Social media has become an indispensable tool of our digital age. What began as a fun communications platform has developed into a method for businesses to build their brands and engage with consumers. This is no different where law firms are concerned. Your social accounts can help to bolster your expertise, highlight your successes, and help give you a competitive edge.
That’s not to say it’s always easy. Social media is fraught with pitfalls, even beyond the marketing mistakes. It is an instantly sharable medium, and your mistakes in this arena can spread around the globe in moments. As a lawyer, your firm is only as solid as your reputation, which means that you need to tighten up your social media protocols to avoid any potential negative impact.
We’re going to explore some of the common social media mistakes that law firms make, and how they can affect your practice. We’ll also look at some best practices that can help make certain that your posts assert a positive influence.
One of the main mistakes any business can make on social media is treating it as a casual platform. Even though social media has the appearance of being a space to share thoughts and ideas, this doesn’t make it any less vital that you maintain a professional and consistent brand appearance. You don’t want your followers to get the impression that your firm — a company they should be trusting — is unpredictable or unreliable
Avoiding this pitfall begins by creating a strong brand voice. This should be an element that’s present across not just all of your social platforms but all your marketing channels. Your website, content, and email outreach should also present a united voice. This doesn’t mean to say that your content needs to be formulaic. Give your brand voice a personality that represents your firm and the values you wish to express to your followers.
This brand consistency helps to reinforce the reputation of your firm. This doesn’t just go for vocal or visual aspects either. You also need to maintain a schedule of good quality social media content. Show your followers that you are constantly considering their needs, and provide them with posts that provide actionable, accurate advice that they can use. One of the mistakes companies often make with social media is failing to respond to comments — so make it a part of your brand identity that you give your audience the attention they deserve.
You want to provide your social media followers with useful information that can help them and insights that can show them why your firm is the best at what you do. However, there’s a fine line between engaging in an open forum and sharing too much. While examples of cases or tales of your successes can help to bolster your expertise in your field, sharing these on social media can be a breach of your ethical standards.
Treat your social media as you would your firm’s office environment. Don’t share details of cases with anybody who isn’t directly involved in them. Don’t make names, events, or third-party details public knowledge without gaining express permission. Remember that hypotheticals used to describe situations are permitted under the American Bar Association’s confidentiality guidelines, but care must still be taken to ensure there is no reasonable likelihood that a client can be identified as a result. If in doubt, avoid posting.
It’s equally important that an ethical approach to social media be taken both in the firm’s official channels, and those owned or operated by other members or staff. If staff use their own devices at work, and documents or case details are shared via the cloud or messaging apps, there is a risk that these can be posted to socials. The best approach is to develop social media and device use protocols into your staff code of conduct. Be explicit about how cell phones can and cannot be used during work hours, particularly with respect to confidential information. Make it clear that the sharing of company information, cases, or news without direct permission is not tolerated.
Social media is notorious for its strong, sometimes unpopular opinions. Perhaps this is the result of its appearance of being a more casual platform, where people feel able to express their thoughts with impunity. This should not be the view of your law firm. It can be tempting in the heat of the moment to express frustration at what you consider to be an unjust decision by a judge. You might even wish to warn potential clients about the practices of other law professionals. However, doing so via social media can have consequences. Not only can it sour the relationships with those who respect those you are badmouthing, but it also paints your practice in a particularly unflattering light. While clients may be looking for lawyers who have some backbone, they also need representatives that can show some tact and discretion.
When you or any other partner in your firm feels frustrated at the outcome of a case or the conduct of another firm, focus on your own positive thoughts and feelings. Highlight why, in your considerable professional experience, you feel justice could have better been achieved. Talk about solutions, and how important it is to guide your clients through their options even when a case doesn’t go as planned. In place of opinions, create teachable moments that you can use to better market your firm via social media.
Even though some accounts owned by staff or even partners will not be directly attributed to your firm, posting indiscrete opinions on them can still reflect badly on your business. We live in a connected digital environment, and it’s not difficult to trace the owner of a private account back to their employer. While you can’t always control what everyone in the firm will post, it can be useful to encourage the adoption of disclaimers in account bios. Ensure staff asserts that opinions expressed on their accounts are their own, so that you can distance your firm from them if necessary.
For law firms, social media can be both a gold mine and a minefield. It is vital to tread carefully and set up company-wide protocols to ensure accounts are used positively and ethically. With a strategic and responsible focus, you can ensure your socials operate as tools for branding that can influence your success.
About The Author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.