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Marketing expert explains how social media has raised the bar

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Owner of Les Go Social Media Marketing and Training, Leslie McGraw is a multimedia content strategist who helps lawyers understand, market, and use social media to their advantage.

A blogger, online content writer and freelance journalist, McGraw has published more than 200 articles. She is a member of the Ann Arbor Writers Group and co-leader of All Things Artistic Ministries, Inc. (ATAMI) Writer’s Group. She is a recipient of The Leaven Center’s Eleanor S. Morrison Scholarship for Creative Writing for Social Justice and the University of Michigan Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award.

Pursglove: Why is social media important for law firms?

McGraw:
Everyone intent on bringing in money should have a social media presence – including those in the legal community. The Internet is now the trusted and most-used method to search, research, and find a lawyer. In 2005, 7 percent of consumers used the Internet to find a lawyer – in 2014 that number rose to 38 percent.

Ten years ago, online marketing meant a website, an e-mail, and perhaps a marketplace or informational blog. Now social media adds intrigue and depth. Legal websites must have current information, responsive design for mobile users, and a quality landing page with a clear explanation of why you exist. Social media is an extension of the website and customer service, and is where consumers discover the “personality” of the firm. It is also where happy (and disgruntled) clients can publicly share experiences and “vote” on the best (or worst). Potential clients can Google news articles where lawyers and firms are mentioned, find photos from community events, read about recognition and awards, and more.

Most importantly, social media gives attorneys the opportunity to shape what stands out online and to create value for prospective clients. Social media marketing campaigns almost always have to take on a teaching role to educate the public about resources, laws, process and expectations that are required to achieve results for clients. Social media can “demystify” legal terms and concepts that are formal, granular, and often incomprehensible to the layperson.

Legal awareness has increased with the onset of legal education for the public. The Internet is full of unauthorized legal advice; and America has an ongoing love affair with courtroom drama specials, movies, novels, and TV shows.

The bar has been raised for high-profile criminal law with the increase of real-time, raw video footage. Civil and social justice advocates often use visual storytelling to press for urgency and attention on issues. But, often the discussions are more idealistic than realistic – such as when national attention was given to Florida’s “stand your ground law” in the Trayvon Martin case.
Most Americans did not have an understanding of the law or know that some version of the same law is active in 23 states. Real-time media and video coverage appeal to the court of public opinion but lawyers make arguments based on current laws while shedding light on what should happen; the client argument cannot be based on what the laws should be.     

Pursglove: How can lawyers use social media to their advantage?

McGraw:
First – it lets people know you exist. A website should have a map with a link to driving directions, a Google + business page that has been verified, and at least one indexing source such as Yellow Pages.

Traffic can then be increased with Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but is greatly affected by social media content. A blog, Twitter activity ticker, or event calendar create a sense of regular activity and pushes the practice higher on the search results listing.    

According to Google, Inc., 96 percent of consumers do not click beyond the first website page. Colorful Infographics, embedded Smug Mug or Flickr photos, YouTube or Vimeo videos, informative and engaging presentations via SlideShare, Current News plug ins, or other third party apps, can entice readers to look further – the goal being to have people on a website as frequently as possible, for as long as possible.

Each time a website is listed on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Pinterest, the site is naturally ranked higher on search engine results. Social media gives readers a quick intro into an attorney’s passion for law – and particular specialty. For example, a probate lawyer can engage and explain why probate law is important, what probate is, and his expertise in this field.

Now, for the tricky part…answering questions in a way that reveals something personal – not as in something to be shared with a therapist, but something so human that readers can relate to it, and unique enough to stand out as an individual experience or perspective.

Pursglove: How does social media provide a competitive edge?

McGraw:
Good social media campaigns take on a “giver” personality. With regular engagement on social media, clients feel connected to an attorney or firm. And the extra effort is seen as a form of customer service.

Social media can help solo practitioners scale up business in several ways, including customized news options through Google Alerts, creation of a free phone number with Google Voice, and online followers lending energy to an online presence and credibility to the practice. Social media can help consumers differentiate between general and specialty law practices.
Social media can help qualify client leads as it discourages consumers who want something different from your niche, and encourages curiosity among prospects that may find you a good fit.

Pursglove: What sort of social media is important to attorneys?

McGraw:
A well designed and engaging website is a must. Google + and Linked In are good places for Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) interaction, with a professional look and feel. Creating a Google account will open up a large world to engage with. The first step is listening; Google + Circles and LinkedIn groups will allow you to do that.
Follow conversations in a few groups and you will start to see the same information (and misinformation), questions, and quandaries. Implementing these into your “talk” can help you be seen as relevant online and offline.

Listening and engaging in discussions with other attorneys can help you craft your own “pitch” as well as gain access to resources to share with your followers (which hopefully translate into client leads). Blogs are important and healthy for websites, and can be as short as 150 words and occasionally just a picture or infographic.  Each blog post does not have to include fresh content. The requirements for success include consistency, relevancy, and quality. That could mean one original item four times a year, and re-blogged articles from other established bloggers every couple of weeks.

Pursglove: What appeals to legal consumers?

McGraw:
Free stuff. Anything that appears to be free yields excitement and is a powerful marketing technique. Free answers to common questions, tips, e-books, and resources all create value for consumers. But before the free stuff is offered a buzz must be created. Internet radio, talk radio, and event sponsorships create buzz and drive traffic to your social media. A content creator or social media specialist can help tailor your campaign for the greatest impact.

Pursglove: What social media mistakes do you see made by law firms?

McGraw:
The biggest mistake is not being on social media. Playing it safe will keep you unaware and distant from clients and potential customers. Social media keeps you in tune with current events in the community. Local, regional, national, and global events and the response from the public on social media can give you a crucial edge on the competition and help you to potentially see other angles of issues your clients may be facing.

Pursglove: What are potential pitfalls?

McGraw:
(1) Voter-heavy social sites and “friending” can be dangerous as you are often judged by who you are connected to, almost as much as you are by your content.

(2) Don’t argue online. Ever.

(3) Address publicly, make amends, or discuss privately.

(4) While maintaining your professionalism, remember your social media still must be engaging to be effective.

(5) Sites specializing in abbreviated text, e.g. Twitter, Kik, Snapchat, leave too much ambiguity and could be misrepresented or taken out of context by followers. Twitter is recommended for presence, but the communication must be controlled and monitored.

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