April 25, 2017

Lawyers and Social Media: Boom or Bust?

Is social media a good complement to a lawyer’s marketing strategy?

social media marketing for lawyers

You’re smart. You’re highly educated. You may have just past the Bar, or you are a seasoned practitioner. You could have your own practice, or you work for a larger firm as a specialist.

No matter the case, you have to consider, at some point, that you need clients in order to practice law.

Unless you are working for a large firm where the clients knock on your door, or someone else in the firm does the rainmaking for you, you are going to have to design and execute, a sales and marketing plan. 

Marketing for a law practice is not a simple concept. You are bound by the ethics of your profession, and there are codes of honor and integrity that you must stick by.

But you still, in most cases, have to consider doing it. If you don’t, no matter how smart you are, clients will not come. And really, what’s a law practice without clients.

Moving along…

As part of your consideration, you have to think about your presence on social media.

I know right…not another article about social media. 

Well, this one might surprise you a bit.

This article is for lawyers who venture out on to the internet, trying to find answers to the social media dilemma, and happen to stumble on articles like this one from Conrad Saam:


 

bad_advice_for_social_media_marketing_for_lawyers

 


 

I stumbled on the article myself. I couldn’t get past the bold and extreme statements made by Conrad Saam. So I read the article, and investigated further.

My initial concern was what is a lawyer, new to marketing via social networks, conceptually, suppose to take away from Conrad’s article? Would they run away from social media and ignore every social media consultant? 

I had questions. Like, who is Conrad referring to? Are all consultants really that bad? What types of lawyers is he referring to? Can we make the assumption the every lawyer has the exact same audience with the exact same buying habits? Could it be that Conrad is talking about one type of social media strategy and one type of consultant? Are there other ways to use social media, properly, to get a better return on your investment? Is social media tied only to SEO?

My investigation lead me to discover that there are some real benefits for lawyers who engage properly on social networks.

But let’s take a step back for a moment and examine what it is your trying to accomplish with your marketing and sales plan.

Assertion

For many lawyers, no matter your specialty, Social Media is an essential ingredient of your sales and marketing plan.

Just like with every other type of professional service provider, there are three measurable outcomes associated with an effective sales and marketing for lawyers:

Conversations with prospective clients
Improved odds at winning those new clients
 Increase revenue per client engagement

The question now becomes, “HOW are you going to get more conversations with clients, win more of those clients increase the revenue per client engagement?

I will not be able to answer this question, in it’s entirety, in this one post.

Generally speaking, in order to get achieve the three measurable outcomes above, you have to create a brand, make people aware of that brand, ensure that it is a brand that people like and trust, so that when it comes time to fill a need they have, they pick you.

They key to any of this is to be present, at the right place and at the right time, with the right audience, with a “message” that defines the relevance of your work to the people you want to work with.

Basically, if you do this correctly, by the time you have a face to face meeting or conversation with a prospective client, you already won the business.

For this post, I am going to cover how social media can be used to do some of this for you.

More Conversations with Prospective Clients

After I read Conrad’s article, I went on to Goggle+ and asked some questions of some fairly prominent legal Google Plussers. One of them, Stepan Futeral , started a brilliant discussion that I highly suggest you check out. Link to the Discussion.

In his post, Stephan writes:

“Your online marketing strategy is like casting a fishing net to capture business. If all you are using is your website to “fish,” then you are using the smallest of nets. The more social media platforms you engage on, the bigger your net. Suppose you aren’t using the best practices to engage on social media – your profiles are incomplete, you haven’t branded your sites, and you either rarely or poorly engage. Then you are casting a large net that is full of holes, and potential clients are slipping past you. Here’s another important point. Suppose you aren’t analyzing your social media marketing efforts which means that you are casually throwing your net anywhere. If you don’t analyze the best spots to “fish,” then you’re wasting your time in open waters.” 

Stephan makes a great analogy in my opinion. When you are considering your sales and marketing plan, you have to think holistically. You can’t focus on any one source of new clients as you will be missing out on other, maybe more effective sources.

I think though Stephan makes a better point, maybe a bit more subtle, in that he is suggesting that there is a right way and a wrong way to engage on social networks. An example is making sure you have a completed profile. 

Another lawyer, who I have high regard for, in terms of her social media engagement, Tina Willis, says…

“But I wholeheartedly agree.  You also forgot to mention the intangible benefit of making so many great connections with other lawyers around the country…”

Tina’s response to Stephan was a really insightful and useful addition to the discussion. Why? Because connections with your peers is a very important component of your marketing strategy. This is nothing new. It’s been done offline since the beginning of time. 

All Tina is suggesting is that social media opens up the doors to engagement with peers from all over the world. Trust that it creates a tremendous referral source for new client conversations.

So how about search, and internet search queries? Conrad suggests that people don’t search for lawyers in social media.

This is very much incorrect. But let’s qualify it a bit.

People may not go to a specific social network and enter a “DUI Lawyers in Boston” and hope they find some great lawyers. But, they WILL very much search for a lawyer online, in Google or otherwise, or, get a referral from a friend, and then take the name of the lawyers that come up, and go directly to their social media profiles to see what’s cooking.

