Editor’s Note: In my two previous posts of this series, I discuss Mobile Website Marketing for Law Firms and Optimizing Your Law Firm’s Web Content for Mobile in 2018. In this third and final part, I’m going to focus on what’s really working on Social Media and why.
Your Law Firm's Social Media - Everybody’s Talkin’
Everybody’s using Social Media. According to Mark Irvine from Wordstream, Facebook reaches 84% of the US population each month. That’s huge.
In March, Mark told attendees at our Internet Bootcamp that there were 60 million Twitter users in the US. New data from Statista suggests the number is 72.3 million users.
Despite the recent Facebook data sharing scandal, health warnings and some users closing down their accounts, Social Media is here to stay. Whether Facebook is still popular – or even operational – in a decade is not something I’m qualified to speculate on.
What I can talk about with some authority, however, is what you should be doing to market your law firm's social media.
First Principles of Social Media
I’ve made this point before because it’s so important: think about what you do when you’re on Social Media. Start off with why you added the last new contact to your network. It’s probably because you know them. In real life. You have some sort of relationship with them.
The key word here is RELATIONSHIP.
You’re friends on Facebook with people because you already have some kind of relationship with them.
If there’s a business you’ve “liked” on Facebook, you were probably already one of their happy customers before you clicked “like” on their Facebook page.
Or you might be a fan of a page that has regular updates of content you find entertaining or valuable. Like PILMMA’s legal marketing content. Or Buzzfeed. Or cat videos.
Sounds obvious so far, right?
Think about what you click on when you’re scrolling through Facebook. Think about what your spouse or your children click on when they’re surfing Social Media.
Are they signing up to your free report on how their insurance company has 17 ways to nix their case? Or are they watching cat videos?
People turn to Social Media to find out what their friends and family are doing, and to be entertained.
At our Bootcamp, Adrian Dayton shared his experiences with Social Media. One very salient point he made was this: When he saw lawyers personally share content on Facebook, the same content that was also shared on their corporate Facebook page, their personal post got eight times as many clicks.
This isn’t some little anecdotal story, by the way. Adrian spoke to over 10,000 lawyers.
The reason personal posts get 8 times as many clicks is simple. The lawyers had relationships with the people on their friends lists. Those friends have relationships with those lawyers, not the law firms’ stuffy, corporate Facebook pages.
More advice from Adrian Dayton coming up later.
Nobody Cares About Your Law Firm
To paraphrase Adrian:
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, I wonder what Hardison and Cochran are tweeting right now.”
Nobody really cares what your law firm is saying today. But they might care about what you are saying, especially if you are their lawyer, or you’re well respected for your expertise.
When I was the face of my Raleigh law firm in my TV ads, people would stop me in the street. I was a minor celebrity around town. So it would have been easy for me to get Twitter followers from normal people in Raleigh. They’d have direct access to the lawyer they saw regularly on TV. But would they follow the corporate account for my law firm? No, they would want to follow me personally. They’d want to have a relationship with me.
All those millions of Twitter followers that big celebrities have, many of those followers feel they have some connection – or relationship – with those stars. When Donald Trump tweets, people answer back.
When Kanye West tweets, people answer back. If you’re a fan of Kanye West, are you more interested in what he is tweeting, or in what his record label is tweeting?
So there are two important lessons here before I go on.
Your Law Firm's Social Media: It’s About People
Firstly, ask yourself, “Would I share this content on my personal Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn?” If you wouldn’t personally share it, why would you share it on your corporate account? Then think about your employees. Would they want to share your content on their personal Social Media accounts. Would they be proud of your content or embarrassed by it?
You may have heard the phrase “People buy from people”. It’s about people. You and your employees have the relationships with your clients and potential clients. Make the most of that relationship, instead of trying to build it on a corporate page where nobody cares.
Salting Your Facebook “Tip Jar
Secondly, a tip to give your content on Facebook a head start. Facebook wants to see people sharing and liking your content. When that happens organically, Facebook increases the reach of your post. It “opens the floodgates”. Then, when you put a few advertising dollars behind it by “boosting” it or running targeted ads, more people will see your content.
Facebook never said you couldn’t salt your tip jar. A post without any likes or shares is a post lacking in the social proof that it’s worth clicking on.
