How to REALLY use social media to your advantage

How to REALLY use social media to your advantage

AUTHOR NOTE (Read this first): This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Marketing the Law Firm (which has several other fantastic, in-depth articles about marketing strategy). Reprinted with permission. While this article was written for law firms, the principles are applicable to nearly any professional services firm that is time-strapped but needs to maintain good touchpoints with their client base. 

We are in an online economy where traditional marketing tactics are falling short of meeting the expectations of highly-mobile users who expect transparency and accessibility from the businesses they deal with. For law firms, transparency can present some challenge, but accessibility is something your social media presence can overcome with a focused effort on your part.

Social media networks aren’t just for marketing, although many of the ad products being developed on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram offer amazing potential to target real potential buyers. But like any advertising, you must continually replenish those accounts, whereas using social media to build influence, authority, and trust can earn you top-of-mind awareness, referrals, and other audience building opportunities that will grow your firm. Below, you will find several areas where you can focus your efforts in social media, so it isn’t an overwhelming investment of time, but provides a very positive return.

Networking

Using social media for networking should be one of your top reasons for being active on any social channel. Even the simple act of liking posts and leaving comments creates touch points that keep you top of mind with your network. When you engage in a deeper conversation, or share something helpful (even if it is someone else’s content), you build more trust and authority with this same network.

Combining the two levels of engagement (the “lightweight” signals such as liking and commenting, and the “deeper” signals such as private follow-up and sharing) is a routine that anybody can make time for. The consistency feeds the social network algorithms to recommend your content more outside your own network as well, where new faces will start to identify you as a useful and authoritative resource.

To do more networking on social media, develop a simple process that takes 15-20 minutes per day, and includes the following:

  • Organizing your contacts on social channels (LinkedIn tags, Facebook lists, Twitter lists, Google+ Circles)
  • Browsing the content being shared by these lists, and engaging with some or all of them. If something genuinely interests you, personally or professionally, strike up conversation on that person’s post, or even reshare it to your own profile with a mention or thanks to the person who originally shared it.
  • Searching for new connections and conversations happening around your area of expertise, so you can introduce yourself and connect with peers.

This simple routine will keep you top-of-mind with your entire network, and over time, you should expect to see more referrals, mentions, or even publicity opportunities like interviews for podcasts or Google Hangouts.

Online Profiles

The networking you’re doing in the above routine will expose you to a growing audience of new faces. Insightful comments and content will cause those new faces to naturally want to click over to your online profile to learn more about you, so be sure to periodically review and optimize your online profiles.

  • Write in the first person
  • Add some icebreaker/personal content so people can get to know you as a person better, and possibly feel more of a connection to you if you have something in common. Remember, people buy from people, and by the time they click over to your profile, they already know something about you professionally.
  • Include links to your most authoritative content, as well as anything that generates leads for your firm (a whitepaper, video, checklist, etc).
  • Don’t pitch, rather, share the unique way you solve your clients’ legal challenges, but in a way that puts the focus on the benefit of that result, not the result itself. For example, if you’re a personal injury attorney, instead of “I will do everything in my power to win your case and get you the judgment you deserve,” say “My whole team works on a case non-stop until it’s won, and you can get back to the life you deserve.” Subtle differences, yes, but in the latter you’re conveying the fact you are accessible, and that you care about justice and the client’s well-being, not just a big check.

Changing up your writing style for online interaction can be difficult, but this more empathetic approach will definitely make stronger connections between you and potential clients. Plus, you’ll stand out from the norm!

Listening

Your social media routine thus far has been focused on building strong connections between you and your networks. Adding social listening into your strategy opens up new opportunities to help others by sharing your expertise with them. In turn, you become more trustworthy and likely to be recommended or referred by others.

Social listening comes in the form of watching news feeds and searches for discussions taking place outside your network in which you can participate. A trending topic that affects one of your practice areas, for example. Or searching for tweets that use keywords a potential client would use.

Make it a point to spend some time monitoring both the news and keyword-based searches for opportunities to engage in business development, but also for opportunities to write about a topic that people are talking about NOW. By listening to the words and phrases your audience is already using, you can frame your content in a way that will appeal directly to them, making you more trustworthy and authoritative in their eyes.

Reviews

Asking for reviews plays a huge part in building your credibility online. Obviously, when encouraging satisfied clients to leave reviews on your Avvo profile, Google My Business listing, LinkedIn, or even for your website (but Google My Business or Avvo would be my recommendation as first and second options, respectively), remind them to focus on the experience of working with you, and not to disclose any personal or case information.

Reviews give you opportunities to showcase your expertise in a way that isn’t contrived, and in a way that could speak more broadly about your expertise than what you have on your website. To use our personal injury attorney from above, a review about how she helped a client win a case against a gym would assist someone else in that same situation realize she was capable of handling their case as well. Chances are the attorney doesn’t have gyms listed as part of the practice area mix on her firm’s website, but the review essentially added this extra context for a more focused, and higher-converting, audience.

Content

Believe it or not, the routines you’ve created for yourself from the above sections just opened up a treasure trove of content opportunities for your website, email newsletters, and social media activity. You just need to start training yourself to look for those opportunities, and build a routine from which to turn an idea into a piece of content.

Thought Leadership

The culmination of all your online activity, and the exercises above, result in your putting a unique spin on the way you present yourself online. The sooner you can identify this unique point of view, the better, because you’ll use it as a backdrop for the way you position your content, and the way you seek out and interact with people online.

Are these activities and mindsets a departure from how a typical attorney represents themselves online? Of course, but you aren’t a typical attorney, are you?

Another author’s note: the articles I’ve been fortunate enough to write for Marketing the Law Firm seem to be among my best pieces, so I encourage you to read the others that I’ve republished here:

About Stephan Hovnanian

I own Shovi Websites, a website design and email marketing company located outside Boston. I spend my days managing websites and staying up to speed with all the latest trends across the web so you don't have to.

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