Social media has taken the world by storm. Everyone from college students, to politicians, news media outlets, to business professionals, small and big businesses, to musicians, artists and other individual people both young and old have jumped on the social media bandwagon. When creating a marketing campaign, no matter what the business is, social media is an obvious choice for those who wish to expand their reach beyond that of the local phone book. Given that social media is still quite new to the business arena, there are many opportunities missed because of common yet avoidable mistakes. On February 18th I wrote an article on the Top 10 Mistakes Businesses Make with Social Media. Since then I have written several articles on Attorney Marketing and Brand Building and Common Marketing Mistakes Attorneys Make Part one and Part two. However, today I would like to speak specifically to the use of social media by attorneys and the common yet avoidable mistakes attorneys often make.
Now of course, because I am not an attorney I will not speak to the ethical implications of using social media. However, since social media has become so widespread amongst attorneys, the American Bar Association is now addressing the ethical implications of social media as part of the ABA Commission on Ethics. Even those who follow ethical standards to the letter are not immune to making some of the biggest mistakes attorneys can make when using social media, which not only may result in missed opportunities, but will also result in your time and efforts being wasted.
The fact of the matter is that social media is the same as all other forms of traditional marketing in that if you do not use it right, or you do not use the right mix, then it will not work for you. An attractive, comprehensive, professional and well written website is an absolute MUST for any business including attorneys and law firms. But having a website alone, will not guarantee new clients. Your website, coupled with a mix of traditional marketing and a well thought out and active social media plan will most certainly give you the results you seek. Following are ten of the most common yet avoidable mistakes attorneys make when using social media and some pointers on what you can do to avoid them.
The absolute biggest mistake attorneys make with social media are —
Not Using Social Media
You are already fully aware that as attorney’s all you have to sell is your time. More often than not, attorneys look at social media as being an ineffective, time consuming endeavor. However, by not leveraging social media as part of your marketing endeavors, you are inevitably missing out on business that other attorneys who use social media will get instead. Yes, social media is not a get right quick endeavor. Rather it is more like a garden, where you must cultivate your land by doing your research first, plow your fields, by building your profiles, plant the seeds by starting to reach out to prospective clients and tend to your garden everyday by engaging new clients and developing new relationships. If you treat your social media as you would a prized garden, in time, you will be able to bear the fruits of your labor.
No Clear Objectives and Not Setting Goals
Do you know who your audience is or where you can reach the greatest number of people within your target market? Do you know what you want to accomplish using social media, whether it is to get new clients, build credibility or showcase your expertise? How much time will you set aside each day and each week to commit to your social media campaign? These are some of the many questions that need to be addressed when planning a social media campaign, before getting started. When well thought out, social media can be very rewarding to your overall business objectives. Jumping right in with no objectives, plans and goals can be a huge time sink ultimately resulting in lost business opportunities and lost revenue.
Taking on More Than You Can Chew
With so many different social media sites available to you, you may be tempted to get have profiles on all of them. Being married to and working with an attorney, I know just how precious a commodity that time can be. If you take on too many sites at once, you will inevitably not be able to keep up with them. Social media works through consistent and regular participation. If you take on too many social media profiles, you run the risk of looking unprofessional and non credible to those who may be seeking out your services.
Rather, create one, maybe two profiles and use them consistently. Learn the many features available on each site and use them to your benefit. Use third party applications to tie in your profiles and make it part of your business every single day. Start off with one profile and add others only as time permits you to do so.
Simply building social media profiles and then forgetting about them will not only not work for you but could also do more harm than not having a social media profile at all. All too often attorneys will build their profiles, starting off strong only to find that they do not have the time to keep their profiles current. Forgetting to post, infrequent updates, allowing your efforts to stagnate and not being committed to your social media plan will result in very few potential clients Following, Fanning or Friending you. If you build a profile and do nothing with it, potential clients will inevitably move onto the next attorney who is otherwise engaged in their social media plans.
