To a lot of attorneys, the idea of spending any significant time on social media is ridiculous. For them, the idea that someone would have “Social Media Manager” as a title is likely even more ridiculous. Thing is, those attorneys are dropping fast, and they’ll soon be left in the dust.
Social media is no longer optional for marketing your law firm. Only the extent of your engagement is really in question. For some firms, very limited engagement is appropriate. For others, an entire team needs to be hired just to tend to the social networks.
Regardless, you need someone in your firm whose job it is to oversee your social media. Whether it’s part-time, full-time, or a full division of your company, you need a social media manager. And it can’t be just anybody.
Here are 9 Essential Skills for a Law Firm Social Media Manager:
1) Compliance with Ethical Rules
“Ethics first, ethics last, ethics always,” says attorney and marketing consultant Stacey Burke Why? Because if your social media manager isn’t able to comply with ethical rules, you may as well just give up your law license.
It’s not enough to know the rules, your social media manager has to be able to comply with them while maintaining your firm’s social media. There are a lot of potential ethical pitfalls. While I may hold the belief that social media does not constitute a marketing platform, per se, the ethical rules still apply. Your social media manager will need to put in appropriate disclaimers and be careful not to violate ethical rules concerning prior results.
Most importantly, your social media manager will need to be able to to their job effectively without accidentally creating an attorney-client relationship.
2) Strategic Planning
Your social media manager needs to be able to see the proverbial “big picture.” That means your social media manager needs to understand your firm’s overall marketing strategy, and know exactly where social media fits in. He or she needs to contribute to the overall marketing plan discussion, and set goals for social media to help achieve the broader firm goals.
Within social channels, your social media manager needs to be able to understand and define the overall target audience (e.g. creating “marketing personas“). Then, your social media manager needs to understand the audience. What social networks are best for reaching your audience, and what tools can help you automate your social media to reach the largest audience with the lowest cost?
Lastly, your social media manager needs to be able to identify the key influencers and thought leaders important to your firm. The ability to successfully engage with the right influencers can be the difference between your posts being seen by 10 people or 10,000.
3) Understanding of How Social “Works”
This one might seem like a bit of a no-brainer. It would be pretty stupid to put someone in charge of your social media who didn’t know how to work social media. Operating on the individual platforms, though, is only a part of this skill.
Understanding Social Media Generally
Your social media manager needs to understand how and why social media delivers and amplifies some content over others. They need to know what type of content moves, but also what type of content is ill-suited for social media, or likely to receive a negative reception. Critically, your social media manager must be able to make content move across different social networks.
Understanding the Different Social Networks
Your social media manager also needs to understand the different social networks, particularly what makes them different. They need to know what types of content work best on what networks. Knowing the ideal length of individual posts, as well as the ideal frequency of posting activity, is critical. Long Facebook posts are unlikely to be shared, and posting 25 times a day to LinkedIn will look like spam.
Just like with ethics, knowing what the differences are only gets you half way. Your social media manager needs to know how to create content, like images and videos, that are optimized to work best on certain networks. Once the posts are optimized for individual networks, it’s critical to know the tricks (like posting just before or after the hour) to get your content to your followers.
4) Writing Skills
This is essential, because the core of a social media manager’s job is writing posts. Images may be important to viral content, but only a portion of your posts can be pictures. The real key to engaging social media is a post with the right words, in the right order, with the right hashtags.
The Right Words
Your social media manager needs to understand and apply the art and science of effective social media writing. Certain words are more likely to trigger certain emotions. More importantly, certain words are more likely to be shared. Thing is, it’s different depending on which site you’re on. That’s a critical weapon in the effective social media manager’s arsenal.
In the Right Order
Writing isn’t static. Different types of writing are better suited for different mediums. Effective writing for social media needs a different structure – it needs to be designed for easy skimming and scanning. Your social media manager needs to be able to communicate effectively. The same message needs to fit into 140 characters on Twitter and a LinkedIn blog post.
The Right Hashtags
A lot of people tend to think of hashtags as nothing more than a gimmick. They’re not. Especially if you know how to use them. Hashtags are the primary search tool for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, using hashtags isn’t just about picking some glib phrase behind a number sign.
Your social media manager needs to be able to research the right hashtags for your posts. The right hashtag can affiliate you with an important conversation and add character to an otherwise generic statement. At the same time, they have to know how to avoid overuse. It can be easy to get carried away.
5) Attention to Detail
The devil is in the details. Executing a social media plan takes a social media manager with sufficient awareness to execute it properly. Every post that goes out is a potential PR nightmare if your social media manager didn’t pay attention to the wording or realize that current events rendered a previously-planned post offensive.
Your social media is your voice. Always remember that this is a conversation. Being attentive to the little things extends to your online “voice.” Your social media manager needs to always sweat the small stuff, making sure your voice is always professional and consistent.
6) Analytical Skills
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about social media marketing is that lawyers tend to feel they don’t get a return on their investment. Part of that problem is misunderstanding how to effectively use social media. But part of it is a failure to collect and analyze the right data.
Your social media manager needs to understand how to collect and analyze data to see what’s working and what isn’t. They need to know how to measure results, both in real-time and over the long term. Key to this is knowing the right tools to help with analysis.
Beyond simply collecting data, of which there is as much as you could ever want, your social media manager needs to be able to drill down and summarize the analytics. They need to know why shares are better than likes, how many website conversions is considered successful, and which influencers to benchmark against.
It’s possible to do all that analysis and more today, your social media manager needs to know how.
7) Community Management
Know how I’ve kept on talking about how social media is a conversation? Well this is the part where your social media manager makes their money.
Your social media manager’s job is to monitor your social channels. Their job is to, first and foremost, keep an eye out for anything involving your firm, and acting on it immediately. Good news is shared, with a thank you note to the original post. Bad news needs to be handled fast, including necessary responses to critical posters. Your social media manager is your online reputation management.
You’re doing it wrong.
Along with monitoring channels, your social media manager is constantly curating and sharing information that would be important to your followers. (This, btw, is where identifying key influencers really pays off!) Social media is a great place to monitor for important news or shifts in public opinion, so your social media manager needs to be equipped to do so.
Remember, this is a conversation. Too much self-promotion is a turn off. Your social media manager needs to know the appropriate ratio of promotional posts to shared or non-promotional posts.
8) Communication Skills
Your social media manager is about as close to a PR representative that your law firm will probably have. They’re your gateway to the world. They’re your voice, but they’re also your filter.
Your social media manager needs to be able to “[keep] management informed, the team motivated and customers excited and engaged.” Doing that requires a communicator. Someone who can effectively present information in writing or verbally.
9) Open-Mindedness and Creativity
Among the most important skills your social media manager can have is the ability to adapt to a changing landscape. It’s a skill we lawyers are not known for demonstrating often. However, the social media landscape is constantly changing.
Your social media manager needs to constantly re-think and re-evaluate the strategy, systems and tools they use to do their job. The technology changes so quickly, new tools are released all the time, and even the platforms themselves undergo massive changes. Adapt and survive.
Additionally, your social media manager has to keep up-to-date on recent trends in the established social networks. They need to know about Facebook’s changes to organic reach, how to compose Tweets to take advantage of Twitter’s new search engine, and whether tracking “gray” social media is worthwhile for your firm.
In the end…
The job of social media manager isn’t easy. But whether they’re part-time, full-time, or an entire division in your company, they’re becoming essential. Make sure they have these essential skills.