So what you should do is first share your content on your law firm's social media corporate Facebook page, click “like” using your personal account and then share that post on your personal Facebook page. Doing that sends all the right signals to Facebook about your content. And it puts your content in front of the people you know – the ones who actually care about your content.
Then get your employees and anyone else to do the same thing.
And then put some money behind that post. Boost it or run targeted advertising.
Now let's talk content.
Are You Entertaining Or Remarkable?
How much of your content is entertaining?
How much of your content is remarkable?
A couple of times, I’ve written about small gestures of kindness that have blown up into international, viral news stories. For example, I mentioned Ishmael Gilbert, the Target employee who took the time to help an elderly lady with her small change.
“I just treated her, really, like she was my grandma, to be honest,” said Ishmael.
Stories like that do tend to go viral because, as Peter Shankman explains, to have “Wow!” customer service, you only have to be “one level above crap”.
I think we should be hearing about stories like Ishmael’s all the time instead of just occasionally. The world is a better place when more people act considerately. And the world is a happier place when we hear stories like this.
Because the story relates an experience we’re unaccustomed to these days – i.e. customer service the way it used to be – it’s remarkable. It makes us want to remark on the story. I’m sure many people who shared Ishmael’s story on Social Media included their own comments, like “This is what ALL kids should behave like!” and so on.
You’re glad to read the story. Then you’re glad to share it and comment on it.
How much of your law firm’s content can you say that about?
Never mind your free report on the 17 ways an insurance company can nix your claim, how about just a frequently asked question and answer. Do you really think anybody wants to read one of your FAQs on Facebook?
As Anna Hrach explained at our Bootcamp, quoting Jay Baer, “Relevancy magically creates time and attention”.
99.9% of the time, your content is totally irrelevant to your market. Nobody wants your free report or your FAQs unless they’ve just been in a car accident. Then it’s suddenly relevant. And only then does it get their attention.
Being relevant on Social Media 99% of the time, instead of 1% of the time, means you have to share content that isn’t just about your business of practicing law.
A video on your law firm’s Facebook page called “How To Drive Safely In A Snowstorm” is not relevant to Florida residents on July 4th. But immediately after the “bomb cyclone” back in March, that same video would have got a ton of traffic.
Like I said, people are not going to your law firm's social media Facebook for legal advice, at least not if they don’t know you. But if you’re already their lawyer, and they’ve just been in an accident, I could easily see some people reach out to you on Twitter or Facebook for some immediate advice.
Lots of my clients are friends with me on Facebook, but they don’t have my cellphone number. I still have clients reach out to me on Facebook for referrals in other practice areas.
Lawyers Don’t Make Great Entertainment
People use Social Media to be entertained. If you can make entertaining content, then you’ve cracked the formula. And it’s not easy to crack.
Luke Russell, another speaker at our Bootcamp, has handled Social Media for a number of law firms for a number of years. He said that he has not figured out what actually works as content for Personal Injury lawyers on Facebook. He’s spent a fortune testing all kinds of content and has concluded that, for Personal Injury at least, nothing works.
Luke is, however, a big proponent of retargeting with law firm's social media advertising. He pointed out that 98% of website visitors will leave your site without taking action. However, the investment you’ve made in getting that initial website visitor needn’t be wasted if you use retargeting.
Retargeting means targeting specific ads at people who have already visited your website. It reminds them of the action they have already taken and nudges them to come back to your website.
Retargeted people are three times more likely to click on your ad than people who haven’t interacted with your business before. Retargeting does generate results for Personal Injury lawyers.
Fight The Fear
I can tell you one of the reasons that lawyers find it hard to crack the code for Social Media content: fear. Many lawyers don’t want to do anything that they think would make them appear unprofessional. They’re fearful of portraying themselves differently from their unified and polished corporate image.
It’s that fear that’s holding them back. One reason a lot of content goes viral is because it’s portraying unexpected circumstances. Like the kid who did what nobody expected by treating a customer like his own grandmother.
What lawyers aren’t willing to do is exactly what they would go viral for. Imagine a video that showed your sensible, boring lawyer doing something out of character – like smashing up their desktop PC with an axe.
Let’s apply that out-of-the-box thinking to the boring content that doesn’t work on Social Media. Nobody on Facebook wants to opt-in for your free report, “17 Ways Your Insurance Company Will Try To Nix Your Claim”.