To make sure your time online is productive, allocate a specific amount of time every day (or at the very least once a week) to devote solely to your social media initiatives. Turn off your cell phone, forward your office calls directly to voicemail, close out your email program and shut your office door, making it as much a priority as you would the other duties you feel are essential to running a successful firm.
Speaking Not Listening
One of the biggest complaints that people have about their attorneys is that they do all of the talking and little to none of the listening. This is not limited though to in person settings. In fact, failing to listen to clients and potential clients online is far more detrimental to your overall objectives. Customer loyalty is not what it used to be. With the inception of the World Wide Web, people have a far greater deciding power when choosing the professionals they want to work with or not to work with for that matter. If you do not meet a client’s expectations, they will just as quickly find someone else who will.
There are many ways you can “listen” to what people need, even before actually engaging them in dialog. One example would be to utilize the Q & A section (available on many social media websites). Start looking at the questions of those who may be looking for the services you have to offer and answer those within your area of expertise. Answer based on the needs of the potential client and not just based on what you can do for him. Second, most social media websites give you the ability to search their site. Start searching key terms pertinent to your practice. Also, search for your name, the name of your firm and the names of your competitor firms. Really listen to what others have to say and use this information when creating all of your marketing and advertising materials to let the potential client know you are listening to what their needs are.
Hard Selling, Not Educating
Although one of the main objectives to using social media is to acquire new clients, telling others how great you and your firm are will surely turn people off. Rather than selling your services, stay away from sales talk and educate your potential clients about your firm through the information that you post, the questions you answer and the knowledge you share. Showcasing your expertise goes a lot further than simply saying you are an expert.
Failing to Connect the Dots
The most effective marketing campaigns combine both online and traditional marketing strategies. This can include any combination of online advertising, printed materials, a firm website, a blog, real world networking and social media to name a few. But what makes these combined marketing strategies work best is linking them together. If you run a blog, be sure to link back to other pieces you’ve written in the past as well as sending your readers back to your website. When you post something new on your blog, make sure you post something about it and provide a direct link to it in your Twitter (or other social media account[s]). Include a link to your social media profiles in addition to your website and blog in your email signature list and in all of your printed materials. Rather than hope that people will find these things by chance, provide them with a road map to get there. By doing so, you will not only save valuable time spent answering the same questions over and over but will also all but guarantee that those who do contact you directly will do so with serious inquiries.
Abandoning Too Soon
By this I mean giving up too early. Social media is not a quick fix to your marketing needs, nor is it a get rich quick scheme. Rather, social media requires a long-term commitment. Unlike traditional means of marketing, social media is about establishing relationships, earning trust and building a report with your connections. Those who have a “build it and they will come” mentality will most likely find that social media does not work for them.
Obviously the more time you can spend on your social media campaign, the quicker you will see results. Never the less, even if you can allocate only 15 minutes of specifically scheduled, uninterrupted time per day, you will rather quickly begin to build credibility and generate interest with new and potential clients.
No Budget Allocation
Although most social media sites are free to use, you must either do the legwork yourself or be willing to pay someone else to do it for you. One of the things that have always baffled me is how quickly law firms (and most other businesses for that matter) are willing to cut their advertising budgets when finances are tight. On the contrary, this is when efforts should be doubled to acquire new business. If you or your firm does not have the time to develop and implement a social media campaign, do not abandon the idea all together. Rather invest in hiring someone to take on the initiatives for you.
Mistaking Social Media for Traditional Advertising
Although social media may seem similar to traditional forms of marketing and advertising, there is a marked difference between the two. Unlike traditional marketing, social media requires that you be, well… social, by building relationships and directly engaging your potential clients. Social media marketing is about getting to know your potential clients, giving you a perspective that traditional marketing cannot. It gives your target market a voice, allowing you to more specifically target those you wish to reach who also seek the services you provide. Contrary to traditional advertising, where television and radio advertising is ignored and print ads are over looked or thrown away, social media results in your message getting to those who really want to receive it.