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Law Firms and Social Media - Even Lawyers Can Have A Conversation

July 1st, 2009 :: rajmalik

growsmartbusiness-law-firm-social-media-eventgrowsmartbusiness-law-firm-social-media-event3

We have all seen how the economy has had a dramatic impact on all industries.  Network Solutions has been holding events across the country to offer guidance to small businesses to help with their efforts in marketing and innovation.  The results of the Small Business Success Index are available at growsmartbusiness.com and the initial results of the survey showed that businesses need help with marketing and innovation.  Lawyers and law firms are not immune from the tough economic times and need help marketing so they can keep clients and get new ones.

Last week, the Network Solutions Social Media Swami, Shashi B and Network Solutions Social Media Lawyer (The Swami coined that one), Raj Malik spoke at the first of a three part series about Law Firms and Social Media.  The event focused on how law firms should be using social media.  The second of the three part series will be held on July 22nd and that will cover how law firms can use social media for client development and also advising clients on crisis communications involving social media.  The third event will be in August and will cover Social Media Ethics.  See further event details here and a list of speakers for the July and August events.

Thanks to all of the law firm marketers and lawyers that joined us.  Here are a few of the items we covered during on talk on Wednesday:

1. Find Out Where Your Community Is - Take the time to do research to find out where lawyers, clients and law students are having a conversation.  This could either be as a part of the larger community or a sub-community of just lawyers and law students.  There will be multiple communities to locate so do not just stop at one.  Keep looking as sometimes communities move around between sites.

2. Listen to the Conversation -Use tools such as Google Alerts, Backtype and Radian6 to track mentions of the law firm, lawyers, clients and potential clients.  These tools are easy to use and can be very helpful from a reputation management perspective.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Engage -  Once you have the tools set up and you are tracking the results, go to the conversation and engage.  If someone mentions your law firm, try to carry on a conversation online.  If someone posts something negative on a blog about a lawyer or your law firm, it does not hurt to post a comment on the blog telling them that you are sorry they feel that way and that if they want to discuss their issue they should feel free to email or call you.

Many lawyers, law firm marketers and law firms are reluctant to take the step to engage.  Some say, no one will pay attention to those blogs or no one reads those negative comments. Unfortunately, that is not true.  Not only do those blogs and comments get read but they also come up in Google searches for your law firm’s name.  Engaging the community can help lawyers and a law firm to protect the hard work that they have put in their brand.  Also engagement gives the law firm and the lawyers credibility with the community and demonstrates that you are listening.

4. Start Slowly and Contribute Content -  We recommended that you pick a topic or maybe a practice area and start a blog.  Law firms do not need elaborate controls and processes in place, but practice groups may want to coordinate content and maybe even get together on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss potential blog post topics that can be posted.   Use peer review as a way to make sure that another set of eyes are reviewing posts before they go live and to address the inevitable skepticism of law firm management about inappropriate content. The goal is to provide valuable content so that the law firm that is blogging can be looked at as a thought leader on a subject area.  Some good examples of law firms currently blogging are the Sheppard Mullins blogs on a host of issues including Antitrust and  Chinese Law, Reed Smith’s real estate blog and Jackson Lewis ’s OSHA blog.  Kevin O’Keefe from LexBlog has a great list of law firm blogs that everyone should check out.

As you will see the blog content does not (and probably should not be) all about the law firm and how great the law firm is at a certain practice area.  Instead discuss recent legal developments, provide an analysis of regulations, talk about the law firm’s culture, introduce a new intern or secretary at the law firm to the world or talk about a recent volunteer day - what we are saying is don’t push the law firm but instead create an identity that your readers can relate to. Ultimately you want to create a genuine place where your audience can come to not be sold to, but learn and have a conversation.

An easy way to create content is take some of the email blasts/alerts that your law firm uses and add those to your blog.   If you are sending those alerts out anyway, your law firm might as well create a way to have that content accessible and allow others to comment on the alerts.

Raj Malik and Erin West

5. Stay Away from Testimonials & Endorsements - One way to deal with the inevitable question about state lawyer ethics rules and social media marketing is to stay away from testimonials and endorsements.  Also make sure your content, comments, narratives and conversations are not misleading, deceptive or imply that if you are hired you will get a certain result for a client.  Other rules apply of course, but keep these in mind when you are out in the online community.  Also it is good practice to have someone at the law firm to monitor the comments to the blog posts to delete spam and other inappropriate comments that sometimes get posted.

6. Create Social Media Guidelines & Communicate With Each Other - To make sure everyone is on the same page at the law firm, we recommend that you create social media guidelines and then incorporate those guidelines into your law firm’s social media practices.  Also take the time to get together and discuss the guidelines so your team is on the same page as you engage the community.  If you need to see an example of some guidelines, here is a previous blog post on this subject by Network Solutions and a recent post that discusses IBM’s and Intel’s policies.

7. Your Social Media Plan - Check out the slides from the presentation and in particular the second to last one that suggests a social media plan for you and your law firm.  These include setting up alerts, joining networks, taking 15-2o minutes a day reviewing the conversation and engaging and much, much more!

The event hashtag on Twitter was #growsmartbiz and click here for some of the coverage of the discussion during the presentation.    Feel free to share with your law firm marketing and lawyer friends.

Thanks to Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox, P.L.L.C and Erin West for hosting us and the great lunch.  Special thanks as well to Larissa Fair for doing a wonderful job organizing the event.  Hope to see everyone on July 22nd.

Lastly, remember to follow us on Twitter.  I am @rkm2929 and Shashi is @shashib and you can follow Network Solutions as well at @netsolcares.  Also a final disclaimer is this post does not contain legal guidance. If you have any questions, please consult with your attorney (or yourself if you are a lawyer!) before proceeding.

Let us know if you have any good tips on social media for lawyers in the comments.

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  • Great job on the advice guys. In fact great steps here for just about any biz. Thanks for the Radian6 shout out too.

    Cheers.
    @davidalston
    Radian6

    PS. Hope all is well with you Shashi
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