October 23, 2018 Practice Management

How to Master the New Rules of Social Media Marketing

By Terrie S. Wheeler

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that social media is still a great way to build your name recognition. The bad news? With changing algorithms in Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube, lawyers like you will need to rethink your social media strategy to generate maximum impact. The bottom line is that updated algorithms on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have changed the reach of social media content, how that content is ranked, and the way in which content can be posted on social media.

To adapt to these changes, PSM (my legal marketing firm) has changed its overall approach and strategy for social media marketing for our legal industry clients, and I want to share our new strategy with you. First, today’s social media engagement requires a strong focus on unique and high-quality content, on engaging with your followers, and on establishing your firm as a thought leader. In practical terms, this means you will need to create more original content by adding video to your website, participating on Facebook Live, writing long-form posts, promoting blogs, and in other ways conveying your thought leadership. It is also very important to increase your personal engagement with others who like, share, or comment on your content.

By adjusting your strategy, you can work with instead of against the “New Rules” of social media. Ultimately, you want your social media strategy to enhance your firm’s voice and your brand to be “so great they can’t ignore you,” as Steve Martin famously said. This isn’t a strategy of chasing algorithms, but a strategy of helping you create and publish incredible content that builds your business.

LinkedIn Changes: It’s All About the Points!

LinkedIn now assigns points to posts—these points determine if that post is seen on a newsfeed or as suggested content for users. The higher your points are per post, the better. The point breakdown:

  • +15 points per video and long-form text post (up to 200 words)
  • +13 points per video and short-form text post
  • +12 points per video post (uploaded natively—not from YouTube or Vimeo)
  • +10 points per long-form text post (> 3 lines)
  • +8 points per short-form text post (< 3 lines + 5 points per article)
  • +5 points per comment received
  • +3 points per like received
  • +2 points per share received

To summarize, original video that is posted directly to a LinkedIn profile will receive the most traction. When we discuss “uploaded natively,” we mean that you must first download the video from where it resides (your website or on a video site) and re-upload it from your hard drive directly to LinkedIn or Facebook. Additionally, long-form, original text posted directly from a LinkedIn profile, which has engagement (likes, repost, comments), will also receive a lot more traction.

The new goal to aspire to on LinkedIn involves providing a steady stream of original content including videos and articles that broadcast your firm’s voice, brand, and values. Your content must be timely and relevant, must always use photography, and must have interesting captions. This level of original content will provide opportunities for the firm and your staff to engage with content and followers, your audiences, and prospective clients.

Additionally, we recommend smaller individual posts from the team that are posted directly to individual pages. This will help build authority and opportunity for engagement.

LinkedIn Strategy under the “New Rules”

  • 2–4 blog posts or original thought pieces per month that are authored by you or someone on your team and published on firm’s website, then posted directly to the firm’s LinkedIn page.
  • 2–4 short-form videos per month that are 30 seconds or so in length and that include a teaser or promo for the blog post published to the firm’s social media pages and individual pages.
  • 1–2 long-form videos every other month that expand on popular topics, FAQs, or educational information.
  • 2–3 smaller 200–300 word thought leadership pieces posted directly on LinkedIn to the personal pages of the lawyers at your firm.
  • Third-party content can still be scheduled 1–2 times a week, so if you find an interesting article or want to promote an upcoming event, you should feel free to do so.

Why Engagement Matters

Don’t be discouraged, but regular posting to LinkedIn isn’t enough. You need to engage! Here are some tips to consider:

  • Calendar 10–15 minutes every day to like, comment, share, and follow your contact’s posts.
  • Don’t forget to also directly respond to people who have commented on your LinkedIn content—you also receive LinkedIn points for engaging with your own and others’ content.

Facebook: How Mark Zuckerberg Is Changing It Up

Facebook’s current algorithm updates limit the reach on posts that take visitors away from Facebook. Links that go to a company website or third-party website are not preferred and may not even be seen by your friends or followers. Facebook’s current goal is to get businesses to pay to boost their posts and to purchase Facebook ads. The algorithm is set up so that, in general, posts from businesses receive lower priority and therefore decreased reach versus content posted on personal pages. Pages with posts that don’t get much reaction will see the biggest drop in distribution (reach). Therefore, posts that get engagement—from likes, comments, and re-posts—are pushed up the distribution chain to the top of your contacts’ newsfeeds. This means that your content will be seen by more of your contacts.

Additionally, it is no longer possible to post to a personal Facebook page via any social media management tool (SMMT) such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social. However, it is still possible to post to a Facebook group or a company Facebook page using these tools. In the past we were able to use Hootsuite to efficiently distribute one post to all social media sites (Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) every day. Out with the old, in with the new!

