When lawyers skeptically say that social media for law firms is a waste of time, two camps emerge with different views about this.
The first will include those who practice primarily in larger corporate law firms, have a more traditional view of how these should be run, and simply don’t see how their law firm would benefit from using social media to win new business. Here, the prevailing attitude is that if the partners are good and there is a good client relationship program, then they really don’t need to jump on any social media bandwagon.
Then there are those, primarily from solo or small practices, that serve families or small businesses and are more likely to entertain the idea. However, they may still have doubts about whether social media could actually work for them.
The key question lawyers should ask themselves is NOT “Should I use social media to attract new leads?” but “What channels do I need to use to differentiate myself and become the lawyer of choice for potential clients, and does this include social media?”
The key phrase is ‘What channels do I need to use…’
Most people decide to choose a law firm because they believe that particular individuals in the firm have the expertise to help them get what they want. It is the individual lawyers they value, not necessarily the firm.
Whether you are a lawyer in a huge corporate firm or a solo practitioner, a prospect will choose you if they like you personally, or feel that you are the best person available to help them solve their problems.
The reason why social media gets a bad press amongst lawyers is because many don’t really have the time or skills for ANY consistent marketing in the first place, and adding social media to what they already do would not really help them much. A bit of a generalisation, but true for many! When this happens, marketing is sporadic, not measurable and, therefore, not likely to be succesful.
Social media will not make or break many law firms, and I say this despite the name of this blog. Used correctly, social media can help lawyers showcase the benefits that result from working with them, engage with prospects more effectively and, more importantly, position themselves as leaders within target niches.
Social media only works for lawyers if they have first taken steps to understand how prospects and clients make decisions, where they look for information and what specific information/outcomes they are looking for. Providing the necessary content via relevant channels then becomes easier, and is a key step away from simply publishing a list of services you may provide as a lawyer.
The key thing about social media success is that it can not be driven by marketers, but has to be by lawyers themselves. It is the lawyers that have to create the relationships with prospects and empathise with followers. Even if a law firm has a marketing / business development team, lawyers have to be involved in any social media activity. Lawyers have to become marketers of their services and not simply focus on their core legal expertise (especially if they deal with families and small businesses).
In the good old days before social media, lawyers’ reputations were primarily governed by the information they controlled or distributed, and the cases they won.
Now, reputation management is key and though you can manage the information about you, you can’t control it. If there is negative feedback in a forum or on a blog about the legal services you provide, you have to engage with relevant parties in ways that you may not have had to do before when prospects did not use social media channels to find out more about you or the legal services industry.
Standing out in the minds of prospects and clients is one the biggest challenges many lawyers face. Social media can help lawyers achieve this goal, but it has to be done correctly and needs to be driven by lawyers.
Social media, as it is, does not necessarily equate to success (e.g. more leads). A sobering thought for those that simply want to dabble with it.