Why Aren’t Firms Seeing Returns from Social Media?

Yeah you heard me – MOST law firms aren’t seen any return on investment from social media. And there are some key reasons why that is the case, so let’s get into it.

Social Media has No Return on Investment for Lawyers!

I thought it would be appropriate, given that I’m embarking on YouTube, I’m trying for the podcast, I may upload the video to Facebook, I may put some snippets on Instagram or Twitter, for us to have a bit of a chat about social media in particular.

And, in particular, I wanted to explore the principle reasons that law firms see no return from their efforts at social media.

So I’m going to run through a few of the main reasons that I see – I’m not going to talk about tactics, I’m not going to say it’s because they don’t use enough characters in their tweets, or it’s because they use the wrong images.

I want to talk about big picture. I want to talk about strategy. I want to give an idea of the top-level decisions that are being made or not being made, that law firms really need to be engaging on, which are resulting in this poor return on investment.

having a blog and sharing your articles on social media every time you publish them, is not a social media strategy

The Typical Law Firm’s Approach to Social Media

I’m sure you’ve heard this particular story before.  In a law firm scenario it is, “Oh yeah, you know, we got a Facebook page, and we post our articles to it, but we don’t, you know, we don’t really get any inquiries.  We don’t see any results from it, we get a little bit of traffic, sometimes we boost a post so we spend 10 or 20 bucks boosting a post on Facebook, but we don’t see the outcomes that we really want to be able to see, and so we’re not really thinking that that’s a thing for us right now, we think that maybe, maybe later when there’s more people on social media”.

OK, I’ve never heard anyone say that last part, but you get the idea.  You get this concept that law firms are tentatively dipping their toes in the water, and, they haven’t seen the return, and so, they throw their hands up and say, “Well social media doesn’t work. Lawyers can’t succeed on Facebook” and “we’ll never get a client out of Facebook.”  They say “LinkedIn is not worth investing in, it’s just not worth it, people waste time on it, and we’ve never seen a client come in from LinkedIn, what’s the point?”

So, where do we go to with that kind of prevailing attitude among law firms?

Well, I’m going to look at five ways, because it’s always good to have a list, and today I’ve got five. So I’m going to look at five areas that law firms really haven’t properly dealt with, if they’re going to actually succeed at social media.

I’m going to ignore the elephant in the room which is that part of the reason they are failing is because they are so dismally late to the party, because I’ve gone on about that before.

Yes, it is true, law firms are late to the party. They haven’t invested in social properly, they don’t understand social media, they didn’t get on early enough, because they were so paranoid about it not working that they waited too long to see the dramatic results that they now only wish they could be getting.

But that’s not what I’m talking about, that is not number one in my list, and I’m not going to go there today.

Reason 1 – Law Firms Don’t have a Social Media Strategy

The first issue is that many law firms haven’t actually developed a social media strategy.

See, here’s the thing, law firms get into social, or they have a Facebook page, or they encourage their staff in some way to be on LinkedIn, or they set up a LinkedIn profile for all their partners and then they’re done.

That’s it. That’s their investment in social.

They haven’t actually sat down and developed a social media strategy.

Now, before we get into things too much further let me articulate this very clearly, having a blog and sharing your articles on social media every time you publish them, is not a social media strategy, it’s not, that’s not social media at all. It’s not, well OK, it’s social media, but it’s not a social media strategy, that’s not a strategy.

If you’ve got 250 staff and you manage to pump out 500 articles a year, across your various staff, and your strategy is that you share those on social media when they come out, maybe you send them to your email list, that’s not on my social media list that’s a different concept entirely, but, what is it that you’re actually hoping to achieve, what is your strategy, what is the big picture?

