Are you an Insta fiend, a Twitter fanatic or a Facebook freak?  Do you struggle to chat without the Snap and does your Bitmoji look more like you than you do? Or are you reaching for your Oxford English and wondering if this article is written in code?

Either way and whichever camp you fall into, social media is well and truly here and it’s not going away any time soon. It is no longer the sole domain of surly teenagers and tech geeks and chances are, that if you’re not using it in some form or another, then you’re missing a trick. 

Used properly, social media platforms can perform a valuable function in how you conduct and promote your business. Used properly, it can be a legitimate communication and marketing tool. 

But if social media is a mystery to you, then you’re probably wondering, what exactly “used properly” means? Good question! The really tricky thing about social media is that it is both relatively new and constantly evolving at a pace that those of us who are more comfortable with a pad and paper, are simply not used to. 

So if you feel like having finally taken the plunge and wrapped your head round Linkedin, you blinked and it had all changed, then you can take some comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone…. That and the fact, that there is help out there.

The internet is bursting with details of social media courses and our CPD team produce a broad range of training courses which often includes social media training with the profession’s needs in mind - you might be interested in the social media module of our essential skills online CPDour Technology Law and Practice Committee have developed advice and information on social media for the legal profession and to tempt you to dip your technical toe on the social media waters, read our ten top social media tips for novices, enthusiasts and experts.

If you have been allocated responsibility for your firm’s social media activity, resist the urge to jump in feet first, set up an account, draft your first tweet and put a tick beside that task on your to do list.  That is very definitely not ‘job done'.  As with any project, the research stage is fundamental to your success. Check out what the competition are doing, consider taking a course, do some online reading – there is a wealth of information available for free online – or just chat to your colleagues.  It’s possible if not likely, that you will have some untapped social media expertise in your firm, happy to lend you the benefit of their experience.

Take some time out to do your planning. The scale of this exercise will depend on the size of your firm and the extent of your ambition.  You might need to establish a policy and procedures for your colleagues and a social media rota.  If you are sole trader there might be less of a need to formally document your decisions, but either way, you will want to give some thought to which platform(s) you are going to focus on – if resource is an issue it can be advisable to begin with one platform, rather than spreading yourself too thinly – and creating a content planner - there is nothing more frustrating than a completely out of date website and the same goes for social media. Don’t kick off your comms until you know you have enough ideas for content to keep your account active for a reasonable period of time.  Some platforms will even allow you to schedule and automate your posts.

You might not be the most experienced in social media, but as a legal professional, you exercise good judgement on behalf of your firm and clients on a daily basis.  Use that same decision-making ability in your approach to social media.  Use your common sense.  Social media offers brilliant opportunities to promote your business and services, establish a corporate personality and engage with your clients, but consider the risks and potential consequences of your posts before going live.  You can afford to be more conversational in tone on social media, but avoid causing offence or alienating your audience.

And don’t forget that as with all good communication, listening is just important as 'talking'. Social media is a good opportunity to tap in to what your clients and colleagues are interested in reading about and want from your business.  Use their feedback to generate content, improve your service and build relationships.

Think about your target audience and who you want to engage with your social media posts. Are you primarily concerned with private clients? Does the type of law you practise mean that your clients fall within a particular demographic? Is your objective to engage with other businesses or is your audience a mixed bag in terms of age, location, gender, relationship and professional profile? You need to ask yourself these questions and understand who your target audience is, before you can begin to tailor your social media content to their interests and for greatest impact. 

Think about your target audience and who you want to engage with in your social media posts. Are you primarily concerned with private clients? Does the type of law you practise mean that your clients fall within a particular demographic?  Is your objective to engage with other businesses or is your audience a mixed bag in terms of age, location, gender, relationship and professional profile? You need to ask yourself these questions and understand who your target audience is, before you can begin to tailor your social media content to their interests and for greatest impact. 

You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of devoting precious time you are already short of, creating numerous posts on numerous channels, but actually you may need to do less than you think.  Focus on creating quality content which offers value rather than simply selling – give your audience a reason to engage.

People have come to expect their social media content to come with a visual element.  According to Twitter, people are three times more likely to engage with tweets that include visual content. So think about including video, images, and GIFs to your posts. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take a shot that will grab your audience’s attention. People love photos of people and using images of your colleagues (with their consent of course) can help to put faces to names at the end of the phone and build relationships. If you are considering using a visual that neither you or one of your team has produced, there are plenty of online sources offering free mage content. Just be mindful of copyright issues and avoid putting yourself or your business in a tricky situation for the sake of a pretty picture! Otherwise, use your imagination and be creative.

Make sure you monitor comments and answer questions about your business on your own and other people and business’s social media channels. In some circumstances, it might be appropriate to invite the 'commenter' to take the conversation offline and out of public view, but in general, keeping up to date with queries and comments is not only an opportunity to engage with prospective clients and get information about your business out there, but a valuable opportunity to find out how your business is viewed and improve perceptions both online and in other parts of your business.

We have established that social media can be an incredibly positive and powerful tool for your business, but it can be an equally powerful and damaging tool in the wrong hands. Use different passwords for every platform and change them regularly. Avoid using personal details in your passwords. You would be surprised how easily someone wanting to get into your account can find out your birthday and the names of your kids! Keep your phone locked and password protected and don’t be afraid to use the ‘block’ button or report a spammer – you are protecting others as well as yourself and your business.  You can find useful information on broader aspects of staying secure online in our cybersecurity guide.

As with every business initiative, it is crucial that you evaluate your performance, identify what’s working well and what you want to do more of, what’s not been such a success and you can do away with in future campaigns and what completely new ideas you want to consider going forward. Most social media platforms come with their own reporting tools and if driving traffic to your website is a key performance indicator, then you can use one of the many website analytics tools available to tell you which posts have clients clicking to find out more.

Essential Skills Online CPD

Online CPD covering essential professional skills

Social Media – Advice and Information for the Legal Profession

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