Social Media as Marketing

Roberta Gubbins, The Legal News

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking to the Bankruptcy Section of Ingham County Bar Association. The subject was marketing — using and writing for social media. The food was pizza and the location was the State Bar of Michigan. I enjoyed the experience.

In researching the topic, I came across some information on social media that might be of interest to all of our readers. Social media includes several different platforms; I stuck to blogs, newsletters, Twitter and Facebook. There are many others but these four are usually the ones used by lawyers as a way to build a relationship with clients.

No matter which platform you use, the trend for 2013 is to be authentic and give information. Think of social media as a meeting at a softball game or a coffee shop where you can sit and chat. It is not hard sell. Social media is designed to keep your name before your client as someone they can respect and trust.

Writing is a communication between a writer and a reader. When you write for your client, you use one style; when you write a brief for a judge, you use a different style. It is important to have the reader in your mind as you write. Fiction writers know this — John Grisham has a pretty good idea who will be reading his book as they sit in the airport waiting for a flight. You should, too. Keep that client in mind as you write.

What do you do if you can only do one thing? Write a blog, says Nick Westergard, brand strategist.

A web log or blog is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries. The topics are usually limited to one area of the law or a particular interest. The ABA lists the top 100 blawgs each year. The winners included SCOTUSblog.com, which is about the U.S. Supreme Court; myshingle. com, written by a D.C. solo practitioner; and patentlyo.com written by a law professor.

Many write every day, many not so often, but they are consistent and that seems to be the key. Write with regular frequency. Blog writing style is less formal but not sloppy. Most blogs are about 250 words.

With all writing, it is important to write the draft, let it age a bit and then revise, finding the sentences that ramble on or make no sense. Stephen King recommends that you put your manuscript in a drawer and leave it for six weeks. We don’t have six weeks but even an hour of rest makes a difference.

Newsletters provide more information. The topics can include the latest changes or additions in  your area of the law as well as news about your firm. Include a personal column with your likes, dislikes, your hobbies or other interests outside the law. Your clients like to know a little about the lawyer they are entrusting their problems to.

Newsletters can be distributed via snail mail or e-mail. They should be sent to people who want them; if using e-mail, allow for a method to unsubscribe.

Twitter uses tweets that are short (140 characters) bursts of thoughts or news sent out to the public or your followers. Recent Pew Research reported that Twitter users are younger and more Democratic than the public at large. While fewer than 3% of adults tweet or retweet news items, that is still a lot of readers making it worthwhile.

The Grande Dame of social media is Facebook. As of September 2012, it had a billion readers. It is multilingual, meaning that one could have a Facebook page in English, Spanish or Korean, if so inclined. Writers send out little news items, upload pictures and comment on others’ bits of information.

I think the most important point to remember is that social media is about building relationships. Give your clients information and news they can use and they will come to know and trust you. Then, when they are asked, “Hey, do you know a good attorney?” they will give out your name. And, in my opinion, that is the best you can ask of any marketing program.

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