage with like-minded people and build relationships. So, if you are going to use social media as a marketing tool, don’t forget to actually be social — genuine, friendly, interesting, likeable.
Build first, sell second.
Stacy A. Smith is the firm administrator and director of marketing and client relations at Carter Conboy, a full-service law firm with offices in Albany and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She serves on the editorial committee of Strategies magazine.
Christina Solomon: Attorneys are typically behind the times in terms of fully utilizing the various marketing channels available to them. This includes social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even blogs. Attorneys are starved for time, and social media efforts are typically the first thing cut from the business development to-do list. This is not only because social media may be overwhelming, but because some attorneys are skeptical and question its effectiveness in building business.
But, if done properly, using social media can drive new business, especially now that consumers are looking to gather information quickly and as easily as possible. A sophisticated and professional presence on social media can benefit you in a number of ways. First, it helps builds your brand. Second, it allows you to gain credibility and build up your intellectual capital, especially in specific niche practice areas. Third, it allows you to remain relevant and top of mind — if you routinely push out information.
Before launching into social media, identify your target market and choose the correct channels for your audience. Once chosen, learn how to effectively use them and use them regularly. Tweeting or posting to a blog only once a month is not going to gain followers or new business. You will need to dedicate the necessary time to manage and schedule your posts and tweets, or schedule time do it “live” a few times a week.
Remember that even though social media allows you to brand yourself, position yourself as an expert, and deliver messages quickly and in a meaningful way, nothing replaces the face-to-face communication that grows relationships and closes deals.
Ian Turvill: Social media can get a bad rap because the platforms are often more readily associated with celebrity gossip than serious business. But, as with any channel of communication, they have the potential to be used — or abused — to great effect.
First, since tweets and posts are an important element of how Google finds the “right” search results, they are an increasingly important way in which you can be found online by potential clients. If you publish valuable guidance on new regulations, say, make sure you are distributing complementary information via social media to maximize your impact.
Second, like any marketing approach, the effectiveness of social media will depend greatly on the target client. While Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are growing as sources of information for in-house counsel, they are more likely to appeal to consumer-oriented clients, such as those needing family law services or potential members of a plaintiff class.
Finally, think of this: If managed as part of a firm’s broader communications strategy, the use of social media has effectively zero marginal cost. Any benefit accruing to social media represents a return that is likely many times the investment. In a resource-constrained world, high ROI should never be ignored.
Ian Turvill is chief marketing officer at Freeborn & Peters LLP in Chicago and a co-chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s Think Tank. Follow him on Twitter @IanTurvill.
The Legal Marketing Association provides professional support and education as well as opportunities for intellectual and practical information exchange.