Why Lawyers Need To Know How Potential Clients Use Social Media As Part Of Their Decision Making Process

by Eria

One of the reasons why many lawyers have paid lip service to the development of comprehensive social media strategies is because they feel high-end and complex services tend to be bought based on word of mouth, or as a result of networking at events with key decision makers.

This is certainly the view amongst corporate law firms, where partners and marketing managers feel that key purchase decisions are not made based on social media profiles.

Despite this, many of the same lawyers will set money aside for marketing materials, legal updates, sponsored networking events and press releases. All these tend to be one-way communication tactics and for many, social media is then simply an additional channel to broadcast information.

If they were to then measure the effectiveness of their social media strategies when they do this, it is inevitable that the results they tend to get are poor. They are simply trying to control the conversation via social media and not using it effectively to develop positions of authority within their specific niches.

A key development over the years is the use of social media by potential prospects, including individuals in intsitutional firms, to help search for information or validate earlier decisions to buy from certain lawyers.

As more and more people use social media to keep track of key legal developments, look for important updates or even analyse the performance of lawyers, then the question lawyers have to answer is “do I really know how potential clients use the various social media channels available and, if so, am I using the same channels to position myself effectively as a leader in their minds?”

This is different from simply saying “I should get a couple of profiles out on LinkedIn and Twitter, post my press releases there and see what happens” or something similar.

To get inside a potential buyer’s mind, lawyers should consider how the following points influence the legal services purchase decision-making process, and the impact social media has on each:

  • People browse before they buy: As more people use social media to keep up with friends or get business updates that help them in their professional lives, lawyers need to understand where their key prospects go to look for answers. LinkedIn has been touted as a key channel for business professionals, but how many lawyers actively use it to create discussions, provide comments or point users to content that people are REALLY looking for? How many lawyers have optimised their sites for Google searches – not simply by paying for expensive SEO services, but by providing content that is really good and which attracts a lot of traffic?
  • People are attracted to those that give them lots of useful information: Thought leadership is a key differentiator for many lawyers. If you use social media to direct prospects to content that educates them and helps them make more informed decisions, then more of the same people are likely to identify you as one of the key people they should look at before they buy legal services.
  • People prefer to do business with an expert provider: Lawyers that position themselves as expert providers by giving information such as special reports, white papers and seminars will differentiate themselves from those that don’t. They also help close potential future sales because their expert status make them a safer option in the minds of buyers. Social media, used properly, can help lawyers position themselves as expert providers if it alert prospects to the content available or shows how the latter ties in with conversations going on in various social media channels such as LinkedIn.
  • On average, it takes 7 positive contacts before someone buys: Given this, social media helps lawyers make those positive contacts easier to manage. If information updates posted on LinkedIn can help prospects learn something new or give them information they really need, the next call by lawyers or their business development team can build on that and help drive the conversations towards a mutually beneficial conclusion.
  • Buyers are creatures of convenience and like to do business with those who make their purchase decisions, and lives, easier: So, if lawyers know how prospects use social media, and use social media to make it easier for them to keep up with information they are looking for, then they are more likely to have willing followers. People are always on the look out for tips that make it easier for them to educate themselves without trawling through all the content on the Internet. Social media channels and forums help lawyers target specific niches and can be used to make it easier to people to get answers to key questions running through their minds.
  • Buyers like to stick with what they know: One of the biggest problems lawyers face is the lack of visibility in their target markets. If you are not engaging with prospects via the social media channels they use, then you are out of sight and out of mind. Social media, when used properly, helps increase visibility.
  • Buyers are less trusting than ever before: Because social media channels tend to be more open, collaborative or conversational, lawyers can get over the lack of trust many people have by participating actively with their peers or prospects within these channels. Lawyers who get positive feedback or are seen to drive/participate in social media conversations can build trust really effectively instead of simply relying on their word.

Lawyers that understand the role social media plays in the purchase decision making process and have a well-developed crafted social media presence will tend to increase their visibility and rankings in search engines. All prospects, including those in institutional firms, will benefit from free, quick and accessible thought leadership content and updates.

This is all about using social media as a channel to start two-way conversations with prospects which, if nurtured properly, will make it easier for them to pick up the phone to ask for help.

Whatever we all think, social media is here to stay. It has an impact on information searches and decision making processes, and this is something all lawyers should consider if they want to grow their practices or maintain the great reputations they have already built.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike February 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Eria, great post.


Eria February 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the feedback. Getting lawyers or professional services folk to think about social media from a users point of view before developing any strategy remains a challenge.



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