Article appeared on Law360: https://www.law360.com/articles/906380/a-law-firm-s-guide-to-social-media
Social media can be used to build a thought leadership platform, increase market share, improve business intelligence, network and attract new talents. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for success on social media though. It’s just like baking desserts; the ingredients must be carefully chosen and measured. If a single thing goes amiss, the whole dessert is ruined. The soufflé collapses. The meringue crumbles. But the good news is, the framework of a social media strategy is no different than a recipe.
For starters, a word of caution. Social media is a double-edged sword. We want social media posts to receive as many impressions and as much engagement as possible; the more a post is liked, replied to, favorited and shared, the better. The problem is the same eyeballs that see your good posts also see the posts that contain typos, grammatical errors, incorrect information, information that should not have been disclosed, etc. And so now you have a breadcrumb trail of embarrassment, possibly even garnering media attention. Bear in mind that the internet seldom forgets and never forgives, and you are just one screen grab from a meme.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom in the land of social media. Preventing such mishaps is easily achievable and starts with drawing up a comprehensive social media policy for the firm, and a similarly sagacious internal approval process.
The social media policy should meet three essential requirements:
One cannot insist on enforcement enough. Because social media is part of our daily lives, it is often regarded as a casual thing and treated lightly. But when a representative of the brand shares inappropriate, confidential, harmful or defamatory information, then there’s nothing casual about it. Similarly, publicly engaging in inappropriate discussions that could reflect badly on the firm should also be avoided. And of course, all attorney advertising regulations apply to social media as well.
The approval process can seem unnecessary or frivolous. After all, social media should be spontaneous! A natural flow! It should be like a conversation! But let me stop you right there. Everything that goes on the firm’s social media platforms matters. It is not like posting a picture of that rainbow cupcake or summer barbecue on a personal social media account. Posts, retweets, likes, everything should be carefully drafted, assessed, approved and planned.
Success with social media comes to those who have a proactive approach. A company policy and approval process set the stage, but that’s all they do. The social media page is still blindly blank. But resist the urge to fill it in at this point. It is not yet time. Now comes the assessment phase. It is essential work. We go through this phase with all our clients who embark on social media for the first time or need a revamp of their strategy.
We like to structure the assessment phase in three parts: target, intent and content. All of this derives from the core messaging of the firm. Once the core messages and unique selling points have been clearly determined, the foundation is robust and we can start building the blocks of a social media strategy.
Most firms have only a vague idea as to who they want to target on social media. We recommend building at least three target profiles with as much precision as possible, including gender, age, occupation, lifestyle, interests and social media habits. Once those profiles have been built and matched against the attributes of the different social media platforms, we can strategically define which of those platforms is most relevant for the firm to be on. The natural inclination to be on every major social media should be curbed. Is Instagram’s inspirational and lifestyle-focused platform the best fit? What about Twitter and its concise and informational style? The answer to these questions should result from thoughtful and strategic thinking.
We have already identified the different goals of social media. Determining which ones make the most sense for your firm will play a crucial role in choosing the right channel and tailoring its voice and content on that channel.
Content is about the message and the manner in which it will be delivered to the targeted audience. The firm should be built into a profile, just like a person, with characteristics, tone of voice, and language. Conversational, determined, excited, personable, direct, enthusiastic; there is no lack of adjectives to frame a firm’s online persona. Once those are determined, the blank page can start to be filled in.
I’m sure that by now, the amount of time, work and coordination required to expand a firm’s social media footprint has become apparent, and perhaps a bit daunting. Hopefully, the process we began to unroll here provides useful guidelines and has piqued the interest of a few readers. For those who are momentarily overwhelmed, it is good to point out that there are many resources and tools that exist to help with planning, identifying relevant hashtags, growing a community, social listening, and many other terms and phrases that are soon to be part of your vocabulary. You are not alone.
—By Julie Bagdikian, The Pollack PR Marketing Group
Julie Bagdikian is an account supervisor with The Pollack PR Marketing Group where she is responsible for strategy development, execution of communication campaigns and overall account management. She graduated from French law school Pantheon-Assas and has since worked for clients in the legal industry, among others.