Vol. 43, No. 1

Social media: Who’s got the right stuff?

by Karen Korr

In the 2018 NABE Annual Meeting breakout session by the same name as this article, titled after a New Kids on the Block song, bar social media mavens guided participants through best practices and what works for their bars step by step (see what I did there?), and highlighted examples from other bar associations with strong social media strategies.

What goes into the social media ‘sauce’?

Brandon Vogel, the sole social media strategist at the New York State Bar Association, kicked off the program by disclosing that that his bar’s “special social media sauce” consists mostly of substance, with a bit of sweetness, softness, authenticity, and deftness, and a dash of flavor. According to Vogel, substantive posts are popular with NYSBA’s followers because they provide practical information that is applicable to lawyers across different practice areas, such as a blog post on the worst mistakes in legal writing. “Sweetness” and “softness” come from posts with heart, Vogel explained, sharing examples of his bar’s post acknowledging “Be Kind to Lawyers Day” and a picture of their association’s president getting a book signed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Vogel also highlighted an example of how his bar took advantage of an opportunity to educate its followers after national journalist Shaun King publicly asked NYSBA to address an attorney’s actions after a video of the attorney’s racist tirade went viral. NYSBA created a blog post and used social media to explain that the attorney wasn’t a member of the organization, and how complaints against attorneys are handled in the state of New York.

Vogel ended his portion of the presentation by sharing examples from other bars with “the right stuff”—the State Bar of Texas, which disperses staff members throughout its annual meeting to cover different portions of the event, the State Bar of Georgia, which posts significant content related to their “Lawyers Living Well” initiative, and the San Diego County Bar Association, which engages members by asking them to share pictures from their office windows.

The importance of hashtags—and video

Jessica Smith, communications and media director for the Dallas Bar Association, spoke on the importance of using hashtags, which “make your content discoverable and allow you to find relevant content from other people and businesses.” Further, Smith said that tweets with hashtags receive twice as much engagement as those without, and tweets with one or two hashtags have a 21 percent higher engagement rate than those with three or more hashtags.  

She shared some examples of successful hashtags used by her bar and others, including the State Bar of Texas hashtag #lawyervacay, The Missouri Bar’s use of #missourilawyer, and a more universal #dayofcivility hashtag.

The future of social media lies in videos, Smith said, citing a recent projection that indicates videos will make up almost 80 percent of internet traffic in 2019. “How-to” videos are the most popular, with 56 percent of internet users watching videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram each month, and 81 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds watching videos online each month. Smith advised bars to “start strong” and think in soundbites and create 30-second to one-minute videos. She also suggested including subtitles on all videos, for those in class or meetings who want to watch your videos, but don’t want others to know they are watching your videos.

Smith’s strategy at the Dallas bar also includes some paid Facebook and Instagram ads; a paid “boost” ensures that your audience sees your posts, she said. According to Smith, only 20 percent of posts are seen by your audience organically, and she encouraged measuring engagement from paid posts to support the need for a social media advertising budget.

Promoting events without spamming your members

Mary Kay Price, director of communications and marketing at the Indianapolis Bar Association, spoke about a common struggle for bar associations: the need to promote events without inundating members with emails and information.  Price has found success through consistent templates on social media. For example, Price’s team puts together a weekly “on tap at your bar” post where they list two or three events, and they then feature the event in other social media channels and link back to the blog post.

Price also emphasized the value in “making the most of the tools available to you on Facebook.”  Specifically, she recommended using the Facebook cover image to promote an event that needs a marketing push and then switching it out once the event has passed. For cutting through social media clutter, Price suggested finding unique stock images to pair with your post, and not imagery that is associated with your bar.

A few other social media strategies that Price suggested include using an influencer for a “twitter takeover” to promote a program or event or just to generate more followers, creating a contest (#IndyBarCutestPet was a big success for Indy Bar), and maximizing Instagram’s layout to post your program flier as a mural.

Karen Korr

Karen Korr is director of outreach strategy and chief communications officer at the San Diego County (Calif.) Bar Association and editor of the Communicators Talk newsletter for the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section. Follow her on Twitter: @fullkorrpress.