9 Best Practices for Attorneys Using Facebook

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).