Individual lawyers and law firms have a number of options for social networks they can join and use to build their reputations and brands.
Certain social networks, in fact, are specific to the legal industry such as Lawyrs.net designed for lawyers and law students, LibraNetwork.com and a collaborative space called Foxwordy . There also are lawyer-focused networks that target more specific audiences such as U.S. clients interacting with their non-U.S.-based attorneys.
Lawyers can benefit from being present on the larger popular social networks as well as the more industry-specific sites. LinkedIn is one of the longest-standing and reputable professional networks, focused from inception on networking for business professionals.
Creating a profile on LinkedIn can be as easy as filling out a resume. Actually, the format of a LinkedIn profile is similar to a resume, listing current and past work and education along with features called Recommendations and Endorsements (similar to testimonials or references), plus the ability to link to your website, blog and other social media sites where you’re active. Enhance your LinkedIn profile by uploading presentation slides and documents including PDFs of published papers.
Twitter and Facebook
Some lawyers use Twitter as their preferred online communications tool to build their professional profile and to interact with others, particularly because it’s fast, easy and they can keep up on their smartphones. On Twitter, you also have the potential to reach more people than on LinkedIn; however, it also requires much more daily effort to effectively build a following.
These days, many people maintain active Facebook accounts or, at minimum personal profiles on this large and popular social network. Consider setting up a Facebook page for your law firm. When used properly your account can be a far-reaching brand-builder with highly targeted advertising tools. Still. Facebook does have a downside – specifically keeping your personal and professional lives separate.
Social Media Dashboards
Building an effective presence on popular social networks requires monitoring, publishing and interacting. Tools that help you manage one or more social media presences are called social media dashboards, and each offers a variety of features to integrate with a number of social networks.
Some of the more popular dashboards are Hootsuite, SproutSocial, and MarketMeSuite. Depending on the one you use, you can view and post to multiple accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ through a single interface.
Buffer is another useful tool that helps you easily schedule your posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles and Pages. All of them come with tracking so you can analyze the popularity of your posts.
Niche social networks can also be useful to legal professionals. These smaller sites serve professionals in a region or based around a specialty. BizNik is an “online networking community for independent business people to gather, share resources, referrals, and support.” This network offers a more intimate setting than Facebook or Twitter where you can publish information, showcase your expertise and interact directly with others, in this case, small business owners and solo practitioners.
As you use social networks for your online communications, don't neglect your email list. Email is still a very effective tool for reaching your target audience. Encourage people to sign up to receive emails from you on your website or blog as well as on the social networks you use.
Other tools that enhance your professional networking efforts including “social CRM” applications that integrate with your email program such as Outlook or Gmail or even Google Apps to keep better track of your contacts and manage client relations.
Examples of social CRMs include Batchbook, Nimble, and Insightly.
There are many tools and channels where you can set up a presence online for marketing and communications. Start slowly; be thoughtful about your approach; and make sure you have the time to handle the additional communications load. Explore tools and applications that enhance or facilitate how you are communicating online to strengthen relationships and generate leads.
Disclaimer: This article was written by a social media marketing consultant. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.