Social media. It’s familiar territory for some lawyers, and a foreign world for others. Whether you are a social media veteran or have yet to test the waters, having a social media presence can benefit your firm in many ways. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like help you connect with people, keep up with current events, build a name and reputation for you and/or your firm, and reach an audience beyond your geographical range.
According to statistics, here are some numbers of social media users worldwide:
With 76% of Americans using Facebook at least once a day, you can get in front of many new people!
A main (and often overlooked) benefit of social media is communication. With a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account, you can stay in touch with clients to follow their progress and monitor your competitors. Many professionals also use social media to reconnect with old friends, former colleagues, and classmates too. Getting your name out there shows your concern for others, and you never know who might be looking for a lawyer.
As a “real-time” tool, social media has replaced many traditional print and media sources for news and current events. There have been several instances where word of major events, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, reached Twitter before mainstream news outlets. Twitter has a real-time search function that lets you keep track of clients, competitors, and subject matter topics.
In addition to finding the news on social media, you can explore new subject matter. With blogs, podcasts, apps and more at your fingertips, you have a wealth of resources at your disposal. LinkedIn and Google+ have groups that let you discuss topics with professionals and industry leaders. Quora, a newcomer to the social scene, lets visitors ask and answer questions on various topics.
Once you start exploring social media, you can learn to identify credible, trustworthy sources that generate useful, accurate content or provide helpful answers. Search engines can turn up a variety of information, including content that is less credible and reliable than what you’re looking for. The value of social media is that you can locate and interact with others who can guide you to reputable sites. Many professionals and experts are active on social media, which makes it easy to find and “follow” them. You can comment on their posted information, link to their articles and blog posts, and more.
For those in the job hunt, social media is a good tool for building an electronic professional profile. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ let you create profiles where you can provide your biographical and other professional information. To boost your visibility, show an interest in current issues and prominent leaders in your practice area by asking and answering questions, posting interesting links, and offering helpful advice to others.
Networking is another significant benefit of social media. LinkedIn is the most popular social tool among lawyers, and it provides many ancillary advantages. LinkedIn is considered comparable to the traditional paper resume, and can make it easy to find a job. It’s also a way to get background information on opposing counsel, co-counsel, and even clients. You can find common connections with others through LinkedIn, which can make it easier to find and retain future clients.
Lastly, some social networks have communities of like-minded individuals. LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities have groups organized around a dizzying array of categories. You can join some groups for free and request access to others. Many groups focus on law and law practice management, and they are easy to use and manage.
As with anything else, it can take time to become familiar with social media. You might want to start with just one or two accounts, and add or subtract others depending on your needs. As social media platforms continually evolve, it’s important to keep up with new features and functions as they arrive, and learn how to use them. When you are ready to start posting content, identify a target audience, and cater to that group in the tone and substance of information you present.
After mastering social media, you may find that you attract new business and even develop a deeper level of respect and become a trusted, forward-thinking leader in your field.