Please remember that for many firms, there is far more engagement on lawyers’ personal pages than company pages. It is even more important now to engage your friends into following your company page. Posts on your company page can only be seen by those who have followed your firm, and all the best practices above will help your posts reach the maximum number of people.

Original content published on LinkedIn (blog posts, long-form posts, and video) can also be posted to Facebook. Ultimately, like LinkedIn, Facebook’s success as a digital marketing tool requires sustained and regular engagement (i.e., each like, repost, or comment helps content gain traction to appear higher on your contact’s newsfeeds).

A New Facebook Strategy

  • Content should be posted directly to Facebook—not using an SMMT.
  • Create posts with strong calls to action and reminders to encourage clients to follow your page and change their settings to see you first.
  • Consider paying to boost posts—it can be very cost effective.

Facebook Engagement

During the 10–15 minutes you will schedule to “do” social media every day, take some of this time to repost, like, and comment on Facebook content.

The Changing Face of Twitter

It is no longer possible to post to multiple Twitter profiles at once from any SMMT. This means that only one company account can be used to schedule content at a time. For most firms, this will not have a huge impact; however, it does mean that if the firm has various team members connected to an SMMT, then content can only be posted to one account.

Twitter is one of the best social media tools for large amounts of content. The volume of third-party content posted to Twitter can include 3–4 posts per week. Many lawyers who are actively engaged on Twitter post multiple times per day! Most of the lawyers we work with are not heavy Twitter users, and you don’t need to be to grow your law practice. Remember that original content and videos will be published to Twitter similarly to LinkedIn. The biggest difference is that Twitter can use an SMMT to streamline the process.

Twitter Engagement Tips:

  • Take 5 minutes out of the 10–15 minutes you will allocate every day to repost, like, and comment on Twitter content.
  • Consider using an SMMT to schedule third-party content 3–4 times a week. That way, you can create and schedule all your Tweets once per month for the upcoming month.

The Ethics of Social Media

Some states are move “evolved” on how the rules of professional responsibility transfer to social media activities. Always defer to your state’s rules; particularly if various opinions have been published that augment some of the common rules regarding communications concerning a lawyer’s services, advertising, direct contact with prospective clients, and communication of fields of practice and certification, as well as rules related to client confidentiality.

If a client leaves a negative review about you on Avvo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, or any other website, you should not engage with that client if it would require divulging information specific to the client’s matter. My recommendation is to take the high road and respond (if you choose to) with, “I’m sorry you feel this way. I would be happy to address your concerns by scheduling a telephone call with you. The satisfaction of my clients is extremely important to me, and I am committed to working with you to resolve any outstanding issues.”

A Few More Tips

About Reviews

Reviews on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google can be very powerful tools to help increase your search engine rankings. When you close a case or matter, if the client had a good experience with you and your firm, send your client a link to one or two sites asking for a review. Most clients are happy to do this for you. Always include an option for the client to leave a Google review. Reviews increase your credibility on each of the social media sites and on Google. The more Google reviews you have, the higher your firm will rank on Google.

A Note on #Hashtags

The dictionary defines a hashtag as a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. Hashtags classify and categorize the topic of your post at the end of the post. Your readers can then choose to follow your hashtags, and, in doing so, will receive your posts at the top of their newsfeeds. In general, you want to use hashtags that support your brand, for example, #Complexdivorce, #Protectingyourrights, #Divorceformen, #Businesslawyer, etc. You want your hashtags to be short and memorable, and you always should capitalize the first letter of your tag. Finally, you never should use punctuation or spaces in a hashtag. By using hashtags with your social media posts, you will first of all look cool, and you will also gain traction with those who follow you.

Photography Matters!

Each of your posts needs to include a royalty-free photograph or an original photo that you already own. Photographs engage viewers to your content. No one would consider using a PowerPoint presentation with absolutely no graphics in it. (At least I hope you wouldn’t!) The same is true with social media. Just one photograph that supports your content is worth a thousand words.

In conclusion, social media is here to stay. We are at the mercy of the big players such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These sites can change their algorithms on a whim to better meet their needs, leaving users to figure out the ever-changing landscape of social media effectiveness. The tips and suggestions above allow you to maximize your presence on social media to better meet your needs as a lawyer. Done well, social media is a powerful tool to help you build your name recognition and awareness in the marketplace. You just need to learn, understand, and apply the “New Rules” of social media to your law practice.

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Terrie S. Wheeler, MBC, is the founder and president of Professional Services Marketing, LLC, a firm focused on providing outsourced marketing, marketing coaching, and social media services to lawyers across the country. Terrie teaches marketing at two midwestern law schools, and recently she ended a six-year term on the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. If you have any questions about this article or any other marketing topic, contact Terrie at terrie@psm-marketing.com.