It probably comes as no surprise to most of you that, for the majority of firms, the response is “I dunno.” Hell, 54% of attorneys apparently believe that using social media for marketing at all is just hype. If you’re here, you either think they’re (maybe) wrong, or you accidentally clicked on the wrong headline.
Either way, if your law firm uses social media to market your firm in any way, you really need a written social media strategy. A written strategy will ensure that your social media stays focused on accomplishing the firm’s goals, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Moreover, it provides a valuable blueprint that helps you make important decisions, and establishes workflows to make you more efficient.
Ok, you agree, you probably need a social media strategy. But who has the time? You do. Here’s How to Create a Social Media Strategy that Gets Results:
1) Determine Your General Goal
What are you trying to accomplish?
First and foremost, your social media strategy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a part of your overall marketing program. So look at your overall marketing goals and determine how social media fits in. To get the most out of social media, though, it’s best to narrow its focus to a particular goal.
The goal of your marketing campaign is to make a prospective client more likely to choose you over another attorney. Traditional advertising attempts to influence a client’s decision directly – stating a value proposition in a (usually) unambiguous sales pitch.
Social media marketing, at its best, does the same indirectly – interacting without a sales pitch, developing trust through building a relationship. Without ever directly marketing your services to the prospective client, you nevertheless increased the chances he’d hire you.
In my experience, social media marketing is best suited for influencing a prospective client in any of the the following ways: 1) Increasing Familiarity, 2) Establishing Authority, or 3) Expanding a Referral Network. While it’s definitely possible to impact more than one of those areas, you should focus on one.
Regardless how you decide what your goal is, make sure it meets with both of the following criteria:
It must be measurable.
Analysis of your social media strategy is critical. You need to be able to track your progress and understand if your efforts have been successful. Moreover, if your goal can’t be measured, it probably isn’t specific enough to actually impact your business.
It must be attainable.
This is where most attorneys lose faith in social media. Instead of treating it as a conversation, they give up on it, disappointed that they haven’t seen immediate results. The real problem is that they set results that weren’t attainable, only serving to prove they either don’t understand social media or, for whatever reason, wanted it to fail.
2) Identify Your Target Audience
Who are you trying to reach?
Your overall goals determine your target audience. Are you trying to increase awareness? Then your target audience is anyone in a specific geographical area who may, at some point, need legal services you offer. Expanding your referral network? Then you’re probably targeting other professionals or influencers, but over a much more broad geography.
You need to clearly identify your target audience. What are their goals? What topics and events are important in their lives? What would be most likely to influence their decision to hire an attorney? Create marketing personas of your target audience, or utilize market research tools to learn as much as possible.
You also need to understand their behavior on social media. What networks are they most likely to use? What are they looking for when they go there?
Understanding your audience has several important benefits:
- Direct content with laser focus and that instantly resonates;
- Build up trust and increase engagement by speaking directly to your target audience;
- Position yourself as their go-to source in your niche – you don’t have to be a generalist.
3) Perform a Social Media Audit
What resources does your law firm have available?
Audit Existing Social Media
Even though your law firm doesn’t have a written social media strategy, it’s likely that your firm has some sort of social profile or online presence. Find them. All of them. Run a Google search for your firm.
Hopefully, you’ll find the profiles you knew existed. It’s also quite possible that you’ll find a few “unofficial” profiles. Some might have been set up by your co-workers, and some might exist as spam. Get rid of them.
Fully evaluate the official profiles. Make sure they’re filled in, up-to-date, and consistent with your marketing goals. If they don’t serve a clear purpose, like the firm YouTube profile your boss’s daughter set up three years ago, delete them. If they have no chance of reaching your target audience, delete them.
Audit Your Law Firm
Check your resources. Is anyone on staff capable of implementing your social media strategy? Part of the strategy? You’re going to need someone to run the social media.
Do you have a camcorder or the funds to obtain one? Without it (and the appropriate editing software), video might not be an option. How about any tools, apps or software that can help manage your social media accounts? Take stock of everything.
Are any funds available to purchase resources?. Social media requires investment, sometimes significant, in order to produce consistent returns in the form of client leads. If your firm has limited resources, plan accordingly.
Audit Your Competition
Find out what your top competition is doing. Identify 4-8 top competitors or influencers in your field and check out their social media profiles. Take note of what type of branding they use and the quality of any images and videos. Remember, this is who you’ll be compared to!
Measure key metrics about their profiles. How many followers do they have? How many “Likes” and “Shares” do their posts receive? How much engagement do they have on their posts? What is the overall strategy they use? If your competitor is successful on certain social networks, consider what it would take for your firm to be that successful.
4) Create Your Content Strategy
How do we get our message out?
Determine what social networks you’ll be active on. For the most part, this should be simple. Go where your audience is. The networks you choose has a significant impact on the types of content you’ll post, and the frequency you post. Each network has certain unique characteristics that will impact your social media strategy.
Also remember that you need to be able to effectively maintain any profile you decide to create. Don’t create a profile on 6 different platforms only to realize you only have time to maintain two. One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make is abandoning their profiles.
Your “Brand Voice”
What tone will your social media posts have? It’s going to be the voice of your firm, so make sure it’s consistent and makes sense. Depending on your goals, it should also fit in or stand out in the respective networks. Pick the tone that both fits your targeted audience and your firm’s personality.
The types of content that will be most effective depends largely on your audience. Different types of content perform better on different networks and with different audiences. Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram are visual mediums – images and videos perform much better, in general, than text. Teenagers are more likely to be on Instagram than Pinterest.
Whether images, videos, blog posts, contest, infographics (etc.), use the content that is best for delivering your message to your target audience. If the content you produce can’t support your objectives for your social media strategy, it’s useless.
5) Create a Content Calendar
When should we post our content?
Now you need to implement your social media strategy. Implementation is about how, on a day-to-day basis, your social media strategy is executed. What type of content gets posted where, on what day? Who writes new content? What ratio of promotional vs. original vs. curated content is used?
That’s why you need a content calendar to organize your posts and updates. For example, this is my Twitter Content Calendar this week:
Using a content calendar is the best way to guarantee that your social media strategy is implemented effectively and consistently.
6) Appoint/Hire a Social Media Manager
Who sets up and runs these accounts?
Put someone in charge. Your social media strategy gets nowhere if there isn’t one person ultimately responsible for executing it. They can be part-time, full-time, or an entire division, but they have to be equipped to do the job.
Your social media manager will be responsible for the creation and maintenance of all the firm’s social media profiles. They will also be responsible for the creation and publication of content as directed in the social media strategy. Further, they will be responsible for curating and engaging with followers on behalf of the firm.
I also strongly recommend that your social media manager help create and implement a social media policy for your firm. It’s not an easy job, and they’ll need to be able to handle it. And it’s absolutely necessary.
7) Analyze and Evaluate the Results
How do we know whether or not it’s working?
Measuring and analyzing the results of your social media strategy is essential. You’ve created a whole strategy, with a specific theme. It’s crucial that your metrics give you accurate information on ROI. The key metrics are essentially determined by theme of your social media strategy:
- Familiarity: growth in followers, engagement, brand awareness, page likes, and subscriptions.
- Authority: sentiment, influence of your followers, and engagement (particularly among those with high influence).
- Referral: mentions of firm, shares on certain networks (LinkedIn), and influence of your followers among certain demographics.
If you performed a thorough audit of your existing social media, you should have good benchmarks to analyzing the results of your social media strategy. Complete analysis, including analysis of other qualitative factors, is essential for making the right data-driven decisions.
Lather, rinse, and repeat.