For many lawyers, the time spent building their presence and visibility on social media networks serves a few related goals—visibility, expanding their networks, and establishing themselves as a voice about some industry or legal subject matter.
Social media success comes down to content, plain and simple. If your message is going to travel beyond your existing audience and serve these goals, it needs to be relevant and engaging.
Consider some of the fastest-growing publications and websites in recent years, such as Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, as well as your favorite legal bloggers. Sure, they bang away on their social channels all day every day. But how does that drive growth? Because the content is strong. To prosper in the echo chamber of social media channels, you have to have something to talk about. And because it’s so much easier to tweet than to create, and so much easier to retweet than to tweet, consistent sources of quality posts and commentary will have plenty of other people who will amplify and spread that messaging for them.
What keeps many lawyers from excelling on their chosen social channels is not just too few hours in the day (usually my excuse for creating too little content), but also a nagging discomfort about what messages they should and should not be broadcasting.
Content is (Still) King
For the content part, choosing our messages, it’s never a bad idea to stick to what you know. In my practice and in my sidepreneur company, Name Warden, I spend a lot of time working on trademark matters. A few examples of effective content use in that legal arena:
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board blog (@TTABlog on Twitter) run by John Welch, has been a legal blogging mainstay for years. I’ve never met John, but I consider him a leading authority on the USPTO’s TTAB decisions, just based on the blog content, which is something I see and access via a social feed. Blogging at this level is time-consuming and hard work, and few lawyers give it as much time and effort as John, who I believe posts every day.
Another example of a practice using social media within their wheelhouse is Trust Tree, a law firm that regularly tweets about trademark registrations on this day in history. From the outside, this looks like a more time-efficient way to maintain a relevant and interesting drumbeat, as opposed to daily blog articles.
With Name Warden, we like to use the data that drives our product to generate strong content of interest to our target audience, trademark lawyers. A recent example is when we thought about all of the news we’d been seeing about trademark disputes among beer companies, many of them young craft breweries. So we did a data dive, and sure enough, the uptick in trademark applications for beer brands looked awesome. So we blogged and tweeted and posted about it on LinkedIn.
The point for any law practice is a basic one: let content drive your social media usage, and let your areas of expertise drive your content. Chit-chat and human-making conversations are always good, but can be a slippery slope into areas of controversy and touchiness like politics, religion, and SEC football.
Define Your Field of Play
Talking to a number of lawyers over the years who don’t take advantage of social media outlets, it seems to be a matter of fear of saying the wrong thing or not having much to say.
So here’s what I tell CLE classes when invited onto a panel: pick the social platforms where your practice will most benefit from the visibility. Then affirmatively define your field of play in terms of topic areas, and within that field, run as fast and hit as hard as you like. If it’s trademarks and local restaurants, great. Startups and cooking, wonderful. Publicly reported litigation news and little league baseball, got for it. It will vary from lawyer to lawyer.
Defining the scope of your content affirmatively is the best way I have found to get rid of the fear that some lawyers still feel about the text-based broadcasting that happens over social channels. That kind of worry keeps many knowledgeable voices quiet.
Do a Little Training
While it seems like old news to many of us, my unscientific polling of lawyers suggests that many firms have not trained or refreshed their long-stale training about social media best practices. Though they should know better, some will say, “Our lawyers really aren’t that active in social media, so we don’t do much training through the firm.” Yikes.
Fact is, your lawyers and staff members are on these social channels all the time, even if it’s only Facebook, and even if it’s mostly not work-related. Very smart people post dumb things every day, and a periodic lunch-and-learn can only help to remind people of risks, recent horror stories to avoid, and the value of thoughtful interaction. As we all know, people will show up for a free lunch. That makes pizza is a very effective risk management tool.
About the Author
Chris Gatewood is the founder of Threshold Counsel, PC, in Richmond, Virginia, where he provides intellectual property, corporate, and outside general counsel services. He also is the founder of Name Warden, a docketing, defense, and new client finder service for trademark lawyers.
(Feature Image Credit: ShutterStock)