Dipping Your Toes into the Social Media Pool in 2016? A Checklist for Lawyers

Ready to dip your toes into the pool of Social and Digital media in 2016?  Here's a quick checklist to consider for your journey.

1A.  Who Are You?  

1B. Why?

Both questions of who you are and why you exist are the motivations behind and the genesis of your business.  Lately, I've been leaning on Simon Sinek's principle of "Start with Why" because asking why has long been the foundation of solid marketing:  successful project launch, branding, business plan, marketing plan - all start by asking why.  Answer this, and use it as your compass for subsequent questions and needs.

2. Identify what best fits you right now.  You don't wear ALL of your clothes at once.  You don't need to be on all social media platforms all at once.  If you are just getting started, "wear" what fits and what is appropriate to the time you have to maintain it.  LinkedIn is necessary at a minimum.  It is the secondary place people will search for you (investigate you) outside of the firm's webpages.  After this, consider whether you will have time and energy to produce content for the firm website and/or blog, then where your targets are (which platforms they use), and how to reach them there.

3. Content - publish valuable content consistently.  For some, this means daily or weekly posts, for others it means monthly, semi-monthly.  Individual attorneys should be able to maintain a single blog with several themes underneath it.  Firms, however, may need to create blogs specific to practice areas, just as they may have created practice-specific newsletters in the past, because a firm's client base is broad and they likely only prefer content pertinent to their business concerns. 

4. Calendaring.  A single tweet in the dark may go unheard.  Thus, it's recommended to post and re-post to social media multiple times regarding a single blog or article.  First, plan a schedule for the topics you will publish to your website or blog.  This will be similar to a magazine's Editorial Calendar that helps plan key articles over a year.  You can always write and post new items as legal issues arise, and in between - you'll have your calendar to anchor your direction for content.  

Create a second tracking calendar to set times to post your content on social media.  The more you learn about your audience, you should be able to gauge when they are most active online and where (LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, podcasts, etc.).  Then, your Social Media Tracking Calendar can assign times for posts:  instead of today at 8:00AM, consider: 4 morning posts for commuters, 3 lunchtime posts, and 4-5 posts for evening commuters.  You can automate those posts and change the messaging to alter  the emphasis and to help you track impact.

5.  Interact.  Now that you have created valuable content, added it to your web blog, linked to it via (LinkedIn, FaceBook, and YouTube, for example), you need to interact with your contacts.  In the last two years, blog comments and interaction have fallen off a little, but blog comments would be the first place to monitor for feedback.  For social media platforms (Twitter, for example) the rule of thumb is to respond to comments within 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on the platform.  Again, automation can help by notifying you of new comments and messages.

Remember - (A) You don't have to respond to all messages.  If you receive a negative comment, depending on the nature of the remark, you can ignore the response, or, in the case of a customer service issue, you should respond first online (acknowledge the comment), then offer to take the discussion offline to email.  Just be sure to follow up on that email!  (B) Interacting is a great way to learn more about your audience and impact the content you provide them in the future.

6.  Funnel.  Sales pros gauge how people respond to offers at particular stages in the sales cycle.  Similarly, you should be prepared when a post or tweet prompts action or a query from your audience.  How will you respond (with leading questions, of course!) to gather more information and, ideally, build a relationship?  Examples:  depending on where in the (sales funnel) your prospect responds, you might call, email, send a white paper, or suggest an in-house CLE.

7.  Stick with it.  You should wind up down the road where your first blog, your first podcast sounds awful to you, or at least far less ideal than when you first conceived them.  That means you are developing!  Plus, as you place information into cyberspace, you are building Social Credibility that helps prospects research you and convince themselves of your worth prior to your first in-person meeting.

8.  You have the time to plan, between now and the first of the year.  Will you have the money?  Gone are the days when social and digital media and their associated analytics tools were relatively inexpensive.  Budget now for coming expenditures.  Social media, et al. will not become less expensive going forward.

Use October-November to brainstorm your plans, topics - who you are and why you are in business.  Apply those questions also to your client base and prospects.  In November-December, outline steps, draft your calendars for 2016.  In December-January, assign responsibilities:  if you are solo or a small/medium firm, how much will you take on and how much will you delegate and to whom?  If you are a larger firm, consider which attorneys, which practice areas warrant a regular blog and who will oversee and help produce material.  Determine if you have the right marketing talent in place to help organize the processes.  Come January-February, you should be ready to launch.

Flip Cat Consulting helps attorneys and law firms with each and all aspects listed above.  We serve as outside and in-house marketing advisers who manage strategy and creative content.  Contact us to learn more, and let us help you land on your feet!