The Challenges and Benefits of Social Media Marketing for Attorneys and Law Firms

by Debra Andrews | March 13, 2013

Once considered a tool primarily for B2C firms, social media has become the most popular tool in the marketing of B2B professional services as well. Still, many law firms in particular have remained cautious and slow to embrace social media. Perhaps the commitment to the billable hour, fear of compromising client confidentiality, and uncertainty about social media’s value has made attorneys particularly wary of committing to social media.

While these concerns are reasonable, some law firms are overlooking an opportunity by avoiding social media completely rather than overcoming its challenges. Law firms that manage to solve these concerns often find that social media provides a potent competitive advantage and the opportunity to connect with clients/prospects in new ways. Let’s explore how attorneys can overcome common concerns about social media in order to reap the rewards social media can offer.

Doubts about ROI

Social media expert Erik Qualman has said “the ROI of social media is that your company will still exist in 5 years.” While this may be an overstatement in most cases, the fact is that social media is the chosen communication medium of the new generation and is becoming increasingly popular among older generations as well. Therefore, a prime benefit of excelling at social media is simply that it prevents you from falling behind your competitors and/or alienating your firm from potential clients and prospects.

If putting a more tangible value on social media’s value is of importance to your firm, there are several ways to measure your success on social media. These include:

  • Web traffic referred by social media sites
  • Measuring exposure gained through social media (reach, # of followers, etc…)
  • Tracking audience engagement on social media (comments, retweets, likes, etc…)
  • Tracking leads from social media

If this sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo to you, don’t worry!

Fear of Compromising Client Confidentiality

A social media concern unique to attorneys is the possibility of violating a client’s legal privacy or appearing to have given legal advice while engaging on social media. Naturally, it’s never appropriate to discuss a particular case or legal question through social media, but this doesn’t mean you can’t effectively connect with people. You can use social media to share information of importance to your clients and prospects, such as new laws/policies, industry news, or updates about your firm. Clients and others will appreciate the proactive approach your firm takes, and they will view you as a go-to source of information. 

For closer business associates with whom you’ve established an offline relationship, social media can be used to strengthen and extend that relationship. Follow your most important business clients online and use social media to congratulate them on company growth, major (public) business deals, professional accomplishments, etc. These practices keep your clients’ privacy intact while letting them know you have a vested interest in their legal needs and professional welfare. 

Establishing a policy to govern the social media activity of the firm and its individual attorneys is also important.

Commitment to the Billable Hour

The first step to overcoming this hindrance is realizing that social media has real ROI and that returns will come slowly and steadily over time. Like a sound financial investment, you should expect that your time investment in social media might not bear results immediately, but the rewards will become richer with patience and steady management. Thinking about social media this way makes it less daunting to consider working on social media alongside billable work.

It’s also important to be efficient in your use of social media. This can be accomplished by choosing only the social platforms that make sense for your firm (you don’t need to be on every single social network) and by planning what types of content to share in advance.

There are many business benefits to establishing a strong social media presence. Some of the most relevant to law firms are: 

  1. Increase brand awareness. People are spending more time searching for information on social media rather than by traditional media these days. Creating a consistent social media presence puts your message in front of your audience, thereby increasing awareness of your firm.
  2. Establish thought leadership. Using social media to share valuable information helps an attorney or a firm showcase expertise, which can lead to new business and career opportunities. Simply put, if you are generating great content, you should also be using social media to share it.
  3. Place content in front of the right audience. If your firm is creating blog posts, press releases, videos, or any other type of online content, you need an effective way to broadcast that information to the audience you want to reach. Social media can be an effective way to share content with a large and targeted audience.
  4. Make “soft touches.” As noted above, social media allows you to build relationships with your clients by making continuous, small efforts that demonstrate your value and commitment to them.
  5. Improve SEO. Social media helps improve a firm’s ranking in the search engines, which can lead to more traffic and leads on its website. (Read our tip sheet to learn more about how a B2B SEO agency approaches search engine optimization.
  6. Gain competitive intelligence. Social media can be a valuable tool for gathering information. Use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to see what your competitors, clients, and prospects are doing and saying, and tap Twitter as a resource for finding valuable insights and ideas about topics of interest to your business.

Consider Marketing Help

Though it may seem daunting, social media is an essential tool for law firms looking to grow in the modern business era, and the concerns most attorneys have can easily be avoided with proper planning. If you want to learn more about how strategic marketing consulting firms build marketing plans, then get our free resource!

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