It’s important to keep in mind that social media success today is so much more than the number of likes, comments or shares you have. It’s about engagement, lead generation, and retaining and delighting current clients with your posts and interactions.
By aligning your content and social media strategy to your business development goals, you will be able to focus in on the practices and industries that support growth efforts and the lawyers to spotlight within them. If you use data and competitive intelligence to help support these efforts (such as Google analytics, web site, social media and email statistics, among others), you will be a powerhouse in social media marketing because you will be informed and able to pivot to meet your audience’s needs.
Remember, everything you do in all law firm marketing efforts should be centered on bringing leads and delighting your clients, and that most certainly includes every piece of content you post. Client-centric content is what will enhance your business development goals. The underlying idea is that you are top of mind when your network needs someone like you, which is why you’ll create and post content regularly.
So let’s explore how to do this (these tips are for any size firm and level and often cost little or nothing).
Get into the BD lead generation mindset
Every legal marketing professional should think of themselves as a business development professional regardless of their job title. A marketing professional must be focused on lead generation and business development in their role to really understand what their firm’s goals are, especially when it comes to content.
...regularly meet with your business development colleagues to understand their priorities
So if you are a communications person, regularly meet with your business development colleagues to understand their priorities and how you can support their efforts.
In addition, review practice plans with your business development team so you really understand your firm’s practice and industry goals. Make sure you know who the top clients in each practice/industry are. Become well-versed in your firm’s strategic plan so that you understand the bigger picture. Focus on supporting the key rainmakers at your firm, the up-and-coming star associates, and junior partners.
With the practice and lawyer points noted above, be strategic in choosing on which areas you focus. This may change each year based on firm and practice goals. Therefore, it is so important to be closely aligned with business development efforts.
Determine your overall content goals
In order to get to where you want to go, it’s important to know where you are. Work with firm leaders and key partners to answer the following questions:
- What are the firm’s business goals and can they be supported through content?
- What does the firm want to accomplish using content?
- What are your firm’s key differentiators?
- What do you want to be known for?
- Key industries/practices
- Timely issues
- Remember: You can’t be everything to everyone
Then to identify your target audiences, ask the following:
- Which social networks will work best to reach your target audiences
- How and when are your target audiences engaging on social media?
Use the answers to these questions to help you refine your social media strategy.
Set up your content/social media strategy
Select your platforms (for example, most firms want a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram). Your firm should ONLY focus on those where you know your clients and target audiences are. It’s better to narrow down the focus and do those well. Also, always adjust content for the medium. What I mean by this is don’t post the same content on each platform – one size doesn’t fit all.
Use an editorial/content calendar to help you manage your posts and share the calendar with your business development colleagues and lawyers to ensure they are on board and to seek their input.
Next, as you move to the content itself, always aim to create timely, client-centric, educational content and explain and anticipate what developments mean to your readers. Make your content work harder and smarter for you by:
- Reusing and repurposing it
- Creating once, publishing it everywhere (adjusting for the social networks)
- Taking the time to create visuals to accompany your posts – they increase not just your brand awareness on social but also clickthroughs
- Sprinkling in timeless, evergreen content when you have content gaps (I call these the content gifts that keep giving)
- Effectively use visuals, hashtags, calls to action, and folding in more interactive content such as videos and podcasts
The most important step that many firms miss is to train employees on how to use social media to tap into their valuable networks (especially when it comes to LinkedIn). One wise thing to do is to develop a training program/cheat sheet and offer deskside training to your lawyers. You need access to their professional networks to achieve maximum engagement.
Always write in your clients’ voice, for your clients
When creating content, write often (and quickly) about updates impacting your clients. Your content must always be client-centric and written in your clients’ language. Here are some quick tips for how to jumpstart your content marketing efforts.
- Don’t wait – create and distribute content while the topic is hot (good is often good enough)
- Shorter is better and use attractive visuals to accompany the posts. Write timeless “why” and “how-to” “evergreen” pieces that you can republish over and over – every practice has them.
- Always think show vs. tell.
- Say no to defined terms, unnecessary capitalizations, double and triple spaces (gasp!) between sentences, legal terms, footnotes, antiquated listing systems, etc.
- Write short/concise headlines that quickly get to the point – bonus points if you can use numbers, “Five Ways to…” or top takeaways.
- Create and distribute content while the topic is hot – a good piece of content today is better than a fantastic piece three days from now.
- Update an old client alert with strong readership rates (or create a Part Two) and voilà, you have a new piece of content!
- Create “evergreen” and “how-to” client alerts and plan them out over the course of the year.
- Each quarter study the analytics on your top-rated blog posts and client alerts. Look for commonalities on why they did well or not (was it the headline? Structure? Topic?) Then strategize to find ways to replicate the posts. Remember, create more of what resonates and less of what doesn’t.
- Your content must focus on the reader, not the writer. Too often, lawyers write for themselves – what they think is interesting – or for their colleagues who are not their target audience. It’s important to remember that often your clients aren’t lawyers – so don’t write in legalese!
