Yesterday, I happened to come upon an article in Forbes by Christine Comaford titled “Become a Social Media Rock Star in Four Easy Steps.” Intrigued by the title, which was worded perfectly to catch the eyes of people like me, I read it. Essentially, the article discusses a four-step process, as described by social media guru Vala Afshar, to get the most out of prospective social media.
The steps, which can apply to all types of social media – from Twitter user to full-time blogger, are designed to help anyone make their social media presence into a powerhouse tool of influence and client recruitment. However, after reading them, I wondered whether the tools could really help law firms, particularly those firms who tend to be averse to social media engagement. After some deliberation, here are 4 steps to becoming a social media rock star… for law firms!
According to Comaford’s article, “it is valuable, timely content that drives social success. Become a source of insightful content, well-focused on your target audience, and over time you will build an engaged network that will help you grow both personally and professionally.”
1) Curate from the best.
This step is the beginning. Once you’ve decided what type of content your social media will focus on – preferably something interesting to whomever will be tasked with writing the posts – you need to, as the article puts it, “[p]ut your antenna up and collect, forward, and amplify topical information on your field of interest.”
For your law firm’s social media engagement, you have to come up with a plan. Figure out who you want to reach, and then figure out how to reach them. When you have determined what types of topics your social media will address, that’s when this step really begins. It’s about the research. As lawyers, we tend to be pretty good about research, although sometimes we may be too thorough. Use this strength. Sign up for a blog feed through Feedly or a similar service and add sources to the list that routinely write about your topics. Look for the best sources, the most trustworthy journals, the most informative blogs, and begin a collection of well-researched ideas from which your social media posts will be able to draw regularly.
You don’t need to become an expert overnight, and your voice doesn’t always have to be leading the discussion. Insightful commentary, well-placed opinion pieces, and informative articles that you forward through your social media will help establish your firm as a source of expertise.
2) “If content is king, context is god.”
This quote, attributed to wine marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk, describes the second step perfectly. While you research may bring you great content, without delivering it to the right people at the right time, it’s useless. As stated in the Comaford article: “Context is the right content at the right time on the right channel – natural, useful, timely, and noteworthy.”
So what does that mean to law firm social media content? Basically, if you’re going to be using your social media to provide people with information about the law, it better be useful and it better be timely. Make sure that the content you publish is researched thoroughly, but also make sure that it represents the current state of the law as of the date it’s posted. If the law changes, make sure to post an update, but also consider editing the original article with a disclaimer. Did a new law get passed that has immediate impact in your particular area of practice? Then all the planned social media you had set up for that day get bumped in favor of the new and important info. The right information, at the right time, to the right people; that should be your goal.
3) Create and synthesize content.
After a little while, you will begin to develop your own voice in social media. Hopefully, your selection of only the most credible sources, combined with providing the right information at the right time and to the right people has established your firm’s social media as a credible source of info. Now it’s time to step away from just curating the information, and begin to provide your own.
For law firms, this is the stage that is probably going to be the most difficult, but also likely has the greatest potential for rewards. The defining characteristic of this stage, to me, is when your social media posts start being the subject of social media users who are still in stage 1. By providing your own expertise on important issues, by providing space for guest writers and recognizing the contributions of others in your field, your social media posts go from simply containing a bunch of sites to being the subject of citations by others.
Allow your social media posts, be they Facebook posts, blog articles, or whatever, to have their own voice. Write opinion pieces about your firm’s areas of expertise. Publish a “Top 10″ list of your favorite sources of information or the best area restaurants. Write about your favorite courthouses, or invite recognized national experts to write an article to be included on your firm’s website. This is where you set your firm apart.
4) Use social media tools and technology.
Tools only work if you use them. I recently read an article with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” of social media, and it contained a great lesson about this stage. (I wish I could remember the name of the article!) Warren Buffet joined Twitter in Spring of this year, and has tweeted three times total. Now, prior to joining Twitter, it was easy to explain why he didn’t have any recorded tweets. Now that he HAS an active account, it’s much more difficult to justify why he isn’t more engaged.
Here’s where you’ll find out whether your law firm’s social media plan is either about effectively engaging people or merely an excuse, a panacea for the members of the firm who were clamoring for newer technology. To be truly effective, you don’t have to engage in EVERY available form of social media, but where you choose to engage, you must ENGAGE.
It takes a Twitter user less than 10 seconds to make the decision to follow you, so learn how to use it right! Find the best tools to use for your social media engagement, particularly mobile apps. There are plenty of available resources (for an excellent chart, check out this list of 10 Ways to Know if You’re a Social Leader), so look around!
If you have a good plan, put it in place with the right talent and the right resources, it’ll work. Use these four steps to turn your law firm’s social media engagement from being an afterthought on your website, consisting of a link to a neglected Facebook page, into a demonstration of your firm’s skill and expertise, that expands your firm’s intellectual influence, and gets you clients!