  • Who are the clients that you’re looking to target?
  • Who is tagging your post as evergreen or not evergreen or time-sensitive?
  • Who is identifying who responds to them?
  • Who is engaging with your audience?
  • Who is seeing how you can differentiate yourself in the market from a social perspective?
  • Who is embarking on new creation strategies?
  • Who is taking that popular piece, and breaking it up and putting it on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and YouTube?
  • Who is actually responsible for turning the hard work that one of your lawyers has put in, and we’re going to come back to that, the hard work that one of your lawyers has put in to write this article, into an actionable marketable piece of content?

Because your lawyers don’t know how to do it, as a rule, unless they’ve invested some time in that particular area. So what is it that you’re hoping to achieve if you just share things on social, and that’s all you do? Not much, and as a result you’re not going to see much, you don’t know what you’re going to achieve, you don’t know what you want to achieve, you don’t know who you’re targeting, you don’t know who they are, you don’t know why they would read that particular piece of content, and when they do read that particular piece of content you don’t know what you’re going to do with that information.

Do you even let your lawyers know who’s reading their content, do you let them know who’s opening their articles, so that they can follow up and do some marketing?

No, most law firms do not, most law firms do not have a content marketing strategy, most law firms do not have a social media strategy, they might have a social media presence, but that is not the same as having a social media strategy. So, number one reason, that law firms fail at social media is because they don’t have a strategy.

2 – Law Firms Have No Personality

The second issue, and it’s a slightly less pervasive one, but I think it’s still a rational one, is that, most law firms don’t have any personality, they don’t.

Because they’re so obsessed with being brand, OK, so we’ve got this concept of the law firm brand, in all its magnificent glory and its colors and its font scheme and its logo, the difficulty with the brand is it’s very hard for a brand to have a personality, now some brands manage to cross that boundary, but it is very very difficult to do, especially for law firms, so you’re smaller, you’re not Coca Cola, you’re not Virgin, you’re law firm X.

The chances that you are going to have a brand that is capable of having a personality is actually quite slim, and so the difficulty you’ve got is that your social media posts reflect that, and this is social. If you go to a party, and you’re the person standing in the corner, that mumbles, or doesn’t talk to anyone or just sort of stands there like this, are you going to be the person that people engage with? Probably not, so, you need to think of a way within the strategy that you don’t have, but you’re going to have after watching this video, you need to think of a strategy that allows your lawyers’ personality to come through, and this where you need to start to branch out, between law firm brand and allowing your lawyers to have personal brand.

If you don’t want to have a brand personality, and don’t want to start to develop that, if only because it will be the same as every single other law firm’s brand personality, which is probably something fairly boring, then, perhaps what you can do is at least allow your individual lawyers to start developing their personalities and engaging with people on that level.

Now how are you going to do that? A lot of law firms don’t even let their staff know when they’ve shared an article. How is that going to work? Are you going to be able to actually allow your lawyers to engage with people who engage with their article, if you don’t tell them you’ve shared their article because you’re so busy maintaining your schedule?

Tell your lawyers at the very least, that they have had their article shared on social then let them share it, let them reshare it, let them answer questions, let them engage with it, give them permission and access, and authority to engage with people on social media on behalf of your brand, and that way at least they can bring their personality into the equation, even if your firm can’t.

On the other hand, what you could do is you could start to actually write things with personality, so the content you produce is capable of displaying a sense of humor, a sense of compassion, a sense of seriousness, a sense of playfulness, a sense of downtroddenness, a sense of cynicism, a sense of positivity, what is it that you want to display in your articles?

The reason that most law firms’ articles don’t get shared very much is because they’re extremely boring, now this is not about content marketing this is about social media, so I’m not going to go into that too much, but, they’re extremely boring because most lawyers are terrified of any kind of personality coming through in the content they produce.

How about you take the chains off your lawyers, by deliberately, consciously, and actively allowing them to have personality in their articles? So, where did we get to? We got to the fact that having some personality was going to be of significant benefit to you as a brand, and to your lawyers as a brand, because that’s how social media works, social media works with personality.

