A common theme of advice I have received as I embark on my legal career is the importance of using social media to develop a professional brand. And so this seems like a fitting topic to expand on as the 2014 calls transition from articling into our new role as licensed lawyers.
To get some answers, I spoke with Jon Holden, Bennett Jones’ director of marcom and social media, to find out the what, where, and why social media can help raise your profile in the field. I also got feedback from experts in social media to gather tips for students and young lawyers who want to start using this as a platform to grow their practice.
Why use social media?
While a large percentage of legal business comes from referrals, especially in private practice, so much time is allocated to meeting work targets not much is left for business development. For years, social media has been a quick and accessible way to build lawyers’ personal brand, practice portfolio, and firm portfolio as well.
As young associates, it may not seem important to think about networking, but it is never too early. Nancy Myrland, of Myrland Marketing & Social Media, advises: “Now is the time to become familiar with these tools because they can accelerate the relationships you need to build your future book of business.”
A reason to consistently use social media is to make sure once you have established a following, you stay visible.
“Think of each social media platform as a stream down which your posts float,” says Heather Morse, director of marketing at Los Angeles-based Barger & Wolen LLP. “Readers catch your posts as they float by, so populate different streams at the same time, and don’t be afraid to repost content in the same stream more than once.”
Where to post your content
Once you have convinced yourself it is worthwhile to build social media into your practice, up next is deciding where to start. Blogging about the happenings in the legal field is a great place to begin.
In addition to posting on your firm’s web site, there are numerous free platforms where people can submit their content for free. Facebook, Wordpress are common venues. If you can pay, there's the popular Lexblog. Twitter is great for ongoing coverage because it is used so frequently, said Holden.
Although not used as frequently, it is also worth considering the new blogging platform that recently launched on LinkedIn in the United States, and will be entering the Canadian market this summer.
What is great about LinkedIn, says Holden, is it gives a lot of flexibility because it is tied to you rather than to your firm. It is also directly connected to your network, so it is an efficient way to place your content where the people you want to reach will access it easily.
What to write about
The final step in the social media plan is deciding what content to publish. For starters, Gina Rubel, CEO of Furia Rubel Communications, suggests bloggers “think before you post and when you do post, make it something that others care about and need to know.”
That last part is important, but can often be the most difficult to decide on. To figure out the answer, think about your audience and your own interests.
Holden emphasizes “the most valuable skill you can have in social media is the ability to listen. Listen intently to what your network is saying, their opinions, and you will find a world of valuable, actionable information.”
Myrland suggests young lawyers “connect with people you want to know, and whose radar you want to be on. Observe for a bit, then be personable and spend time interacting, sharing others’ content, read and feel and be sure to use social media for connecting, not just as broadcast tools.”
It is also important to remain focused. Holden suggests if possible, set out a schedule for topics so there is some continuity. If you know what area of law you want to focus on, then stick to that area. If you don’t, use the platform to explore different areas and see how people respond. Either way, be sure to maintain a consistent tone and voice throughout your entries.
Regardless of what the subject matter is, make sure you are genuine. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” advises Lindsay Griffiths, director of global relationship management with the International Lawyers Network. “There’s a balance of professionalism that’s necessary, but share who you are in order to really connect and engage with people.”
Sasha Toten has just wrapped up her articles at Bennett Jones LLP in Toronto.