Starting on a Shoestring: How to Build a Robust Social Media Program

Article excerpt

The 2012 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report offers statistics that show increased use of social media among lawyers. No surprise there. Here are a few statistics from the 823 attorneys who completed questionnaires.

* 22 percent of respondent law firms have a blog.

* 6 percent of respondent lawyers who personally maintain a professional, legal-topic blog are solos; 12 percent are firms of two to nine.

* 10 percent of solos said their firms use Twitter, and 13 percent say they personally use Twitter for professional purposes.

* 95 percent of respondent lawyers said they are on LinkedIn.

* 55 percent of respondent lawyers said their firms are on Facebook, and 38 percent said they use Facebook.

When asked the important question, "Have you ever had a client retain your legal services directly or via referral as a result of your legal topic blog?" 53 percent of solos answered yes and 50 percent of lawyers in firms of two to nine lawyers answered yes.

I did my own survey of solo and small-firm attorneys, and you'll find their responses helpful as you look to develop a robust social media program.

Developing a Social Media Plan

The struggle for most small firms is not so different from large firms--mastering the technology skills of the various media, creating a strategic plan, and finally, finding time to create content.

Research. One of your first steps is to conduct research. Ask yourself a few questions: Will social media help your law firm? What are your competitors doing? How will you differentiate yourself from your competition? Do you know your target audience and their needs?

Goals. The next step in developing your plan is to identify your goals. Are you looking to build your firm profile? Get more clients through the door? Increase traffic to your website? Create new relationships? All of these are reasonable goals that can be accomplished using social media.

Doug and Deana Brocker are the husband and wife owners of The Brocker Law Firm. Doug said, "We decided to incorporate social media into an overall practice development and marketing strategy. Our decision was based on conversations with other attorneys who have been successful in developing their practices using social media and after discussions with our contract legal marketing firm."

Ketan Soni with Soni Family Law said, "I had a natural desire to communicate electronically because I am an introvert. Written media is perfect for me. Sharing tidbits of knowledge and ideas appealed to me. A former law partner, Lee Rosen, helped me understand that I needed to use social media as a business tool. Now I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and everything else out there. I consider myself an above-average social media user because of a conscious decision to understand [each platform]."

Resources. When deciding whether to participate in social media, the resources issue must be addressed. What resources are available to you? Who will train your attorneys and staff? Who will write your policies and crisis communication plan? Who will create your content? Who will be responsible for monitoring social media?

When launching Lawyers Mutual's social media plan, I was fortunate to have seven claims attorneys who were available to create content, but I knew I needed to create our strategy, as well as prepare policies and a crisis communication plan. When I looked at the resources available to me, I felt I had a gap in who could help implement my strategy.

In summer 2011, I hired an intern. The intern's role was to help with the technical aspects, to write "how-to" manuals and to post the content generated by the company employees. Our intern was enthusiastic and grasped our industry quickly. We identified several "power users" who would also receive one-on-one coaching from our intern. Hiring an intern was helpful. As a team, we turned an idea into a successful program. …