Whether you love it or hate it, social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all their progeny) has become woven into our society in a way that requires lawyers to pay attention. If the whole thing seems a little overwhelming, I offer you below some basic tips about using free social media in a way that is manageable and gives you a nice return on the time invested.
Make sure you are accessible. How does your website appear if you look at it from your phone or tablet? Can it be easily navigated using assistive readers? The website can serve as your primary location for content that you link to from your other platforms. If you are posting content from your website, make sure that it appears and is accessible from mobile devices.
Go where your potential clients and referral sources are. It is important to be familiar with the applications your clients use and how they use them. What are a potential client’s needs and expectations? Clients want content that is relevant to them and that adds value.
Think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to generate a large volume of calls? Generate a niche? Cultivate high-quality, long-term referral sources? Be regarded as an expert on a specific topic? Just keep in touch with contacts? Different platforms have many different functionalities to help you focus on your goal. If you just want a virtual Rolodex that automatically updates itself, then you may set up a LinkedIn profile, link to others to build a professional network, and not do much else. If you want to generate referrals and stay in front of people, you will need to generate content and regularly post comments.
Leverage what you already do. If you are savvy, you can expand the scope of what you are already doing to reach many potential clients you might not reach otherwise. Giving a talk at the local bar association or chamber of commerce? You can link to the event to make people aware of it in advance. Afterward, post information that addresses a key point that might be useful. Writing an article for your website or blog? You can link it to your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. It will show up in other users’ news streams or suggestions. If they comment or react to that article, it may also trigger interest from their contacts. Pin it to a Pinterest Board using a topic name that someone looking to hire you for this type of work might use, such as “accommodations” or “child support issues.”
The goal is to spread your reach by a geometric progression with very little additional effort. You can link to or recommend content that is generated by others, keeping yourself in people’s minds and generating goodwill (provided the content is useful). If you have a blog or YouTube video, you can easily attach links to social media profiles or use individual articles or issues to drive people to your content by posting them as individual new events.
Consider the ethics rules. Yes, your state and local ethics rules could impact how you use social media. Rules about false and misleading advertising could be implicated. What is an unethical solicitation? Rules about incompetence or holding oneself out as an expert could be triggered if you overstate your experience or skills. Are you engaged in the unauthorized practice of law if you are holding yourself out as an expert in a jurisdiction where you are not licensed? Are you communicating with clients on social media in a way that could create confidentiality issues or claims of failure to communicate if you miss a message from them? Does that tweet violate a gag order? Is trolling through an opposing party’s Facebook page a violation of discovery rules? There are some features that I do not use, such as endorsements on LinkedIn, because they raise some ethical concerns in jurisdictions where I practice. This is something to consider as you are setting up your profiles, so check your own local rules and your own settings.