As we travel to different industry conferences, a topic that almost always comes up is how attorneys and law firms deal with social media, and whether or not they should deal with it at all. What I think has been missing from these conversations, however, has been a discussion of not simply whether or not to do social media, but how to do social media. If a methodology was brought forth with instruction, engaging in social media might seem like an attractive options for law firms and those in the legal field.
This sentiment was also acknowledged by Kevin O’Keefe, who maintains his blog Real Lawyers Have Blogs: Topics of the Law, Firm Marketing, Social Media, and Baseball, in his post “Five Tips For Law Firm Social Media – The Right Way,” which was published earlier this year in January. His commentary was a inspired by Naomi Mandelstein’s Huffington Post article, “5 Tips for Corporate Social (Media) Responsibility Communications.”
O’Keefe and Mandelstein highlight five tenets of doing social media “the right way.” The tips provided in the articles are certainly relevant to law firms, but also to any business that’s using social media today. To highlight, both note that firms should “engage, don’t broadcast” and that they should “ask questions you want answered.” Both of these bits of advice are profoundly helpful as no one on any social media is there to simply be a sponge for what you have to say. It is absolutely necessary to put forth information that is interesting and that will encourage readers to reciprocate with his or her own commentary. Social media is great in that you have a multitude of opportunities to get questions you want answered. For example, Facebook offers polls that are built right into the status box. Opportunities for the general public, and more importantly your audience, are available online through social media. You just have to have your eyes open to find them.
Two of the most important tips that O’Keefe and Mandelstein promote are to “listen” and to “respond.” These are two simple fundamental elements of communication. If you never listen to anyone, you don’t know what their needs are and how you can meet them. The audience gathers that you’re in business to make business. But that’s not the point of social media. It’s to be social, using the technologies and media that have been made accessible. Within a social audience, you can’t determine if the content is relevant and if anyone is paying attention if you don’t listen. If you don’t respond, it’s like you’re a robot. Just as no one is a fan of automated phone systems, emails, etc., no one wants to be spammed with a robot simply posting up hand-crafted infomercial statuses that don’t bear any relevance to the audience. This kind of behavior will not only make you lose followers and/or friends, but it screams that you just don’t listen, and even more loudly, that you just don’t care. And who wants to be in business with someone who doesn’t listen or respond to their prospective customers? Not me!
The final tip is to be authentic. People can hear your “voice” in what you write. They can glean sincerity, complete malarkey, and they can definitely tell when you’re being real, just from what you write, and certainly in 150 characters or less. And to that end, if you engage in social media, you should care about your company because people will see right through it. Celebrate successes (but keep in mind, just as in “real life” people don’t like a braggart!), start the conversation about things that challenge you- ask for advice. You just might get an idea that you wouldn’t have otherwise come up with.
The bottom line is that there is no reason for attorneys or process servers, or really anyone in business, should stay away from social media. When done correctly and responsibly, you can share, learn, and gain new clients by engaging in social media. Law firms should absolutely be involved with social media. If you approach social media as a professional conversation, you won’t get into trouble. Know the boundaries and realize that your audience is a public one. Share responsibly, and good things will come from it.
Whether you are a process server in Florida or an attorney in Ohio, let us know how engage (or plan to engage) in social media, and please do share any tips you have stumbled upon. We would love to hear them!