How promoting others bolsters your brand and network
Promoting the successes of others in your network can build stronger relationships and lead to new business. Dedicate some of your social posts to congratulate others – especially clients and prospects, and referral sources. Get into the mindset of “How can I help you?” Paying it forward and giving before you get will build a stronger brand for yourself. You will attract people to you if you are humble, helpful and complimentary.
Use analytics to create content that engages readers
You need to know how your content is performing so that you can create more of what works well and less of what doesn’t.
Provide your content producers with analytics after each alert/campaign...
For your content strategy to be successful, you must be committed to assessing its performance on a regular basis. This will enable you to refine your content. Provide your content producers with analytics after each alert/campaign; it will motivate them. Become best friends with your Google Analytics each month – it’s free!
Use content syndicators such as JDSupra – there are several other terrific ones on the market and if you have the budget to have more than one, go for it. A combination of them will enable your content to reach a wide audience.
Use LinkedIn to your advantage
It’s important to link in with the people you meet in person who you consider worthwhile to extend the relationship online. I could dedicate an entire article to this topic – oh wait, I have! See here and here! The Cliffs Notes on this is that LinkedIn is powerful. The platform gives you a reason to be in touch with contacts in your professional network through status updates and content.
Today, most people do not send an email when they move jobs, instead they use LinkedIn to notify their network. It’s up to you to do the due diligence to find where they landed. So what can you do with LinkedIn to build your network and bring in new business?
- Every day, like and/or share others’ posts in your industry and at the firm
- Congratulate the successes of those in your network through its notifications section – job moves, promotion, work anniversaries, professional milestones (an appointment to a board, an award, the publishing of a book, etc.)
- Use LinkedIn before and after events to build relationships and research attendees
- Log in during your commute or downtime to check out what people in your network are posting, who has switched jobs, who is celebrating a work anniversary, who is speaking at an event or has written a blog post or article. Use these professional milestones to reach out to individuals who you’ve been meaning to contact. I have seen these notifications reignite relationships and lead to new client engagements. They can serve as the "hook" you need to get your foot back in the door.
Develop a LinkedIn BD strategy
To take your LinkedIn efforts to the next level, think about the following:
- What do I want to accomplish with my LinkedIn profile?
- How will I determine whether this has been a successful business development venture? Simply increasing your number of connections isn’t enough of a measurement metric. It’s better to determine success by measuring things like lead generation, new business meetings and increased traffic to your profile
- How much time will I dedicate to using LinkedIn to cultivate business? What you will get out of it should be proportionate to what you’re putting in.
- It’s great to have many connections on LinkedIn, but if the relationship never leaves the site, what’s the point?
- The goal with LinkedIn is to turn those connections into referral sources or new clients. To do this, create a strong LinkedIn profile (use keywords that will help you appear in searches). Write for people to read it. Connect with every important professional you meet and personalize your invite. Remind the person where you met, mention something you remember from a conversation you had, or better yet, open the door to a future meeting.
- Create a connections plan. Go through your Outlook contacts and make sure you are connected to VIP people on LinkedIn. Connect with the people who have viewed your profile (if you know them). Use LinkedIn’s tools – “People You May Know.” Search through your colleagues’ connections as well as those of your competitors for leads.
- Be generous – like and share others’ posts and congratulate others on their successes, especially your VIP connections. Build online rapport and follow people you admire on Twitter, retweet their content, like and comment on their statuses and share their content on LinkedIn. Supporting others helps to build a strong community. Post a status update on LinkedIn when you travel to another city for work or for a conference so you can easily connect with others in the area.
So why do all of this? While many of your connections may not be ready to hire a lawyer at the time, they may be in the future. When they reach that point, you will be top of mind.
Maximize the ROI of every event
Don’t just attend an event and run back to the office. Instead immerse yourself in the conference experience and differentiate yourself as a subject-matter expert by making yourself part of the conversation on social media (engaging on Twitter using the conference's hashtag) or writing an article on the top takeaways that you learned from it. You could also interview your favorite speakers and write an article (easily transcribe the interview using your iPhone and another one of my favorite tools, the cheap online transcription tool Temi).
Don't forget to connect with those speakers (and key attendees you met) on LinkedIn afterwards to continue the relationship offline. I have many more tips on how to maximize every conference at which you attend and speak – you can read them here. Think of every conference or firm-hosted event as an opportunity to build your brand and bring in leads.
As Paul Ryplewski from JD Supra put it in a recent post, you can do so much to leverage your event content, such as:
- produce a recap of soundbite insights from panelists
- report on industry trends that were the focus of the conference
- write a summary of the entire event
- don't be shy to report on your own firm-branded and hosted event
- record a panel discussion - or all sessions - and release as an informative video, or video series
For all firms and lawyers, the goal of social media marketing should be lead generation and business development. How you get there is by building targeted relationships, staying top of mind, providing helpful content and consistently adding value. Remember, only create and share content based on your strategic business development goals – everything else is irrelevant!
[Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 17 years, she has worked with some of the most prominent and innovative law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating business development and communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multichannel content marketing and social media campaigns. She is very passionate about using social media for lead generation and brand building. She has a diverse range of experience in both Big Law and mid-size/small-law firms. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra as well as her blog The Social Media Butterfly.]