To Pin or Not to Pin? That is the Question.

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This is a shortened version of a longer article that appeared in the May/June issue of the LMA Capital Chapter Newsletter. Thank you to the author Jenna O’Connor, Director of Marketing, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP, Baltimore, MD for allowing us to re-post this.

Is it really worth it to push your law firm’s brand on Pinterest?

Each of the successful social media platforms seems to have found its niche market. LinkedIn provides a professional environment with which to network without ever leaving one’s desk; Facebook works for recruiting, brand management and certain practices with Facebook-engaged audiences. Twitter allows firms to engage their clients on a real-time, short-burst interaction basis, and is valuable for firms that have a heavy focus on SEO. Google+ may be superfluous in the networking world, but Google’s algorithm rules the universe, so many firms use it in hopes that the SEO benefits will be worth the time invested.

The new kid on the block, Pinterest, is virtually an online scrapbook where users compile groupings of images (with attributed links to the original source and the associated content). It has been touted as being incredibly useful for wedding planning, kitchen and other home renovations, wardrobe and fashion choices, and other popular topics. If you have never used Pinterest, please check out the Pinterest Beginners’ Guide for a step-by-step explanation of how it works.

I firmly believe that you must decide 3 things before delving into a firm or brand-related Pinterest account: 1) who is your target audience?, 2) is this a beneficial use of marketing time?, and 3) are you well informed on the copyright issues beginning to arise from Pinterest use, and are you willing to deal with the aftermath? The vast majority (97%) of Pinterest users are women; if your target client base falls into that category (for example, a Family Law practice might be a good fit) then it might make sense to have a presence on a social media platform that is almost exclusively used by women.

Pinterest is a great way to organize blogs, articles, and other infographics into one neat location where you can find, share, and keep track of information pertinent to your practice areas and attorneys. If you Pin a photo of each attorney under a Board titled “Our Lawyers”, each photo could link back to his/her bio page on your website (thereby driving traffic to your site). If one managed a practice area-specific Board, he/she could Pin relevant blog entries from other attorneys, news articles on hot legal topics, or simply white papers that the firm has written on a topic. As far as business development efforts go, an “Our Clients” Board could contain Pins of client’s brands, photos, or other links that would further the client’s marketing efforts, as well as show the relationship therein. The hope would be that if the client has a presence on Pinterest, they would in turn Pin your brand efforts on their board, and your network would expand further to their followers. There are clear ways to use Pinterest within the parameters of your current social media and online marketing efforts, and I’m sure as time goes on more will become evident.

Another possible tactic is to use the rapidly popular “humanizing the attorney” marketing method, allowing attorneys to post on personal Pinterest pages (or Boards within the firm’s page) products, books, vacation spots, etc. that they like. This would be in hopes that a potential or current client finds a common ground with the attorney, thusly forming the “trusted advisor” bond that many lawyers hope to achieve. On the flip side, some clients may not care to share their likes and dislikes with their attorney, and the oversharing of information may be misconstrued or considered unnecessary. Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all-firms situation. Do your own due diligence as to what would work best in your firm’s culture.

On the flip side, there are several obvious negatives. First, the ever present struggle against the clock: do you have the time/manpower within your staff/energy to follow through with yet another social media outlet to the point where it is worthwhile and beneficial to business development and brand management?

The second drawback, which is rapidly becoming newsworthy, is regarding the copyright issues noted in Pinterest’s Terms of Use. It is expected that a user will ensure that each and every Pin on their Boards is attributed to the original author, lest they violate the terms and can face prosecution. Where rapid Re-Pinning occurs, it is easy to lose the trail. According to Business Insider, “users must have explicit permission from the owner to post everything.” This wouldn’t pose a problem with original firm content, but anything beyond that could pose a problem depending on how stringent the rules are. While there hasn’t been much in the way of litigation on these matters yet, the hot topic of debate may rear its ugly head down the road.

Pinterest is certainly a worthwhile organizational social media tool, and has been proven valuable in many companies’ brand management efforts. However, as far as its beneficial use in law firm marketing is concerned, I believe the jury is still out.