5 ways lawyers fail at social media

using social media 1It’s hard to start doing something without knowing how to do it, particularly when you look around and see others doing it with ease. Whether its swinging a golf club, painting a picture, or learning an instrument, there’s a reason why nobody is able to do those things perfectly (with a few notable exceptions) right away. It takes time and energy to increase skill, and experience teaches many lessons. Yet starting that process as a novice while those around you are experts isn’t fun.

That’s the position most attorneys find themselves in when it comes to using social media. Other industries that adopted social media sooner (okay, all industries other than medicine) have invested time and energy into their social media plans. They’ve had the practice, and – importantly – learned from mistakes, and they’re better for it. Getting the most out of social media requires practice, patience, and experience. It requires time and investment. It also takes a willingness to challenge your preconceived notions about social media.

Sadly, too many attorneys refuse to invest the time and energy needed for using social media, and end up doing it badly. Many of the problems, though, could be fixed with a little patience.

Here are 5 Totally Fixable Ways Law Firms Suck at Using Social Media:

1) Assuming that simply being on Social Media equals engagement.

using social media 2My favorite version of this particular issue isn’t actually about a lawyer. For years, Warren Buffett wasn’t on Twitter was because he was technology averse. That was it, he wasn’t on Twitter. Until May 2, 2013, when he sent his first tweet. As of today, his account has over 700,000 followers, and a grand total of 4 tweets. Before, his refusal to participate in Twitter was something that set him apart. Now, he’s just another businessman with an unused account.

Now, Warren Buffett can get away with it because few people are looking to learn about him on his Twitter page. But what about your firm? Sure, you’ve set up your firm’s Facebook and Google+ pages. You asked your relatives to “Like” them. But have you done anything else? When someone looks you up on Google and goes to your LinkedIn page, are they going to just see the one post you published 3 years ago?

Social media allows you to engage with your potential customers. Unlike traditional forms of advertising, participation is required. Ignore Napoleon’s Battle Plan – you can’t expect the philosophy of “first we show up, then we see what happens” to work here.

2) Abandoning Social Media when immediate, tangible results are not apparent

Usually the accusations about need for immediate gratification are leveled more at the ADD generation. However, attorneys are particularly susceptible to this problem. We look at our social media advertising and wonder why it’s not producing immediate, tangible results. (We sometimes forget how long it took us to come up with an effective Yellow Pages entry.)

This problem comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about social media, in my opinion. Social media is distinctly different from a billboard advertisement or a TV spot. It’s not a form of passive advertising. It’s more like showroom salesmanship. Selling your product requires trust. So the first thing you do with a new customer isn’t immediately sell them on your product. First, you establish trust. Trust takes both time and energy. But once that trust is earned, the customer will continue coming back to you, even if they can get a better deal elsewhere. Trust is huge.

You don’t get identical results from social media as you would traditional advertising. If you don’t work at it, it’ll always be worse, but if you’re good, you may give up on traditional advertising altogether.

3) Posting to Social Media pages with no plan for converting followers to clients

An extension of the previous problem is a failure to convert social media interactions into business. Sure, you have plenty of people following your firm now, and you even engage some of them on social media. Yet, you haven’t seen any measurable return on your investment.

Ask yourself: do you have a plan put in place to turn your social media connections into business? Well, no. You assumed that by having your phone number on your page, anyone who engaged would immediately call you when they had a legal problem.

You need to establish how your engagement with followers will turn them into clients. Just as I discussed in my articles about your firm’s website, make sure your engagement concerns topics that your prospective clients would want to know. Give them a reason to go to your firm’s website. Give them information on current legal information in your field. If they like your social media pages for your general news updates and the pithy remarks you make about the local NFL team, you’re doing it wrong.

4) Failing to understand the difference between different types of Social Media

You wouldn’t go to an ad agency and ask for a 30-second television spot to be put in a newspaper, and you wouldn’t send your firm photograph to accompany a radio ad. Yet, many of us tend to think of social media as one universal subset of advertising. The perception could not be further from the reality.

Utilizing social media effectively truly requires a keen understanding of the capabilities and limitations of each platform you’re using. Furthermore, effective use of individual platforms actually requires unique tailoring of your ads. Do you know what the ideal size of photos is for Facebook? Do you know that it’s different for Twitter? Did you know that thebest day to post a blog article is Monday, but the weekend is the best time to tweet?

Put in the time and energy to know the social media platforms you use, and you’ll be amazed at how much more effective your social media marketing is.

5) Ignoring analytics and other methods of tracking engagement to find out what works

This one may actually be the most difficult thing for an attorney to do, for several reasons. First, we’re used to understanding that the success of advertising is pretty much a one-step process: either we made money or we didn’t. Second, truly pulling apart the data takes time and requires the in-depth understanding of each platform.

That said, the only way to truly know if your social media is effective is to track your metrics. As this article describes, you should know the reach, engagement, acquisition, conversion, and activity on each of your sites. Oh, and you’ll need to know the difference between each of those metrics, too.

There are literally hundreds of different analytics or tracking programs available out there, so try them out. Talk to friends and colleagues to see what they use. Check out some blogs that routinely discuss the issue.

A little secret: Blog writers tend to be incredibly concerned with their social media presence, so blogs and websites dedicated to helping bloggers can be a phenomenal resource for reviews of different types of social media analytics.

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