Like any other form of marketing, “it’s all about reaching and connecting with your audience,” says ABA YLD Communications and Technology Director Genevieve Spires. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, however, “social media allows you to engage your audience as well and have a much more interactive relationship.”
Once you have decided your affiliate should use social media, it is important to determine exactly how you want to use that presence. Will your online presence be an interactive forum for members to seek referrals, communicate with their peers, and advertise upcoming events and seminars they can participate in? You may want to restrict the ability to post information to a few key members of the organization in order to control the flow of information that is being distributed on your page.
Social Media Use Policies
Once you have made the decision for your affiliate to be involved in some form of online social media, the next step is to form a social media use policy. Why is it important to have a policy? Think of it as the roadmap for your online presence—it should cover where you want to go and how you want to get there. What sites will you use? Will it be closed to members only or can anyone view the site? Who can contribute content and how will they be allowed to do so?
When making your policy, it is important to ensure that “all stakeholders are at the table and to decide on some organizational basics regarding who will be administering and using your organization’s social media,” Spires says. “In addition, your organization’s leadership will need to decide what kind of ‘voice’ your social media pages and groups should have—will it just be a place to distribute information on upcoming events? Or is your organization comfortable taking stances on issues of interest to your membership?” Additional considerations for a social media use policy include whether your affiliate will allow product advertising and outside marketing efforts by various vendors or other lawyers.
Social media is another way for an affiliate to service the needs of its members. Trying to find the best way to fill those needs is often a difficult task. Your social media presence, like most other aspects of your affiliate’s activities, needs to be continually evaluated to ensure it is accomplishing the organization’s goals and needs. Determining what content will best benefit your membership, in what format, and how often those messages should be disseminated are difficult—but essential—questions that must be asked.
To ensure that your online presence is conforming to your affiliate’s needs and being appropriately used, someone should be tasked with monitoring the posts made to your message boards, the content added to your Facebook page, and the tweets sent from your Twitter account.
The possible ethical pitfalls of using social media could fill a whole article on its own, but it is important to keep in mind that the same ethical rules that govern our print and verbal communications with current and prospective clients also apply to online communications. You need to be careful to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently creating attorney-client relationships, exceeding the geographic scope of your license to practice law, or making false or misleading statements on your social media pages.
The ABA Division for Bar Services has resources available online with examples of social media use policies and other helpful resources, including how to promote your social media efforts, marketing, and how to get started or stay current with your social media efforts. Visit the Bar Services webpage at www.americanbar.org/groups/bar_services/resources/socialmedia.html for more information.