When you read any news article about how such-and-such a brand did something amazing on social media, I will bet your bottom dollar that that particular incident involved a brand showing some personality, and involved an individual engaging with someone on behalf of the brand with a sense of humor, or a sense of fun, or a sense of playfulness, or just generally being human, as opposed to colors and logos and fonts.

That’s what social media is about.

3 – Law Firms have No Consistency on Social Media

So the third reason is that there’s no real consistency. Often we have a posting schedule in law firms, you see that a lot.  In smaller firms they struggle a bit to generate the amount of content necessary to feed “the machine”, but if you’re in a smaller firm and you’re struggling with that issue of consistency why not share other articles of interest, why not share things that other people find fascinating?

Share popular articles.  There are any number of tools out there that can be used to identify popular articles, but in reality you will probably just see them yourself.

If you’re in charge of a law firm and you read, then you will come across good articles and bad articles and interesting articles.

Have your team, or if you’re by yourself or if you’re in a small firm, have someone be in control of simply sharing those on your social media platforms.  Get them out, you don’t need to write all of the content yourself.

Within the context of both production of content and sharing of content what you want it to do is you want to have a nice spread of consistent presence in social, and that might involve commenting on things from time to time, that might involve liking things, engaging with things, sharing things.

Be social, the idea of consistency is about being social because it’s social media, it’s not just media.

That is why a lot of law firms fail – they go through this big push, and then they don’t see the return and then they go, “Oh, well, I don’t want to do that any more”.

If you join an organization and you go to the first two meetings out of 48, do you expect to be nominated as the president of that organization next year? Of course not: you haven’t invested the time, you haven’t gone to the trouble of developing relationships, you haven’t displayed the personality that hopefully now you’re going to have.

So if you want to actually shine on social you need to be consistent, you need to be present – you need to turn up.

And that’s why you need to be careful how many platforms you get involved in, because it’s very difficult to maintain a presence on all of the available platforms at the moment, so pick the ones where you are prepared to actually invest the time.

4 – Need to Train your Lawyers in Social Media Strategy

Now the fourth reason that a lot of law firms fail at social media is because they don’t train their staff.

Now, the reason for this is twofold:

  1. First, most people think this is only the area of the marketing team.
  2. Second, most lawyers have no clue what they’re doing on social media from a professional perspective.

How do we deal with those?

The first is a pretty simple problem: it is not your marketing team’s problem to be social.  At the very most they can control the brand a little bit, they can set up the posting schedule, they can create opportunities for you.  Even if you have a “social media person”, and you might, it is not their job to be social on your behalf -it’s social media.

If, instead of attending a function you sent someone else to attend the function for you, do you think that that would be the same as you turning up in person? Of course not, social media is about the social component as much as the media component.

If you send someone else to a party on your behalf, that’s not the same as you going and participating in the discussion.  If you want to actually see the return on social media, then you need to invest the time with you, and your own personality.

Alternatively, you need to give enough people authority that they can consistently invest.  So, it is not the marketing team’s problem, and that is why the training of the staff is lacking because a lot of people think that it’s a marketing team issue.  They don’t think, how can we involve our entire team?

The interesting thing here is that we’re missing out on so many opportunities as law firms.

Let’s take again, the 250-person law firm, or the 100-person law firm. If on average, on say LinkedIn (which is really the biggest professional environment these days) all of your staff have an average of 300 connections, which is not a huge number and not a tiny number, and you share an article on LinkedIn to all of the people who have followed your company brand, which is probably a couple of hundred that’s going to, maybe, get seen by a couple of dozen people, and of those it might get clicked on by three or four, that’s the kind of metrics you’re looking at.

What would happen, if 50 people, out of the 100 people say in your law firm, and each of those had 300 connections, all shared that post with their connections? Now there’s going to be some duplication, because people move in the same circles, but what would happen, if on average, 50 people shared it with another 300 people?

