How to make social media work for you

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(Opinion) -- In the last article on social media I wrote for Australasian Lawyer, I talked a lot about making a clear and strategic decision about whether or not you invest in that space.

But if you do, what next? How does it work? Will it work? And what sort of investment am I looking at? Read on to find out.

Social can be hard work

There are four typical things that tend to scare firms away from from social media in the first instance. These are that
  1. there is often no immediate (or attributable) sale or win;
  2. it takes time and effort;
  3. creating posts consistently and continuously drops in priority;
  4. there is a level of perceived risk.
The most pervasive problem - that of no immediate sale or win - is also one of the simplest to address. This is because it’s a matter of expectations alignment.
The others can be addressed with good governance, good workflow, and a clear understanding of how and why it will be used.

There’s no immediate win because social is social

You will remember that in the last article here I talked about social media being about relationships. The profession of law is relationship based. Referrals are often a key source of new business, and networking is an activity in which many firms invest heavily.
So social media should be easy, right? It’s the same thing, but online - and many similar principles apply. You wouldn’t walk into a networking function and start handing documents out to people, badgering them to read them. So why would you do that on Twitter? As parents often say, manners will take you a long way.
Social media can help you build connections. It’s through nurturing those connections that people will find you of value. What this means is that you have to talk to people, like what they share, share what they share, and be a conduit for them to shine.
In doing so, you will become known as an organisation, or person, of value. Connections who value your presence, will become close enough to you that they will share what you offer with others. Consider that when you have relationships like this, social selling is easier. Helping your friends to succeed is much more rewarding than helping strangers. That’s the mindset shift that can be problematic for lawyers.

Time and effort is helped by being systematic: Delegate and  automate

Building relationships takes time and effort. In a busy week, one where every minute counts, you can’t expect also to be intermittently checking social media. You wouldn’t ever get anything done!
If you really want to do it yourself, there are many tools to help you. Buffer will help you share content you find as you read online. Hootsuite helps you manage a whole team of social media users. And scheduling content should be a fact of your life.
While social is reasonably real-time, smart users give this appearance by scheduling content. You don’t have to be online all day. You can just look like you’re present. The critical thing is to make sure that you make time for someone to like, thank, respond to, your network. The trick is to schedule that time, and to limit yourself. When it’s in your diary, you’re much more likely to do it.
And if nobody has the time or inclination, you can outsource the job very easily. Great agencies exist for just this reason: Many people can’t or won’t do it.
Remember: Giving the responsibility for your social media to your non-lawyers is even better. It helps you to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and is clear about why your firm exists and how you help people. For an enthusiastic clerk or administrator, this can be a way to really contribute in a new and meaningful way.
Getting your team involved in your social media assets can be risky. But if you do the due diligence, set expectations and rules, the risk to you is extremely low.

Consider the amazing benefits of personal branding

It’s an exercise from which your entire team could benefit, but most especially your top legal talent. Personal branding will teach your team how to really promote themselves and their work, to put their best feet forwards at every opportunity. And it will encourage them in best practice social media.
Combine personal branding with a rotating social media responsibility, and you start to create fantastic brand advocates, ones with a strong vested interest in helping your business to be more successful.

Walk in with your eyes open and reap the benefits

Now that you know the realities of social media, you can walk in with your eyes open. Expect it to take time to build a following. Expect it to take effort, and work. And expect to be responsive. Some of the best lawyers in social media are loud and opinionated, which gets them noticed. But you can also be noticed by being nice, interactive, and social.
If you take the leap, please connect with me or leave a comment about what does and does not work for you.

By Leticia Mooney, director of legal content strategy company Brutal Pixie.