Social media: A strategic, 3-step guide for lawyers

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Is social media something that your law firm needs to be in? It depends. In this article we look at the realities of social media, and how to make a choice about whether or not to participate.
 

1. Align activity with strategy

Your decision about whether to take your law firm down Social Media road should be a result of interrogating your strategy. Misalignment will not help you achieve your aims.
 
Much of the existing narrative about social media says you should do it. There are good reasons to do it: So that you can better service your market, better connect with people, be more available, be more present, have new ways of selling.
 
Social can do all those things for you, if you use it right. But if your goal is sales or lead generation, you need to know the territory. In 2014, few marketers saw Twitter as a way to drive sales. And in March 2016, it became known that even the top Chief Marketing Officers are finding it hard to prove returns on investment. Getting consistent (or good) data can be tricky.
 
So how do you work out where you need to be? This depends on your firm's unique strategy, and your long-term play. Replicating what other people do is not going to be beneficial to you, because you’ll come in second at best.

2. Know your history to work out where the value is

Social media channels are not new. Twitter turned 10 in March 2016. LinkedIn and Facebook are a little bit older (starting in 2002 and 2004 respectively). They emerged as ways for people to stay in contact. Facebook was a directory of students’ faces and names that was intended to help them get to know each other (printed versions are called called face books in the USA). Twitter started as an alternative to text messaging. LinkedIn started to help business people connect online.
 
But make no mistake: The solution was initially about finding and connecting. The value is in feeling like you and your network are part of each other's lives.
 
The value to sales came when businesses started to realise that this connection was a great way of connecting with consumers. Listening to their conversations is powerful. Once you’ve listened, you know how better to serve them.
 
This is why just throwing links and expecting sales is not going to work for you. Social media is not like buying advertising: It’s a different way of thinking. It’s social, and social relationships take time and effort. This might be one reason why for a lawyer who bills every six minutes, 'just talking' in social media feels a lot like just setting fire to your bank account. Your expectations of the channels need to line up.
 
3. Being strategic is about more than personas and segments

Using social media ought to be strategic. This is not just about knowing who you're talking to. And it’s not about planning. Planning is not strategy.
 
Being strategic means knowing:

●             Your firm’s three-year, five-year, 10-year vision
●             Your firm’s intention and purpose
●             The value that people receive from you. (As opposed to what you sell them.)
 
When this is clear, you’ll be able to assess (a) whether social media is for you; and (b) which channels are important, if the answer is yes. It will also help you understand how you need to use it.

If it makes strategic sense, investing in social can be powerful

Social media is one tool that you can put to work in service of your vision and strategy. When it works, it is powerful. In a society that values connection and communication using ad-hoc methods, social media may be beneficial for your firm.
 
But remember not to just follow the crowd: Make sure that social media is in service of your firm and your strategic vision; and that it’s not the other way around.

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

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