7 Social Media Rules for Solos and Small FirmsToday, clients find lawyers much more easily if those lawyers have a decent website, are on social media, blogging and using these tools to build and grow a contact list. The Internet and social media are the fastest growing ways many attorneys are finding new clients. Small firms need to define their ideal client, use the terms that prospects are using to search for legal help on the Internet, and do the necessary marketing to make sure that those searching online find them first.

Here are seven rules that every attorney and small firm should know about social media. Use them to guide your efforts.

#1 – Different social media platforms reach different markets. LinkedIn has more than 400 million active users. The average household income for a U.S. LinkedIn user is $109,000. LinkedIn represents a group of highly educated, highly affluent professionals and a perfect place to connect with potential referral sources. One of the best ways to use LinkedIn for referral sources is to become active in groups. Just look for those that make sense for your area of practice and that contain members who might be good referral sources for you. In addition, LinkedIn is a good referral source for sending traffic to your own website and blog. Share your blog posts in your status update with a short teaser sentence or two and a link back to your site.

You also can use Facebook to connect directly with potential clients and by using Facebook’s pay-per-click (PPC) function. We have clients who are generating five to seven leads per week directly from Facebook PPC by directly targeting people who express a need for their services. Social media allows you to build a larger platform faster than you ever could with more traditional networking methods. Research also shows that Facebook outperforms Google when it comes to driving traffic to your website or blog.

#2 – Don’t use social media as just another advertising channel. To effectively use social media, you must have a deft touch. Too many attorneys simplistically view it as just another advertising medium to push their “Hire me! Hire me now!” messages. Social media is about engagement, building trust and establishing relationships, not ambulance chasing. While having a live chat button on your website or social media page to allow interested prospects to easily connect with you is a good thing, you must be careful not to see social media as just another platform for pushing annoying ads.

#3 – Produce great content. The quality of the content you provide on social media is a direct reflection of how people perceive the quality of your law practice. When you put something out on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, it must be something your prospects and followers find valuable, informative and interesting. We recommend that 80 percent of your content be educational and nonpromotional. If you’re posting or retweeting another’s content – a great way to consistently add value – make sure that the content meets your criteria for excellence.

#4 – Engage with others. If someone posts a comment or response to your article or post, be sure to respond in kind. You must give as well as you get. The first word in social media is social! Don’t fall into the trap of only connecting with people you already know. Use social media to expand your sphere of influence.

#5 – Focus. Specializing in your area of practice helps you to build trust and authority, so focus on messages that reflect what your practice is about. If you have multiple practice areas, spend 80 percent of your time promoting the area that makes up 80 percent of your business.

#6 – Be authentic. Write for those people you want as clients or referral sources, not for other attorneys. Let your personality come through in your posts. I don’t care what other attorneys think of your website or your blog posts. I care about what your potential clients think and so should you.

#7 – Learn the culture. Each social media network has a different culture, and most successful legal marketers know how to use it to their advantage. For example, LinkedIn is very professional and very different from the casual nature of Twitter. In general, focusing on two to three social media networks is a good idea for most practitioners – figure out where your target market spends most of their time and be there. If you’re not sure, then I recommend starting with Facebook and LinkedIn.

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