Only one thing could bring me in from my vacation, and that was the Legal Marketing Association’s Social Media Shared Interest Group’s webinar with Peter Shankman (@petershankman) and Jasmine Trillos-Decarie (@jasminedecarie), entitled "Bringing Law Firms ‘Back to The Future’ of Social Media."
I wasn’t alone in thinking that, if the tweetstream was any indication – valuable tidbits from the conversation were flying over on Twitter! We even had a legal marketer join the LMA just to be able to attend the webinar, and she said it was well worth it!
LMA members can access the full recording over on the website, but for everyone else, I’ll share some of the valuable information that came out of the presentation.
Jasmine kicked it off from the law firm perspective – she’s got more than 20 years of experience in legal marketing with AmLaw 50, 100, and 200 firms, so she knows what she’s talking about!
Law Firms and Social Media
She shared a few interesting statistics:
- The AmLaw 50 understand that social media is important, but they’re not using it effectively:
- 100% of firms have a LinkedIn page, but only 26% own a group.
- From 6/13 – 10/13, only two firms responded to comments on social media.
- Only 34% have established blogs.
- 16% of AmLaw 200 have a locked account on Twitter, no account, or inactive, with less than 20 tweets.
- But people want to hear what firms have to say on Twitter – on average, the AmLaw 200 have 1,800 followers per firm.
However, there is some good news, Jasmine told us. Finally, the majority of content that firms are developing is non-promotional (and that is SO important). And although firms aren’t effectively using social media, almost all AmLaw 200 firms have social accounts that they could start to use properly. Firms also have pockets of lawyers with extra time on their hands, and rainmakers and other attorneys are getting younger, and so are more comfortable with the technology.
So there is hope!
There are some good rules of thumb to follow when using social media, which Peter shared with us – some may think of these as fairly obvious or common sense, but since social media blunders continue to happen every day, it’s important to get these reminders periodically. Equally important is that for those of our attorneys who are still skeptical or uncomfortable with social media, these issues are on their minds, and it’s something that we should be able to speak intelligently about with them.
Don’t be Stupid
The one rule I hear again and again with social media is "don’t be stupid’ and that what Peter told us too. It gets a laugh, but it’s an important point. He suggests:
- If you have to ask yourself if anyone will be offended, they will be, and you shouldn’t post it.
- If you have to ask yourself "is this professional," then it isn’t, and you shouldn’t post it.
- If you have to ask yourself "can this be thought of in a way different from what I meant?" then it will be, and you shouldn’t post it.
- If you have to ask yourself "can this get me fired?" then it can, and you shouldn’t post it.
My rule of thumb is that if I pause at any point when typing something to post, it’s not something I should write. Peter told us that whenever his assistant hears him typing very loudly, indicating that he’s frustrated or strongly responding to something, she unplugs the router so that he can’t send it. It’s important for all of us to take a moment to think when we’re posting and not just react, or post something that we think will be funny, but may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Case in point – Peter talked about the Justine Sacco incident. For those not familiar with the story, prior to getting on a plane to Africa, this head of communications for IAC jokingly (in her mind) tweeted:
Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!"
That got just about the response you would expect. By the time she landed, she was the subject of a hashtag on twitter (one of the number one trending items in the world), and had been vilified left, right and center. And oh yes, she was fired.
Even if you’re using your social media accounts for personal use, and you have them well protected with passwords and other security, you never know what will go viral. People that you are connected to may take something you said the wrong way (or even the right way, and think they’re doing you a favor) and share it, and before you know it, the world knows who you are, and not for the right reasons.
So if there’s a niggling doubt in your mind that maybe something you’re about to post isn’t right, just don’t post it – you can always share something later, but you can never take it back once it’s out there.
Peter also talked about famejacking, which is a favorite social media tactic of mine (the name comes from Adrian Lurssen over at JD Supra). The idea behind famejacking is taking popular events and using them in your social media efforts.
Peter used the example of connecting Game of Thrones with estate law, by writing a blog post about whether each dragon can be listed as a dependent. There are many clever ways to look at the things that you and others enjoy, and to apply them to your area of practice. It makes you accessible and interesting, and is a great way to capture people’s attention. You’re also talking to them about something that is familiar, and not relying on legalese, which feels much more inaccessible.
Jasmine talked about one of the attorneys at her firm, Foley Hoag as an example – IP lawyers David Kluft finds a way to make all of the topics he blogs about interesting. As Jasmine said:
People read if you keep them interested, relate legal issues to topical issues when possible. [It] also makes for great tweet content."
Would You Rather Be Right? Or Happy?
One of my favorite lessons of adulthood has been to learn to ask myself the question of whether I would rather be right or happy (admittedly, I have said that it makes me happy to be right, so why can’t I be both? But I digress…).
That was the next point here – when you make an error on social media, there will be times where you’ve done nothing wrong legally, but social media is not going to be very forgiving. People love a disaster – otherwise, there would be no rubbernecking at accidents – and social media is no different.
What will save you is being empathetic – but authentically, not falsely. People can spot a fake on social media more quickly than you’d realize, and they will have no mercy when they do. The lesson here is to focus on being human. We all need to make sure we’re being professional when using social media, but we can also be human, sensitive, and caring at the same time.
Peter used the examples of Epicurious attempting to leverage the focus on the Boston bombing last year by sending out tweets that were simultaneously offering their thoughts and asking people to check out related recipes. Don’t try to capitalize on a tragedy. This is another one of those times I’d advise you to think about how you would feel as an individual if a company or another person treated you this way – if you were in the midst of a terrible day, if you’ve lost a loved one, or just heard some horrible news, would you want someone to make light of it by suggesting you bake some muffins? Um, no.
Treat people as people – social media is about building relationships, and you can’t build them without authenticity and empathy. One of the best corporate tweets to come out of the Boston bombing was when the New York Yankees tweeted that their thoughts were with the Boston community, and that they planned to have a moment of silence and play "Sweet Caroline" at their own game that evening. That’s real.
Best Practices to Target Media
As we’ve discussed before, it’s not just clients and potential clients using social media – it’s also influencers and amplifiers, such as journalists. Peter and Jasmine shared some of their best practices for targeting the media on Twitter:
- Use hashtags, but be strategic – make sure you research a hashtag before including it. Something that makes sense to you may be used for an entirely different purpose generally.
- Use proper SEO from your site and blogs to help your topics appear.
- Keep linked content easy to read and not legal jargon – be thinking about writing blog content and not client alert content.
- People will read if you keep them interested, and relate legal issues to topical ones.
- Content with images gets better engagement and more estate on platforms like TweetDeck (that’s because we’re inundated with SO much information that anything you can do to catch someone’s eye will be helpful).
- Twitter users who use mobile devices are more likely to tweet during their commute – you may want to consider tailoring the timing of your own tweeting to maximize that. If you’re not sure if you’re audience is using mobile, look at the Google analytics for your website to find out.
- Leverage third parties such as JD Supra, Lexology and Mondaq to help distribute your content.
There was so much more to the presentation than I’ve included here, so if you’re an LMA member I highly recommend seeking out the recording (and if you’re not, consider membership!) A huge thanks goes out to Peter and Jasmine for a fabulously entertaining and engrossing session!