But what if you created a video that explained those 17 ways in a humorous manner? What if your video ridiculed the insurers? What if you also poked a little fun at yourself (and other lawyers) while you were at it?
Don’t you think that would be shared on Social Media? Don’t you think your employees would be excited to share it with their own comments, like “My boss is hilarious, check out this video”?
[Update 12-21-18 - Law firms are fighting the fear and taking up the "Lip-sync Challenge". See the update to our article, "5 Videos Your Law Firm’s Website is Probably Missing".]
I’ve got an example of my own. Remember Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song? At the PILMMA Super Summit in Chicago a few years ago, we shot our own version of the Happy video, with some of the lawyers who were attending the Summit.
We only had about a minute and a half put together and when we showed it to all the attendees, everybody loved it. It showed a different side to all these lawyers, dancing along and miming the words. It demonstrated that they could let their hair down and laugh at themselves.
We were never able to find out what kind of response we would get from that video online though. One of the lawyers, who was dancing in the video, became extra-cautious after it was shot and blocked anybody doing anything with it.
So just imagine if, at the height of the Happy song, you’d shot your own version, featuring the employees in your office. Your employees would share that on Facebook. Your clients would love that video too. But it might also be of interest to people who hadn’t yet hired your law firm, because it would show another side of you. A more human, less stuffy side. On a quiet news day, stuff like that even makes it on the local news.
[Update 12-21-18: The "Lip-sync Challenge" is a great example of marketing your law firm while having fun, without looking stupid.]
Don’t be scared to be entertaining. I’m sure when Jim Adler first stood on top of a semi-truck, yelling “Texas Hammer”, some people would have called it unprofessional. But it’s entertaining. And it’s caught on. Jim is no longer the only “Hammer” standing on a semi. Being the first to do something brings many advantages.
Who Is Your Audience?
Several speakers at our Bootcamp spoke repeatedly about “audience”. Before you start flinging content onto Social Media, you should first understand who your audience is. Then you need to create content that is appropriate for that audience.
Instead, many lawyers do what Adrian Dayton calls “Spray and Pray”. They just pump something out without really thinking who it’s for. And they’re not thinking about an audience who wants to take a seat in their auditorium. No, they’re using a megaphone in the hope that somebody – anybody – might be receptive to their message.
Instead of starting with what you think is good content, start by thinking about who your audience is. And realize that there may be a number of different audiences you want to target. Because, with Facebook’s advertising tools, you can be focused with your targeting and messaging.
The message a retiree will respond to may not be the same message that a Millennial will respond to. But whatever the segment, you have to think about them as a potential audience with a short attention span. You have under nine seconds to grab that attention.
Create Content Regularly, But Self Promote In Moderation
By talking to over 10,000 lawyers, Adrian Dayton really is in a position to observe clear trends and offer advice on best practice on the web and Social Media. He analyzed what they were doing with content creation and content sharing. Comparing lawyers who wrote or shared content occasionally with those who created new content regularly, his message was simple: “The ones that create content regularly – they’re the ones that bring in the business.”
Content comes in many forms, whether it’s blog posts, videos, podcasts and so on.
But the mistake on Social Media is to focus on self promotion. Sure, you might create new content every day, but Adrian recommends that you don’t just share your own content on your law firm's social media. He recommends an 80/20 ratio – 80% other valuable content, 20% your own content.
You can provide value by sharing content created by other people or organizations – and that makes it a lot easier to find something to share on your Social Media accounts too. By sharing predominantly third party content, when you do then share your own self-promoting content, people are much more likely to pay attention to what you have.
My Personal Recommendation on Facebook Content
There is one type of content that, when done the right way, can be a great fit for Social Media and your law firm’s website.
I’m talking about testimonials.
The trick is to not make them look like testimonials – because that’s blatant self promotion. What you want to do is wrap the client’s testimonial in a human interest feature story that is about your client. A case study disguised as a feature article. Of course your law firm will feature in that story as you explain the specific things you did to help your client back on track, and what they say about why your law firm is so amazing.
But by focusing the story on your client – not you – you’ve created content that client might actually share with their friends and family.
Remember, “Facts tell, stories sell”. If you’re getting testimonials from your clients, I’ll put money on them not actually telling a story but instead being full of facts.
