It’s true that law firms haven’t adopted social media at the pace of other service-based industries such as ad agencies or business consultancies. But this is changing fast.

In fact, over the last year we’ve seen more and more law firms attend our social media webinars, read our blog, and reach out for advice.

Today, I want to share a few of the key tactics law firms are using on social media.

At Hootsuite, we work with over 11 million customers and 744 of the Fortune 1000. In the legal services sector, we are trusted by 29 of the top 50 AmLaw firms for their social media initiatives.

In other words, we’ve seen a lot of social media strategies from many different angles.

Here’s what law firms are focusing on in the year ahead.

1. Demonstrate expertise and connect

“Lawyers are trying to sell what is in their mind,” says Nancy Myrland, the President of Myrland Marketing, a consultancy that specializes in helping law firms develop their social media strategies. “In that way, social media is a brilliant tool as they can write and talk about what they know about. This makes their service and value to clients more tangible, helping to turn contacts into connections.”

While other industries are focusing relentlessly on driving huge volumes of social media traffic and trying to better track the direct impact of social on revenue, most of the law firms we work with are focusing on using social media to demonstrate their expertise and build their professional networks.

A few years ago, McKinsey & Company conducted an insightful analysis of the unrealized value in social media for law firms and other professional service based businesses.

As McKinsey noted in their full report, law firms have a lot to gain from social media channels as businesses such as “professional services firms, more so than other businesses, are innately social organizations. They depend very heavily on social interaction–with clients and among professional colleagues—to carry out their work and develop new business.”

After all, law firms rely on social interactions—with clients and among professional colleagues—to be successful at their work and develop new business. These long-term relationships, as McKinsey’s research showed, are built on traits such as intellectual leadership, integrity, and confidentiality, traits that can easily be expressed via social media.

So what does this look like practically?

Focus on building relationships with journalists, connecting with your local business influencers, and demonstrating expertise on LinkedIn.

A tip here—LinkedIn Publisher is very effective for amplifying blog posts or sharing a recent client win. This article teaches you how to use LinkedIn Publisher, step-by-step.

2. Amplify beyond your law firm’s LinkedIn page

“Law firms and their lawyers need to take full advantage of LinkedIn—clients are congregating there professionally more than on any other social platform,” says the most recent survey on the In-House Counsel Use of Social Media Survey conducted by Inside Counsel, Greentarget and Zeughauser Group.

One tactic we’ve seen work really well for our law firm clients is to amplify thought leadership content across individual attorney networks. In fact, across most industries—from real-estate to health care to financial services—bringing employee advocates into company social media initiatives is a trend that has been growing each year.

This, of course, works best in large law firms. For example, your corporate communications team can approve content in their Social Relationship Platform. When individual lawyers log in to the law firm’s social media dashboard, they can easily share that content to their professional networks on LinkedIn.

With your corporate office and individual attorneys working together, your law firm will extend the impact of your thought leadership. This helps official firm content reach a wider audience of prospects, journalists, and industry peers.

By joining conversations on Twitter and commenting on relevant news articles, lawyers can also showcase their expertise on particular areas of practice. Over time, this will increase the visibility of your firm’s expertise on both social channels as well as Google searches, as social content is often indexed by Google.

For more information on this topic, I recommend Hootsuite’s guide “Scaling Social: the Power of Employee Advocates.

3. The rise of the listening law firm

“Social media listening is really valuable and becoming very common for competitive intelligence and monitoring different topics and practice areas,” says Nancy Myrland. “More attorneys are finding more comfort levels and including social media searches. It’s definitely part of the research being done today.”

Many firms use Google Alerts to monitor cases or stay informed about key issues facing their client’s businesses. But search engines only scan the surface of the web, ignoring vast amounts of valuable information.

Using solutions such as uberVU via Hootsuite (known as broad social media listening) your firm can access 100+ million sources—a comprehensive scan of relevant information far beyond what you’ll find at the top of Google.

Social media law firm

At Hootsuite, we’ve seen large law firms use broad social media listening to stay informed about news and public opinion impacting their clients’ businesses.

One tactic is to build a dashboard for each client or industry topic you need to monitor. That way, you can simply log in and view the most relevant discussions and emerging trends for about 15 minutes per day.

This allows you to be proactive about unexpected trends or new case developments.

The dashboards below took us about five minutes to configure in uberVU via Hootsuite and require no technical skills. They pull global data from 100+ million sources, 25+ platforms, and 55+ languages.

In the dashboard below, we are monitoring the share of voice for five major law firms: Latham & Watkins, DLA Piper, Kirkland & Ellis, White & Case, Baker & McKenzie.

social media law firm

Broad social media listening can also help you stay informed about your client’s industry. For example, below we are monitoring global conversations around the Apple Class Action Lawsuit.

social media law firm

These searches often reveal important insights that you won’t find at the top of Google.

A good tip: set up automatic alerts for new trends or unusual activity on a keyword. This will help you respond faster to stories that might impact your clients and cases.

4. Stay ahead of public opinion with social listening

Another popular use we’ve seen among law firms is to use broad social media analytics to quickly measure and track changes in public opinion.

In Canada, Jian Ghomeshi, a popular radio host, posted a Facebook message to his fans, announcing a 55-million dollar lawsuit against his former employer, the CBC. The post initially gained positive sentiment and support among fans.

Yet, within 48 hours, the sentiment quickly changed and public opinion began to hear a very different side of the lawsuit through blog posts, viral social media posts, and then the mainstream media. It was a dramatic shift in public opinion that unraveled both in mainstream media and social networks at an extreme velocity (shown below).

Below, Aleece Germano, an Enterprise Solutions Consultant at Hootsuite, used uberVU via Hootsuite to analyze 175k+ mentions from over 100M unique online sources. Here we can view the Jian Ghomeshi sentiment trendline (or perhaps, “reputation trendline” in this case):

social media law firm

As you can see, this is really helpful for navigating public sentiment in high visibility cases.

uberVU via Hootsuite will identify unusual spikes in social media activity long before they become mainstream stories, allowing your firm to strategize (or in the toxic case of Ghomeshi, to drop the client as his “high stakes crisis” PR firm did right before the spotlight turned in their direction).

This is particularly useful for class action lawsuits. Wide scans of global social media channels can even help anticipate possible new additions to cases as well.

5. The biggest opportunity for revenue growth

“Paid social advertising is one opportunity that hasn’t been oversold,” says Larry Port from Rocket Matter. “It is still an incredibly effective way to amplify content and a great alternative for law firms, instead of dumping money into Google AdWords.”

Larry sees paid social media ads as the next big trend for law firms and expects more firms to realize the benefits in the next year. Adding paid social media to any social media strategy is an effective way to grow social media results with little effort.

You can read this guide to paid social media advertising for a step-by-step tour of the major platforms, though I recommend that your firm begin with social ads for LinkedIn and Twitter.

Looking ahead

At Hootsuite, we’re pretty excited to see how law firms develop their social media initiatives. Social media is the new front door for prospects and clients—so, it will be interesting to see the rise of the new social law firm.

In our guide, How Law Firms Can Navigate Social Media, we’ll show you how law firms are using Hootsuite Enterprise to solve the three biggest challenges in social media.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
James Mulvey is a senior copywriter at Hootsuite. With 11 million global customers and 1700 enterprise clients, Hootsuite is the world’s most widely used social relationship platform.