Can you see where that number goes? Can you see how 300 becomes 15,000? Can you imagine getting each of your articles in front of another 15,000 people every time?

All of sudden, a couple of dozen becomes a few dozen, becomes a lot of dozens, becomes hundreds, becomes thousands, and all of a sudden the couple of people who clicked becomes dozens, becomes more than a few dozens, becomes hundreds.

And that is a simple way to use your firm’s powerhouse of human resources, which takes a grand total of about 5 minutes to implement.

But people aren’t training their staff to do this.  People aren’t encouraging their staff, and people aren’t authorizing their staff.  You need to give your staff permission to do it, and you need to give them access, don’t just expect them to find the latest article that the firm happens to have shared, and go, “Oh, I’d better share that with my own connections”.

Send an email to your team, say, “Hello team, you are the 50 people most relevant to this, who have particular areas or connections that we think are relevant to this article, could you please share it with your own connections”.

The amount of visibility you can get within your own staff is unbelievable, compared to paying a few thousand dollars to boost it, it’s a huge difference.

Now people might be less than prepared to share it on Facebook, because that’s a personal connection platform and it’s a bit different.  Their friends there aren’t necessarily their professional connections.  But if you look on LinkedIn, and sometimes if you look on Twitter, those are different opportunities, that you might be able to avail yourself of. Under-utilizing your staff, and under-training your staff how best to serve their firm in that area, is such a dramatic waste of time, it’s a waste of human capital and it’s a waste of money, frankly.

For the investment of a couple of minutes of time, your articles, and your shares, and your media, and your videos, and whatever it is you’re posting, could be viewed by thousands more people, but it’s not, because you’re not doing it.

5 – Law Firms Aren’t All In on Social Media

ironically they’re not all in because they haven’t seen the return, but they haven’t seen the return because they’re not all in!

So the fifth one, and it’s a really a culmination of the rest. It’s that law firms aren’t going all in on social media.

That’s it, they’re not going all in, if they have no strategy, they’re just dabbling, they’re, sort of, dipping their toes in, that’s not all in.

If they’re not prepared to invest the time and the consistency then that’s not all in.

If they’re not prepared to allow their people to have some personality then that’s not all in.

And if they’re not prepared to engage their staff appropriately in the process, then that is not all in.

If you are a firm, if you’re a partner of a firm, if you’re a senior solicitor in a firm, and you are wondering why your firm does not have a good social media presence, it’s because they’re not all in.

And ironically they’re not all in because they haven’t seen the return, but they haven’t seen the return because they’re not all in.

They haven’t done it properly, they haven’t taken the time to learn how it works, they haven’t taken the time to invest in their staff, they haven’t taken the time to invest the money and the human resources required to do it properly, and that is why they are not seeing the return.

If lawyers and law firms invested as little in the practice of law as they do in their social media strategy, they would fail instantly. And the reason is of course, because most law firms are doing fine, they don’t see the value in social media, but part of the reason they’re not seeing the value in social media, is because they haven’t invested the time and the money properly. If you invest the time and the money and the consistency and the strategy and the learning, then you will see the benefit of social media, you will see how you can make actual money, and get actual clients, with a proper utilization of social media strategies.

What’s Your Solution?

So, those are my five, slightly rantish, opportunities for law firms to improve in social media.

I’d encourage you as a starting point to sit down and develop a social media strategy.  

There are any number of books, I would check out the ones by Joe Pulizzi, I would check out the ones by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Have a read, have a look at how social works, have a look at exactly what you can achieve with social, and then develop a strategy, and the rest will flow from that.

So for today, let’s do this: what’s your social media strategy, or what’s your firm’s social media strategy, how could your firm improve in social media?

Don’t bag them out, offer some suggestions, offer some positivity.  What is it that they could do, in your opinion, to help nail social media?

And if you don’t want to talk about your firm talk about someone else’s firm or a hypothetical firm, what are firms looking to do in social media that they could do better?

Happy Lawyering!

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