Re-Think Social Media for Marketing


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I don’t think I have ever gotten a client from Twitter or Facebook. I may have gotten a few clients from LinkedIn, but only by accident (I rarely even log in). Many of the most effective and succesful lawyers I know never use social media at all.

I am highly skeptical of claims that every lawyer should be using social media for marketing. I fact, I am convinced that most lawyers cannot use social media effectively for marketing, no matter how many social media gurus they follow on Twitter.

But I do think you should use social media. It’s fun, after all. Take Twitter. Twitter is awesome. The main reason Twitter is awesome is public radio’s John Moe. If it weren’t for him—oh yeah, and The Bloggess—I would have deleted my account a long time ago. I don’t follow many lawyers on Twitter, though, because lawyers usually aren’t very funny and mainly retweet things from other lawyers until they devour one another in a really lame retweeting frenzy.

(This kind of attitude is probably why I don’t get clients from Twitter.)

Facebook is also awesome. If, that is, you want to reconnect with classmates you haven’t talked to in years (probably because you’ve got nothing in common, now that you think about it) and e-stalk your ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends. It is also great for finding out what your friends and family are doing without, you know, talking to them.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is just boring. It’s like speed networking without the free drinks. I’m told it is actually a very effective marketing tool, but every time I log in to find out why, I wind up on Wikipedia reading about honey badgers (link NSFW) or something.

But using social media for marketing? If your best referral sources are self-styled social media gurus, you can probably get a ton of great clients from Twitter. Or, if you have a marketing budget on par with Old Spice, definitely hire Weiden+Kennedy to create a totally awesome social media campaign. Otherwise, use social media if you enjoy it, and go have coffee with someone.

(I left out blogging on purpose. Blogging absolutely *can be* an effective marketing tool, but turning a blog into an effective marketing tool takes just as much time and effort as anything else. It’s great if you love to write, but it’s not worth it if you don’t.)



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  • Have to agree – social media probably won’t generate much in way of new clients and agree it is fun. However, I do think lawyers using social media can serve greater purpose than just for fun. Postings to FB/Twitter can go a long way to establish credibility & expertise in areas of law, as well as help drive traffic to website. I’ve found this to be true in managing FB for mid-Michigan based law firm Janes, Backus & Janes, PC. We’ve seen significant uptick in traffic to website since launching FB. Wondering if others have had similar experience??

  • Why the long face, Sam?

  • I’ve shared these thoughts for some time now. I continue to use FB and Twitter because I enjoy them–not out of any expectation of getting clients (although I have got a couple of cases from FB). If you don’t like using FB and Twitter, ignore the social media “gurus” and do what Sam says, get out and network face-to-face. You’re not missing out on anything.

  • Jack Roberts

    Great post, Sam. I’m glad to see you and many others coming out against the incessant attention paid to social media and the perception that only fools do not use social media to grow their practice.

  • FB was great at the beginning catching up with people I lost touch with. Then you reach a saturation point. Since, FB sometimes reminds me of ‘rubbernecking’ traffic on the road. I happen to be passing by and end up glancing at what a bunch of other people are all commenting on and then go on my way to more important things I need to get done.

  • Three social media marketing consultants have now used Twitter to tell me I’m wrong. One says his clients get all kinds of work from Twitter.

    I remain skeptical, and I will stay that way until some actual lawyers chime in with their social networking success stories. I do a lot of speaking and talk to a lot of lawyers, and I can’t remember a single one talking about regularly getting clients from Twitter or Facebook.

  • I would like to hear about how a criminal defense attorney can utilize Facebook. Twitter is easier. You can setup Twitter so it automatically tweets your newest blog post. LinkedIn has value too since your profile will show up when clients or potential clients search for your name.

    • Friend a lot of well-networked criminals?

  • Amy Knapp

    Sam — I hate to be contrary, but you have to be kidding! I have more than 5 law firm clients who will tell you that social media is a very effective way to develop business — and not all of them blog. Some of them are very successful building a robust and traditional business law practice utilizing LinkedIn. But don’t take my word for it, go to the Hildebrandt Social Media Conference in NYC on September 22 and you can hear two of my clients speak about their biz dev success using social media. (When Adrian Dayton was looking for lawyers to speak on his panel at this conference, I recommended two of my clients. )
    Adrian and I have a book coming out about LinkedIn and Blogging from Thompson West in January and it also contains a number of specific success stories. If you want to chat about this, I’m happy to share how it worked. You can contact me via Twitter @knappmarketing. Best, Amy

    • Why don’t you ask those clients to stop by and explain how they are getting clients from social media? That would be great!

  • Nancy Fox

    Like anything else in marketing and business development, social media is not a linear process. It is not a direct cause and effect process. It’s no wonder lawyers remain skeptical. Appropriately, lawyers by nature are linear thinkers.
    Participating in social media STRATEGICALLY makes a great deal of sense and will ultimately lead to favorable results such as referrals and clients. I myself hired an attorney found in a particular Linked In Group.
    That being said, I think it makes great sense for lawyers to learn some general basics around social media, yet outsource the actual application with a well schooled virtual (or if you are ready to make a more permanent investment) social media manager. It is much more cost effective to engage the right trained person who understands lawyers and law firms, learn the lawyer’s “voice” and specialization, and can post and build visibility, connections, and even initiate the relationships for the lawyer. Then ultimately you must bring the cloud to the ground and build the relationship out by phone or in person, just as in face to face networking.
    Social media isn’t an if anymore; its a how for lawyers. You don’t have to be everywhere or connect with everyone, just the right places and people.

