Last week, I talked about why social media for lawyers is essential. In this post, I want to talk about the practical: what has worked for me in using social media to develop business.
How to Use Social Media
When you use social media, you are creating an image of who you are as a person and your brand. First and foremost, that image must be authentic and consistent with who you are as a person. Then, what you do on social media must be compatible with that image.
Put another way, your image must be compatible with the brand you want to communicate. It must be consistent with your business and strategic goals and plan. Your brand needs to be consistent with how you describe yourself in your strategic plan. (A plan, by the way, you should have). Remember, every time you post on social media, you are adding to or subtracting from your brand.
I have found that lawyers rarely like to think about branding. But think about branding as a tool by which you present yourself to clients or potential clients. Remember, if you think about a favorite brand, you know what the brand stands for right off bat.
An excellent way to analyze how best to present yourself is to ask yourself three questions:
o How can I highlight my unique talents and stand out among other practitioners?
o How do these distinctions lead to more jobs, clients, and referrals? And will they?
o What is the best way to develop my distinctive brand that will drive business?
See Personal Branding in One Hour by Katy Goshtasbi
Define and create your niche; once you do, then use social media and technology to promote that niche. Everything you do on social media and display publicly must–directly or indirectly–enhance your brand.
What social media you use and how you use it should, by the way, match your brand. For example, consider the age group from where your business might come. That will impact how you direct your social media efforts. Younger people are more apt to be on Instagram or Snapchat. They are more prone to text than talk on the phone. Your social media efforts should focus on those platforms. Your efforts should reflect the communication reality.
Engaging on Social Media
When you engage on social media, remember it’s not all about you. It’s more about your connections, knowledge, experience, and skills. Most of all, it’s about your ability and willingness to engage in a relationship. People use social media because they are looking for something or someone. Ask yourself what those you want to reach are most likely looking for and in what they might be interested.
One thing they are not looking for is lengthy scholarly articles: social media is not a law journal. They also don’t expect perfection. What they do expect is timely, informative, and relative content. Remember that what you say will not be current for long. What you say does remain on your social media platform, but the period when people will read what you say is short.
Comment on Others’ Content
A great way to stay visible on social media is to comment on what others are saying. Or comment on a case or result in which others are involved. And when you do, make sure you give credit to the person who prepared the initial post. You can do this by simply giving attribution. Include the author’s personal and their organization’s Twitter handle in what you post. They will see you have done so and will remember it. This engages them and creates an opportunity for them to get to know you. It’s a great way to network.
There are apps to help you do this. Buffer makes it easy to comment and post on various platforms. Hootsuite enables you to time your posts for the future.
The Digital Handshake
Remember, when you make a social media connection, you have networked. You have virtually reached across the internet and shook hands.
Practicing law is still a people business. Social media is a start, not an ending.
But also remember once you have done so, that’s not enough. You have to go further and grow the relationship. You want people to read what you write, but you really want them to connect and comment. That enables a connection to form. Practicing law is still a people business. Social media is a start, not an ending.
If one of your clients or potential clients says something on social media, comment on it. If you can, compliment it. It will go a long way. Here’s how that can work. Let’s assume you are trying to get business from an electric utility. An in-house counsel at that utility posts something on some pending legislation. You see it and comment on and compliment it. This could lead to an electronic connection. Which could lead to coffee or lunch. Which could lead to a client.
By referencing other content, you engage others, build your influence, and nurture relationships. By sharing what you read, you become a trusted intelligence agent on your niche subject. Being thought of as an intelligence agent is just a step from getting hired.
The effective use of social media is not only about offering relevant and useful content. It’s also about being likable and professional. 75% of decisions about buying something from someone are based on how well the buyer likes the seller. Be the kind of person potential clients like and want to spend time with.
A word to the wise: you are certainly free to spew your political beliefs on social media. But remember that when you do, some people you want to reach may disagree with you. Using social media to grow your business comes with a cost: you have to be professional.
Where to Start
The three most used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. All three allow you to connect with others and share content. All three have private messaging capabilities so that you can communicate with just your connections. This can work well when introducing yourself or once you get to know your connections better and want to communicate.
LinkedIn is considered the platform most used for business and professional purposes. Generally speaking, people are more willing to accept connections on LinkedIn. This means you can create a broad network relatively quickly. Of course, you need to appear professional, and give some reason or justification for people to connect with you. If you want to write articles or posts, LinkedIn is the best place to start. It has lots of tools to help create content, and if you are diligent, you can rapidly increase your sphere of influence.
By the way: should you accept a connection request from someone you don’t know? Should you ask to connect with someone you don’t know? It depends. It depends on how many common connections you share with the other person. What they do and how similar that is to what you do and what you offer. Where and how you met or know the person is a consideration. Use the message feature on LinkedIn to introduce yourself.
LinkedIn is a useful tool, but the most used platform is Facebook. There are over 2.01 billion monthly active users of Facebook and 1.32 billion daily active users. That’s a broad potential audience. Instagram and YouTube are also increasing in popularity much faster than anything else.