This is a tremendous opportunity to present your “brand”. By brand I mean, present who you are, how you think, what people are saying about you and who you are engaging with. All of these factors greatly enhance your ability to sign the client, and do so at a premium level of fees.

According to Arnold and Smith, and per their comment in the discussion…

“… should a friend or acquaintance suddenly develop a need for legal help  and they have seen their friends engage with our posts in the past they are much more likely to reach out to us for help or recognize us in the SERP.  It has been shown in numerous studies that people with certain types of issues, albeit divorce, criminal or bankruptcy often have friends and family that have the same issues and will also be looking for qualified and trusted guidance.”

The key point here is that people are looking to see who is talking about you and what they are saying. This is new world marketing. Your clients are not going directly to you for the reasons why they should hire you. They don’t have to anymore. There are tools in place that allow them to go to other people to get their “opinion” on the merit of your work.

Improved Odds of Winning Clients

Once people find you, your job is just beginning. You now have to convince them that they should work with you. Like I said earlier, if you have done your marketing properly, engaged with the right people, made your presence known in the right circles, then the “sales” part of this equation is almost taken care of for you.

What you want to do is market yourself so well, that by the time people meet you, there is very little need for any more persuasion. Their decision has already been made.

How can we do this?

Many ways. But let’s look at a blog as one example.

You write a blog, if you do it well, to provide valuable insight that your audience will find useful. When they read your blog, the feel a connection with you. They feel like you know who they are, and can solve their problems.

They also feel like they know how you think. Your writing is a window into how your mind works. It is a way for you to present your credentials, your skills and your ability.

OK. Blogging is great. But only if people know your blog exists.

How do they know your blog exists? Well, truthfully, you have to publish it to as many channels as possible, and get others to share it on your behalf. Where is this most effective? Yes. Social networks.

See, when you engage on social networks, your goal isn’t to be heard. It is to be useful. You don’t promote you and your services. You promote your utility.

(Side note:  Buy the book YOUtility by Jay Baer to learn more about what I am talking about)

Increase Revenue Per Client

Revenue per client is two fold. You charge a fee for your services. And clients can chose some or all of your services. So, in order to increase your fees per client, you either charge more per service, or get encourage your clients to use your other services.

Anyone who provides a professional service would tell you they would like to charge more for their services. OK, we agree. Now what?

You can’t just go an increase your fees. You have to “earn” it. How do you earn it? You create your brand in such a way that people see the value in what you do, and are willing to pay for that value.

This does not happen overnight and it does not happen because you want it to. You have to first, provide an incredibly useful service, preferably in some niche. Then you have to make people aware that you and your service exist. But you have to do it in a way that appeals to the way people buy. You have to create your brand, by engaging with people, clients and peers, who have opinions that other people hold in high regard.

Where does all this happen? Many places. But one really great place to enhance your brand value, so you can charge higher fees, is through social networks. 

Look at what Mark Trapahagen added to the discussion on Google+

“As you well understand, you’re on social media to establish yourself as a trusted expert in your field. When I have to hire a lawyer, I want one who I know knows his stuff. I want one who has helped me with his awesome content online. I want one who was willing to answer my questions before I became a client.”

If you don’t know Mark, you should look him up. He is one of the worlds leading authorities on social media marketing. And he is NOT a liar. Quite the opposite in fact. He has more integrity than most.

But look at what he said. Look at how he would approach hiring a lawyer. But look even closer at the implications. He is talking about your brand. He is talking about value. More importantly, he is talking about discovering all of this on through your social media engagement and conversations. 

What’s Great About Conrad’s Article

I think Conrad, if you read between the lines a bit, offers a very useful perspective on what NOT to do. But he falls short in helping you understand where social media fits, and why you should consider it, but consider it only if you know what you are doing.

He is absolutely right that you should not be paying someone to do this for you, or to link dump your content, sporadically all of the social world. Absolutely correct. 

Tips For Lawyers Who Want to Use Social Network Marketing

  Consider your “demand model” before you do anything. Your demand model is how your clients find you and buy you. THAT is the most important consideration in any of this. Once you understand that piece, you can start to construct your strategy.
  Do NOT hire someone to engage on your behalf. You are selling you. So be you. This will take some of your time. But in the long run, it will be time well spent.
  Don’t go charging off trying to be on all the networks. Pick one or two. I like Google+ for a lot of reasons that apply to you as well. It is probably a great place to start.
  If you don’t have a blog, start one. Simple as that. You cannot, in most cases, be a marketing lawyer without having a blog. 

More Resources

Rules of engagement on Google+ – ANYTHING by Stephan Hovnanian

Christine DeGraff – Just follow her. She takes it to a new level. Her advice on social media engagement is so spot on, it hurt. You can pick up some great tips.

Martin Shervington – On the Google+ “Social Layer” – This put’s a lot in perspective on the importance not only of social network marketing, but doing so on Google+

Hernandez Family Law – Provides a great example of a family law attorney using Google+

Attorney Advertising Revealed” – Anthony D Castelli

Scott Greenfields Simple Justice Blog – One of the best legal blogs, or any blogs, I’ve read and read. Scott isn’t using his blog for marketing, which is precisely why it is such an effective marketing tool.

 


 

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