    • It just sounds like you’re trying to take credit for your clients’ leads that come in from other sources.

  • I don’t understand. Are you saying I’m trying to take credit for leads? How is that?
    I am not taking credit for anything, just sharing my view on social media for lawyers.

  • Tweeting Lawyer

    This is how I feel right now:

    I get great leads, and clients, from Twitter and LinkedIn. However, you give the distinct impression that I would be wasting my typing energy by trying to explain how and why.

    So I won’t.

    • You wouldn’t be wasting your energy. Not with me, anyway. I know Twitter and Facebook can be used to generate business. My skepticism applies to most lawyers–and especially the social media consultants who claim it is some kind of panacea. I am sure there are a few lawyers who are making good use of social media, and I would love to hear from you, if you are one.

      Who I don’t really want to hear from are any more social media marketing consultants talking about their clients great results. I want to hear it from the clients.

  • I don’t think a lawyer is likely to get clients directly from social media. But I also don’t think a lawyer is going to get clients directly by having lunch or coffee with someone, or volunteering for a nonprofit, or doing bar association work. Networking is about making connections and planting seeds. Social media fits that bill. It’s not that someone will see your tweets and think “I’m going to fire my current lawyer and send all my work to this guy – he’s brilliant!” But when they or friends or business colleagues of there’s have a legal need, they’re more likely to think of you because they read your tweets everyday and they like them. That possibility makes social media worthwhile as an investment of time.

    I think you agree. You just like to be deliberately provocative and we all take the bait.

    • Tweeting Lawyer

      Eric, I think you’ve nailed Sam’s problem. It’s hard to make friends (or gain referrals) when you like to be deliberately provocative, especially when you cannot see people’s reactions to tell you when you’ve gone too far.

      Sam, what has worked for me is listening to the social media marketing consultants of whom you are so dismissive. Take what works, leave what does not. If you cannot do that, there is very little I can say that will be of help to you.

      • I didn’t say Sam had a problem. I just called him out for being deliberately provocative. Doesn’t mean I don’t love him anymore.

    • I do agree. However, I don’t think the social media marketing consultants have anything valuable to say about using social media. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are just an online extension of your offline relationships. Maybe you are more likely to get a referral if you use them, but I’m not convinced.

  • Totally agree that LinkedIn is boring, and made worse by the presence of said ‘social media gurus’ and ‘rainmakers’. I live in England. I don’t need more rain.

  • Bob Wilson

    This is interesting and reminds me of my web design days back in the late 1990s. Back then, for anyone who doesn’t remember, people questioned websites. We routinely were asked, “Is this just a fad”? One thing that pushed clients over the edge was national ads on network TV listing their website addresses.

    Fast-forward to today. Few can survive without a website. And what is being used now on national TV advertisements? The company’s Facebook URLs. I’ve seen this movie before.

    And I’m not even going to get started on the younger generation who EXPECT companies to use this. Before you dismiss them, who do you think are your future customers?

    So while a social presence won’t guarantee you a stream of clients any more than a website or national ad will, I do think it’s a trend worth investigating. Try some stuff and see what sticks. It certainly won’t all work perfectly, but you don’t want to still be wondering if it’s a fad once it’s mainstream.

    • Fast-forward to today, and the vast majority of lawyers still can’t attract clients by building a website themselves. I don’t see any reason to think the same lawyers who cannot manage to put up a decent website would manage better with Facebook and Twitter.

      • Bob Wilson

        True, anyone not capable of creating a decent website (or better yet hiring an expert do to it right) will probably not fare well with social media. They probably aren’t public-focused enough.

        But for those who are I think it’s worth a try. If our measuring tool is a website, I’ve seen enough very good lawyer websites to know those people exist.

        At the end of the day, there will be some pro-social and some anti-social. The world is big enough for all of them. My point is it’s a growing trend and thereby deserves some attention.

  • I appreciate the article on social media and its uses. I have recently started blogging on my on website and I am moving ahead with Facebook also. Twitter is what seems dead to me. I think other micoblogging sites like Tumblr may be more effective. What social media boils down to is developing trust between you and a potential client by being real and offering helpful information. That is why I seek to educate on my website and not just talk about the school I went to. Thanks for the post.

  • HI Sam,

    Here is my take on social media and attorneys…

    Social Media offers an ideal, cost effective medium to engage potential clients by breaking down traditional physical and psychological barriers that prevent many interested parties from seeking adequate legal services.

    Online video (YouTube) is one means to communicate with your audience. This medium allows attorneys to generate qualified leads with minimal cost by providing limited, complimentary legal advice. A 30 second or 3 minute YouTube video that addresses your clients most common questions and concerns allows potential clients to “Meet you” from the comfort of their own laptop or smart phone.

    An active website, blog, and/or Facebook page provides attorney’s with a real-time platform to engage potential clients via

    *Parties interested in legal advise may submit questions via your website/blog/Facebook and other Social media channels
    *Shoot a video addressing commonly asked questions and upload to YouTube (all Social media outlets)
    *Create a vlog (video blog) where you will embed your video
    *Optimize each video for certain keywords

    Once engaged and communicated with, these interested parties seeking legal advise are potential clients

    • Your take on social media and attorneys effectively demonstrates the depth of your knowledge of social media and attorneys.