Naomi Mandelstein (@mandelstein), Vice President of Global Affairs for the Global Philanthropy Forum, writing for the Huffington Post, shares five tips for corporate social media that apply well to law firms.
Here’s Mandelstein’s tips with a little annotating by me.
Engage – don’t broadcast
Companies no longer control the message of their brand. Issuing press releases, sending out a newsletter, distributing a blog post, tweeting news, or distributing content for visibility won’t cut it anymore. Your firm’s image relies on the thoughts and conversations of your clients and potential clients and the influencers of those two. You need to strategically engage your audience and build a strong community following that will help build your Internet identity.
Ask the questions you want answered
The conversation between companies and customers can be extremely valuable for both parties. Use social media to learn what your stakeholders expect from you as well as gain new ideas and feedback regarding the legal and business issues that concern them. Through blogging and other social media, a law firm can accomplish this without breaching confidences. Social media can even benefit you more than one-on-one feedback as the public sees your level of care and how you stay abreast of the industries you represent.
I’d put listening number one. If you don’t listen, how are you going to engage. Monitor social media channels to see what thought leaders and your clients and prospective clients are saying. Engage them. Actively listening to what people are saying online (RSS Reader, Twitter, LinkedIn) is a also a great way for gathering insight on how you can improve and make adjustments to your service. Be tuned into what is important to your clients and prospective clients.
Don’t let questions and statements go unanswered. By promptly responding to questions and concerns you are showing the market place that you care about what people have to say. This includes requests to connect on LinkedIn, comments on blogs, Twitter messages, and messages and friend requests on Facebook. For law firm accounts this means staffing with knowledgeable people, who are capable of responding quickly with helpful answers and information. For individual lawyers this means education of the lawyers on how responding on social media is as important as responding to email or answering a phone call.
In order for your firm to use social media successfully, you must be genuine and fully transparent. Own up to your mistakes, respond publicly to concerns and questions, and be honest about who you are. Your voice in social media should stay true to what your firm is all about. Treat your audience like real people and have personality. Rather than using only the law firm name, be personable and share who is behind the Tweeting and posting. Rather than drafting communications in the tone of press releases and announcements, think business dinner conversational tone.
Using social media properly can be a unsettling to law firms, which like other companies have always controlled their brand, as opposed to having others define the law firm’s brand through the firm’s public engagement. But try as you might to tailor social media to your world, it doesn’t work.
As you learn to understand social media and develop a comfort with it, you could do a lot worse than Mandelstein’s five tips.