How Lawyers Are Using Social Media Effectively
Are you a legal professional who has joined a social networking site in the past two years? The past six months? If so, you’re not alone. A growing number of professionals in all sectors of the economy utilize social websites as a way of staying networked and increasing business, and there are many ways how lawyers are using social media effectively.
According to the 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report on Web and Communication Technology, social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are rapidly gaining traction among legal professionals of all ages. The survey revealed that while lawyers ages 30 to 39 have been heavily engaged in social media for quite some time, a dramatic increase has been seen among legal professionals ages 50 and over in the past three years. From 2006 to 2009 the percentage of social media use among lawyers ages 50 to 59 rose from 35 percent to 50 percent, and in the 60-to-69 age bracket that trend was even more pronounced, with a rise from 26 percent to 47 percent. Among social media sites, LinkedIn is the most popular, with an 83 percent adoption rate among respondents, and Facebook second at 68 percent. Twitter is a distant third with a 1.9 percent adoption rate.
What exactly does this trend of increased use of social websites mean for you as a legal professional? More than you might think. This article will give you a few tips on how lawyers are using social media effectively, and how you can fine-tune your social media presence to help you achieve positive effects on your bottom line, increase client traffic and manage your reputation.
Maximize social media to enhance your public reputation and to reach new clients.
Increasingly, online social networking offers the possibility of reaching out to potential clients. Let’s face it, phone books are becoming a thing of the past as professionals increasingly spend their working hours connected to the Internet.
As the ABA survey of social Web use indicates, many long-established legal professionals are quickly recognizing the potential social networking offers as a way of marketing oneself online. Social media is no longer a fringe activity enjoyed mainly by the innovators and early adopters in the legal profession. Indeed, social website profile pages on sites like Facebook are becoming more than just places to share photos and links with friends. Businesses and individuals alike increasingly use public profiles to promote themselves professionally and to generate clients.
Managed properly, social networks should present you to the public in a polished, professional manner, providing that personalized touch that business listings alone can’t. Indeed, the highly personal connections that social networks foster are a primary reason why they can be such effective marketing tools. If a potential client knows you through an online social network, even as a friend of an acquaintance, that individual already feels he or she knows you personally on some level. If the impression you generate on the Web is engaging, positive and professional, your social media link should effortlessly generate business contracts and referrals.
The 2010 ABA Technology Survey Report indicates that over ten percent of respondents have had a client retain their legal services as a direct result of utilizing online communities and social networking. With a large number of lawyers now familiarizing themselves with social networking and online promotion strategies, that figure will only increase in the next few years. And while not everyone is using these websites to their full advantage, there ways how lawyers are using social media effectively.
Facebook and LinkedIn seem to offer qualitatively different user experiences. Despite LinkedIn’s widespread use among lawyers, the ABA social Web-use survey found that 68 percent of attorneys ages 30 to 39 had used Facebook in the last 24 hours for personal reasons, while only 47 percent had used LinkedIn for that purpose. The reason is simple: Facebook feels personal, going beyond the relatively dry information found in business listings and LinkedIn profiles.
Make the leap from simple social networking to positive promotion.
Leveraging an online social network to create clients is easier said than done. Although many legal professionals have joined Facebook and LinkedIn, probably few have developed an optimal social networking strategy. Online social media can be a double-edged sword, often diminishing one’s reputation as much as it enhances it. A poorly managed online reputation, or one not managed at all, invariably results in a very public black eye.
Let’s assume that you, like many legal professionals, are convinced of the necessity of establishing a strong presence online. You realize that the best time to develop an online social network is now, before trends dictate that every successful legal professional have a well-coordinated online presence. You realize all this but are unsure where to start. You have limited time to wade through what seems like an endless morass of complexities on the Web.
If this is the case, you still have some viable options: it’s possible to become a well-networked legal professional in a relatively short amount of time. Indeed, a new generation of online reputation management specialists work in tandem with busy professionals like yourself to refine and manage online social networks, promoting and protecting your online reputation.
Utilize online social networking information in preparing case materials.
In late September 2010 the New York State Bar Association and the New York City Bar Association became among the first bar groups in the US to define guidelines for lawyers’ use of online social networking information in preparing legal cases. These revised guidelines allow lawyers to utilize the public pages of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in finding incriminating evidence against an opposing party in a lawsuit. This certainly gives lawyers in New York added ammunition against potential adversaries, although privacy lines remain: It will remain illegal for lawyers to pose as online friends of an individual to gain access to information used against him or her in a legal proceeding.
Beyond the effect this ruling may have on how lawyers utilize the Web, this trend highlights the need for every professional to maintain strict control over his or her online reputation. If you’re not proactive in defining which personal information is publicly accessible, there can now be legal ramifications.