Is Social Media a Magic Wand or Just Another Legal Marketing Tool?

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Social media seems to be the topic du jour in legal marketing circles. Lately, it seems as if writers write, bloggers post and speakers speak about little else. While I agree that social media can be an effective tool for some lawyers, I do not agree that it is the best tool for all lawyers, everywhere.

Consider carefully before you get swept away by all the hype.

Do you like social media?

First, what types of marketing activity does the lawyer enjoy? Even the most effective tactics will be done poorly – or not at all – if the lawyer doesn’t enjoy doing them. Some lawyers enjoy writing. Some enjoy public speaking. Some enjoy networking.

Asking a natural networker to market by writing articles is a mistake. Conversely, an introverted writer will never succeed at networking. The key is to match the legal marketing tactic with the lawyer’s natural strengths and inclinations.

Before focusing on social media marketing, make sure that you enjoy spending a lot of time at your computer or some other device. That’s what it take to build and maintain online relationships via social media.

Do you have time for social media?

How much time are you willing to devote each week to business development efforts?

Your personal marketing plan is shaped by the business development activities you enjoy and the amount of time you have set aside. As a professional who bills by the hour, your time is valuable. How much time will be spent on each activity, each week, in order to maximize your return on investment? Keep adjusting the mix until you get it right.

Let’s say that one of my coaching clients enjoys one-on-one networking as well as participating in professional, industry and community organizations. He is willing to commit ten hours per week to business development. We allocated seven of these hours to networking and three to organizations. This mix works well for him.

Now, let’s say we react to the media hype and try to add social media to the mix. Unless the client adds to his ten hour per week business development “budget,” time spent on social media subtracts from activities he already enjoys and is good at.

Is this the best use of his limited time?

One size never fits all

In the hands of the right lawyer, social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can be a powerful business development tool. Social media gurus cite statistics, studies and anecdotes to prove this point, and I do not doubt them.

But I do doubt the claim that social media is the best business development tool for all lawyers, and that failure to embrace this tool makes you a Luddite. Is social media any better than the more traditional options for marketing a lawyer or a legal practice? I am not persuaded.

There is no reason to jump on the social media bandwagon just because of the hype. If my attorney coaching client enjoys social media, then I say “go for it” (although I counsel against devoting all ten hours a week to just one tactic). If my client doesn’t enjoy social media, but feels the need to follow the hype, then I say “don’t sweat it.” Do what you enjoy. There are many other time-tested ways to develop new business.

Like a healthy diet, a healthy legal marketing plan is balanced and appropriate.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • In my experience, social media is professionally a godawful waste of time in terms of developing a client base. But my clientele skews blue collar and is often seeking an attorney in a crisis posture (criminal defense, hot right to sue letter from EEOC, unemployment, etc.) Maybe it’s not a total trainwreck of a time suck for some attorneys, but I am skeptical.