Due to their often cautious and conservative nature, many law firms struggle with how to implement a firm-wide social media policy. When social media was first introduced, it seemed a foreign concept to traditional law firm marketing. However, now that it is so widespread, it has become increasingly important for firms and individual attorneys to actively engage and embrace the social sphere. Developing a policy and implementing a clear-cut plan that encourages the use of emerging social tools can help your firm gain a competitive advantage in the market.
To guide your law firm through navigating the social media landscape, and creating and executing a firm-wide social media policy, here are 5 things to consider:
- Designate a social media champion. When initially framing out a potential plan, it’s helpful to identify a partner or associate that will work with the firm’s IT and marketing experts. This champion should act as a liaison between the marketing professional and the firm to obtain interest and brainstorm ideas to develop your specific firm strategy and goals for business development. Lawyers unfamiliar with the social media tools should enlist this social media champion or their marketing professionals to provide tutorials, as they are likely to have more practice with such programs.
- Decide which tools best suit your needs. Before moving forward with preparing a policy, first decide on which social media programs you will use and how you will use them. You might want to start with legal sites such as JDSupra, Legal OnRamp or Martindale-Hubbell Connected, and then gradually become involved with more general social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. A blog for specific practices areas and attorneys is also a consideration.
- Set social media guidelines. Once you have determined which tools the firm will use, develop a set of social media guidelines that will govern the use of each web-based technology for the firm and particular practice groups, with specific rules and protocol for the who, what, where and when (and when not) to engage in social media. Clearly define the scope of the content to be published on each site and relay what is and isn’t acceptable.
- Consider any business or ethical risks. It is critical to work with your marketing staff to think about how social media communication will reflect upon individual attorneys and the firm’s brand. Consider how faithfully your communication represents your clients’ interests, as well as the repercussions of making this information public. Take a more restrictive stance whenever client communications are involved, and allow more flexibility when promoting attorneys’ thought leadership activities and firm news and events.
- Create a training program and review process. Attorneys and staff need to have a solid understanding of how to use these social media tools. Develop a training program for individuals to practice and become comfortable with each program, to help prevent any issues or errors down the road. Your firm’s marketing team should also develop a regular schedule to review and approve all communication before it goes public. After attorneys become more accustomed to engaging on social media, they can gain more autonomy when it comes to posting content.
Social media can be a huge asset to your firm if you use the tools wisely, and a clear, well-written social media policy with well-defined parameters and goals will provide a solid base for participants to get started. Work closely with your marketing experts to establish training and proper review protocol, and consider partnering with an outside communications expert with social media experience to assist with your marketing and firm business development efforts. This will help put you on the right path to utilizing social media.
Has your law firm taken a firm-wide approach to social media communications, and, if so, what sort of social media policy is in place? We’d love for you to share your social media ideas, success stories, or nightmare scenarios in our comments section below!