By turning your client’s testimonial into a story – with a beginning, middle and end – you make it much easier for people to read and then understand how you can help them too.
By you taking your client’s testimonial and turning it into a fleshed out story, you get to say all the things your client did not say. You get to fill in the blanks.
So you start out with a testimonial about how awesome you are as a lawyer, but you turn it into a good news story about how amazing your client is.
This obviously takes more work than just publishing their testimonial verbatim. However, it makes an enormous difference to the results.
What About LinkedIn and Twitter?
Twitter is unique in that you can start a dialog with somebody you don’t know. Twitter makes people accessible. How would you ever have got a message straight to Donald Trump before Twitter? Send a telegram?
That’s the big benefit of Twitter. Anyone who is on Twitter can, in theory, be communicated with directly and instantaneously. But to keep followers and gain interaction, you’ve got to be interesting.
When you follow someone on Twitter, it’s because of what that online personality is going to do for you. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you might follow anything to do with fishing.
If you’re an inventor, you might follow lots of accounts, and possibly an expert patent attorney.
People gain followers on Twitter either because of their personality, or because of their expertise. And sometimes both.
I don’t think corporate Twitter accounts really work for law firms, unless you’re going to be hyper-responsive. Look at how many people raise complaints about companies on Social Media. They do it that way, instead of phoning or writing, because it’s quicker and usually much more responsive.
Complain on Twitter and you might get an immediate response.
Well, your law firm can be of service on Twitter, but if you don’t respond in a timely manner, people will stop asking for your advice.
That’s why Twitter often works best when the lawyer is the one actively running their account, tweeting and responding throughout the day. It gives the public that direct connection, and some insight into the lawyer’s personality.
It’s unlikely that you’ll lose clients by rooting for a particular sports team on Twitter. Instead, you’re likely to gain followers and interaction. However, the fear of appearing unprofessional is a sticking point here for many lawyers. Tweeting a rant about long lines at Walmart makes you human, not an ambulance chaser.
Interests and Affinities
If you have a particular interest, even one that has nothing to do with your law practice, it doesn’t hurt to make that a big part of your Social Media persona.
For example, if you are a keen fisherman, talk about your fishing exploits. You know who will find that interesting? People in your market who are also big into fishing. You’ll give them a reason to connect with you before they need a lawyer. Then, if they do need a lawyer, who do you think they’ll contact first?
LinkedIn is a great place to demonstrate your expertise. You can describe exactly what you do and the clients you want to serve. You can demonstrate your network of other experts and respected individuals. Your endorsements provide social proof of your expertise and of you honoring your promises.
So LinkedIn actually has a value for potential clients. While they may not have an account themselves, they can still look up your profile and decide to hire you.
But secondly, LinkedIn is a great tool for networking with other lawyers and other professionals and getting referrals. In addition to the people you’re connected with in your own network, by joining different groups on LinkedIn, like our own, you can massively expand that network of contacts further.
Just like with Twitter, you can use LinkedIn to demonstrate your expertise and unique specialization, whether it’s handling bicycle accidents or medical mass torts.
But don’t forget who your audience is. The content you share on LinkedIn will be read predominantly by fellow lawyers and other professionals, while your Facebook content is more likely to be consumed by potential clients. Use a message appropriate to each audience.
You can only improve your Social Media marketing strategy with practice. What works in one state may not work in another, so you’ll need to test, test and test some more until you find what works in your market.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the challenge. Instead tackle it in bite-size, manageable chunks and steadily, over time, you’ll develop a good feel for what really works.
Finally, you can of course investigate vendors who can help you with your Social Media, however in my experience, the most effective content comes from staff within the law practice. A vendor, who may be in a different city or even a different state, really doesn’t have any idea what’s going on in your office, day-to-day. And it’s that day-to-day inside knowledge of staff and clients that generates the most authentic content. A third-party vendor can never truly produce content that is authentic to you and your law practice.
Find Out More
Not only can you watch the presentations I’ve referenced above, you can get access to the entire video library from our 2018 Internet Boot Camp. Click here for more information. Want to read this entire 3 part series? Start at Part 1: Mobile Website Marketing for Law Firms or read Part 2: Optimizing Your Law Firm’s Web Content for Mobile in 2018