There was another group of lawyers that consisted of those who accepted the opportunity to use social media to effectively build their reputation and relationships, as well as to learn from anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.
In this article, I will discuss the acceptance of social media, as well as the trends in three areas worthy of your attention.
Social and Digital Media
When we talk about social media trends, we need to add the word digital to the mix because not all these tools are social— meaning they don’t have built-in ways to respond or react to other human beings at a moment’s notice. It might help to think of some of the most common forms of digital media as email, voice and video, which happen to be the foundation for the trends I will focus on in this article.
The past two years have changed the way many professionals think about social media. Being quarantined and unable to see clients face to face caused lawyers to change faster than anyone could have imagined. Compared to the last several years, discussions and requests about how to incorporate social and digital media into law firms have grown exponentially since March 2020. During a time when they were suddenly locked down and unable to use traditional forms of networking and business development, there was genuine concern communicated by many lawyers to their marketing professionals about how to quickly find ways to get in front of their clients and potential clients.
This caused a trend toward the use of social and digital media at a pace more rapid than anyone could have imagined. Even when in-person networking feels normal again, we will find that these skills will have proven to be an amazing complement to those efforts to get close to the people who are the most important to you and to the growth of your practice.
Email is self-explanatory. As much as you might dread, hate or be annoyed by your email inbox, the truth remains that email is a very effective way to communicate with others and to invite a conversation. Whether it is to consume an important piece of your content, register for a webinar you are hosting, download a timely white paper or checklist of important points your clients might be interested in, listen to a podcast, or watch a video and many other actions, email is still a valuable tool to use to communicate and invite others to consume content, and to connect and get to know you.
Do you feel guilty at the end of the day if you haven’t looked at your notifications on social media? Most of you don’t. A few of us do because it is an important part of how we communicate. We have spent many years building online communities of people we care about, do business with or whom we call friends and family, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to connect with them.
You probably feel guilty, however, if you haven’t looked at all of your email because you worry that you might miss an important email from an internal or external client, a creditor, a family member, someone in your firm or an education and information source you have chosen to follow to help you stay up to date in your practice area.
The trend here is that email is not going away anytime soon and remains important. Use it, but use it wisely, because earning a space in others’ inboxes is a gift that can be lost in one quick unsubscribe keystroke if your email is not useful to the recipient.
The use of promotional and informational emails to send mass communication continues to show strength. Don’t expect every informational email to be opened. The trend is that only about a quarter of these emails will be opened. There are exceptions to this, such as welcome emails after someone has registered for your event, spam filter settings and more. Also be aware that Apple’s recent changes have caused email open rates to be skewed for recipients using Apple equipment.
There is also a trend toward using personalization that allows you to send personal emails to your list, as well as for your recipients to customize the communication they receive from you. Open rates rise when this kind of hyper-personalization is used.
Also watch for the no-code trend that allows anyone to publish a newsletter in moments. You will see names such as Substack and Revue (owned by Twitter) and others coming on the market regularly.
The email trend is complemented, and sometimes replaced, by messaging apps that many are finding quicker and much less cumbersome than email and phone calls. This includes apps such as Slack, Telegram, Discord, Circle, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, Viber and others. What this means is that communication is becoming more fragmented while also becoming more efficient. The challenge will become finding a platform your firm and your clients are comfortable using, which will vary from client to client. Therefore, you need to make sure you adapt to what they want to use while making sure the platforms are secure and able to be backed up and archived efficiently for future reference.
Your voice is becoming an amazing tool to accelerate relationships. When your audiences and communities can hear your voice, they suddenly feel they know you. The tone you use, the words you choose, the way you react and communicate with others in the discussion, the quality of the sound and the confidence in your delivery tell them more than they might have learned about you by simply reading your written word. That is not to say that the written word is ineffective because the written word is extremely valuable.
Voice is also very efficient as it allows your listener to hear what you have to say while they are doing something else. Your listeners can listen to you without having to look up and pay attention to video. They can speed up the rate of playback in order to listen to a lot of content in less time and also because they hear the speaker’s point much quicker.
Being in someone’s ear is a coveted space and should not be taken lightly. What other conversations or messages allow you to have a captive audience choosing to listen to you for 15 to 60 minutes? The trend in voice is that we continue to see its growth via platforms and practices such as podcasts, which continue to show strength in numbers. You will also continue to see the addition of voice features that have been added to private messaging spaces on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on.
Voice is Evolving and Expanding
We are also seeing an evolution and an expansion with the addition of social audio platforms such as Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Facebook Live Audio, podcasts on Facebook, Facebook Soundbites, Spotify Greenroom and the live social audio feature being rolled out by LinkedIn. These are still in their early days, with some rolling out or not even launched yet, but they are here and they are just being tested, so stay tuned.
Video sits at the top of the relationship ladder. The written word is the beginning of that ladder. It sets the tone for your intelligence and your approach. Voice and audio are squarely in the middle, ramping up the know, like and trust factors your clients need, want and deserve from their lawyers.
Video pulls everything else together into one nice, tidy, powerful platform that helps your clients and community discern in just a few seconds many things about you. They not only hear you but now they can see you, watch your body language, make eye contact with you, and hear how you discuss topics they care about. They can see how you interact with others who might also be on video with you and see the smile or the smirk on your face as you are making your point. In a time when face-to-face networking is difficult, video packs a punch because it rarely lies. People are perceptive and are able to get to know you at an amazingly fast rate when they see and hear you at the same time.
The trend toward creation and production of video will continue. The tools that are available today to create video are numerous and inexpensive. You can pick up your phone and start one of the highest resolution cameras available on the market today, record for a few seconds or minutes, add a comment, then post it just as quickly as you recorded it. You can also use other simple software on your device of choice, and post your video as is or edit it for even more professional presentations.
In addition to many talented video producers and editors who can help, you can edit video yourself by using an online service such as Descript where you simply cut extraneous or incorrect words out of the video transcription, much as you would cut words out of a Word document. These changes are then automatically made to your video. There are hundreds of other video creation and editing tools, making the barrier to entry very low.
Another trend is live video, or livestreaming. Much as you would when presenting during a live webinar, you can also go live on the platform of your choice. You can make this process more efficient by going live on many platforms at the same time, which helps you reach your audiences on the platforms they use. You can also use built-in features of livestreaming software that help your livestream resemble the professional on-screen graphics and banners you are accustomed to seeing in traditional news media. Again, the barriers to entry are very low, but the impact of being live with not only your audiences, but those who are connected to your audiences, is very powerful and alluring from a marketing and business development perspective.
We will see a continued emphasis on the production and consumption of social and digital media. Any lawyer can be smart in their field, but those who are willing to allow people to look inside their personalities and what makes them unique will stand out.
People are interested in getting to know, like, trust and respect those with whom they do business, and social and digital media can do that at speeds much quicker than we have ever seen before. Those who deliver their message in a personal way that encourages connection will be the ones who cause people to slow down long enough to give them the gift of their time, which can lead to the gift of their business.