People are more likely to everyday look at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube more than LinkedIn. And because your Facebook connections will generally be with people that know you better, whatever you post is more likely to get read. You want to be on Facebook Instagram and YouTube, and you want to connect with clients and would be clients there.
Facebook is the place where people may get to know you the best.
Facebook is the place where people may get to know you the best. It’s the place to build a relationship that goes beyond purely business. Why is that important? Again, most people hire and buy based on how well they like you. To know if they like you, they have to get to know you. Facebook is a good place for that.
But you have to be careful since Facebook connections are usually reserved for those to whom you are close. So, you wouldn’t want to make a friend request of someone you just met as you might on LinkedIn. I usually don’t ask someone to connect on Facebook unless I know them reasonably well. A good test I use is to ask if I called a potential Facebook connection on the phone, would they take my call. Do they know who I am. If necessary, use other platforms to develop a relationship and then ask to connect on Facebook.
Finally, Twitter. I have found Twitter to be the best place to curate content. You are limited by how many words you can use, so it’s a good place to comment on what others may have said.
How do you find stuff to comment on social media? Several ways. Twitter has lists to which you can subscribe. Feedly is a useful newsfeed that provides material relevant to your subject matter expertise on which you can comment. Nuzzle is another good source. There are several others. But whichever one you use, be consistent. You can’t comment once every six months and expect to develop an audience or brand.
One other point: think about how you are introducing yourself. What do people see when they look at your bio. Think about how they appear and what they say. It’s your introduction to the reader.
Some hints: write in the first person. Be concise and say something about yourself, not just your accomplishments. Try to pique their interest.
Make sure your bio tells the reader something about you and why you’re a good person to work with.
Make sure your bio tells the reader something about you and why you’re a good person to work with. Remember, your bio may be read by someone who has already concluded you are substantively qualified. What they want to know is who you are as a person.
Embry’s Top 10
So, what have I discovered that works, at least for me? At the risk of being a little repetitive, here’s my top 10.
1. Pick timely and limited topics on which to comment. Let’s face it, the most compelling reason to be on social media is to get business. To get business from social, you need to target your content to a specific audience. Talking about the state of the world is not going to convince businesses to hire you. Figure out who you want to reach with your content.
2. Offer good content. Duh: it goes without saying good content always trumps everything else. That doesn’t mean perfect material, but it does mean working hard on your content. Also, don’t assume that your dear reader will pour over your post like it’s the most important thing ever written. (It’s not). Think about how you read and get to point quickly.
3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. The biggest mistake many lawyers make is to polish and polish until whatever you want to write about becomes stale and beaten to death by others.
4. Be relevant. Lots of lawyers will go on social media and will tell you the holding of a case and stop. Lawyers who effectively use social media will tell you the holding, what it means and its impact. Think about what questions and concerns clients in this area would have about an event or case and try to address those. And yes, this sometimes requires us to take a position, which we fear will come back to bite us. But how likely is that to really happen, particularly if you have limited your target audience? You can always minimize that risk by using qualifying words and phrases like the holding “may” result in this. Or “another possible impact is…”
5. Be consistent. The biggest downfall is not providing regular content. I try to push at least something out on some platform every day.
6. Post as an individual or via your firm? There are arguments on both sides. Before I left my previous firm, I posted it individually for three reasons. One, I didn’t want to go through an approval process that could risk my proposed content becoming stale. Second, I’m possessive about my content, and I liked having sole control. And third, I wanted to be sure my content was still around and in my control in the future.
7. Market your content. If you write a longer piece for LinkedIn, push it out on Twitter and perhaps even Facebook to get more readers and clicks. You will get more visibility if your blog posts are shared by others via social media. Give as many as possible that opportunity
8. Measure and assess your impact. Pay attention to what is gets read and clicked. And then write more posts like it. I’ve had several posts that I thought were real winners, which very few people looked at. Others that I was not particularly sure about turned out to be widely read. The only way to know that is to look at the metrics.
9. Titles and words matter. How and whether any of your posts get noticed depends in part on the title. Think about what words might get picked up on a search, and if you are really stuck, there are sites that can help you. Here’s a link to one.
Connecting with someone on social media is nice. Meeting them in person is better.
10. Connecting on social media is just the beginning. Connecting with someone on social media is nice. Meeting them in person is better. But it takes time and effort to build a relationship to a point where people trust you and are willing to meet and talk. I was able to connect with an in-house counsel I didn’t know on social media about 4 years ago. I slowly provided information I thought this person might be interested in. Gradually I began communicating via direct messaging and emails. Finally, just a few months ago, we actually met. It went well, but only because I had invested the time and energy to make it so.
A Final Thought
Above all, if you want to use social media for business, treat it as a business initiative. Be professional. Be likable. Engaging on social media can expand your horizon and enable to meet new and interesting people. So have some fun along the way.
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