More than 10% of law firms in the country are on Facebook and more than 40% of attorneys, according to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association earlier this year. 12% of respondents reported working at firms with an online presence in a social network such as Facebook, up 4% from the 2008 survey, marking a three-fold increase, and 43% of reported maintaining a personal account.
So, in an era of growing Facebook and social media use among both regular folks and big businesses, trying to find a place for the legal community online may be a challenge — especially with privacy and safety issues sometimes involved for attorneys. With Facebook’s new customized privacy settings and its continued growth both in the US and worldwide, lawyers and law firms must figure out how to make the most of all that Facebook has to offer.
Facebook has already penetrated the courts, where alibis have been established based on a Facebook status update, ethics committees have ruled on whether judges and lawyers may be friends, or state bar associations have ruled on using them in the course of investigating their cases.
1. Start a Facebook Page and Use It To Find Clients
All you need to sign up for a Facebook account is an email address and a desire to network. Then, you can create a Facebook page in a few easy steps — more here. Decide whether you want to do so from a personal account, or an account you set up specifically to use to market your practice or firm. The fact that people list their physical location on Facebook means you can easily see if someone commenting on a page is a potential client or someone with whom you’d want to connect. Note that Facebook does allow you to send geo-targeted status updates and inbox updates to fans – inbox updates appear in a secondary tab in the Facebook message inbox.
2. Provide Useful Information to Potential Clients
You can share as much or as little information as you deem fit on your Facebook Page, depending on where you want to target online traffic. Such information often includes basics like physical addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, or a profile of you and/or your fellow attorneys. Michael J. Murphy’s firm (seen above) does a good job of this, including the same information available on his main site and prominently displaying office hours and contact information. But before you start sharing status updates, photos, and other media in the stream, make sure you and your firm figure out what your marketing strategy is going to be. It’s very important to think systematically about what you post, as this information is what appears to users in their news feeds and typically generates the most conversation. Are you going to post only major news? Are you going to ask questions of your clients? Are you going to provide tips?
3. Engage Your Clients
The law firm Facebook Pages with the largest number of fans update their statuses on a regular basis, post videos and pose questions, and then respond back via posts or comments. A good example is the Tillman Law Firm (above), which uses status updates daily — sometimes several times daily — with news, tips, holiday wishes and sales pitches and responding to fans’ comments. This creates a conversation and if you don’t attempt to sustain that conversation fans will stop paying attention to you. Using Facebook effectively requires active participation on your page that will be rewarded once you see online traffic for you start to grow, and eventually, through more clients. But remember, while Facebook marketing is powerful, it costs time (and money if you use Facebook advertising to promote your page).
You need to include Facebook into your marketing plan, but it should be part of a broader strategy incorporating all the elements that make social marketing successful. Facebook provides an option that lets you repost any update from your page to Twitter and vice versa, courtesy of the Twitter app for Facebook. If you have a blog, you can use the Networked Blog service or a number of other third party applications to syndicate the RSS feed of your blog into your page.
4. Measure Your Results Based on Your Goals
By using Facebook you’ll have an opportunity to get to know potential clients in a very personal way, allowing you to survey your clientele and the way they use your Facebook page. You have to remember the viral nature of Facebook — what starts out as a simple post can end up with dozens of comments. If you post stories on Facebook that link to your primary web site, such as the Ferrell Law Firm (above), does it drive good traffic? Is your office getting more calls? Paying attention to changes in your business as the result of Facebook marketing will allow you to better hone your marketing strategy on the site.
5. Make Sure to Do Personal Networking
You don’t necessarily need a Page in order for the site to be useful. Simply having a personal profile allows you to find friends, search for people you know professionally but aren’t friends with, and find out valuable information like who you share mutual friends with. And, as evidenced by Klun Law Firm’s posts, networking on the web can become more personal with Facebook. A key feature here is Groups. As opposed to Pages, Groups are designed around letting users create and share information about most any topic that interests them. Search for groups on the site that are relevant to your areas of interest, join the ones that interest you, and use them to find like-minded people who may be able to help you professionally.
6. Optimize Your SEO Traffic
Just because you have a web site doesn’t mean it’s easy to find, or easy to use. Facebook is an excellent tool to increase online traffic to your firm or practice and we can help point out a few key ways in which your page design can affect your search engine optimization. Using the “About” text box, which is the highest place in the CSS structure of the page to add custom text, add keyword-dense prose at the top of your Page. This will contribute to online traffic. The “Info” tab may also be used to this end, especially as overview, mission and other web sites. There are many other ways to make your Facebook page stand out during search engine queries, but these are some of the basics.
7. Consider Buying Facebook Advertising
One way to drive people to your Page is to buy advertising on Facebook, using its self-serve system. You can very specifically target ads to various demographics, including, country, state and city, gender, age, workplace, and much more. Clicking on the above ad for Greenberg and Rudman, LLP takes you directly to their primary web site, even though they don’t have any fans on their Facebook page. Make sure to experiment with different targeting campaigns, and different styles of ads, in order to see what advertising works the best.
8. Plan Events for Your Fans
Use your page to let clients know about events going on at your practice or firm, such as clinics, workshops, court dates or other public events. Correll Law Firm’s use of the events application allowed the firm to reach out to fans online and bring them into face-to-face contact. Fans or friends of your Facebook page can then see the events and RSVP, allowing you to get a better idea of how many people are going to show up.
9. Don’t Forget Privacy
In this day and age when personal information is easily available online, it’s important to make sure, especially if you have professional concerns about your personal safety, that you keep tight control over who sees what on your page. These concerns may be different if you are operating your firm’s or practice’s page, particularly because insurance companies, opposing counsel and judges are all also on Facebook. We have a privacy guide and a detailed look at Facebook’s newest privacy settings to help you in this process.