As social media continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate, more and more industries and companies are tempted by the idea of “going online” and building their social media presence. It’s a worthwhile endeavour, but one not without pitfalls. Care needs to be taken; this isn’t just something you should dabble with until you get bored, but an avenue to help your business.

If you think of social media, you may just think as far as Facebook; just something you use to keep up with family and friends or laugh at pictures, or of Twitter, where you can see what your favourite celebrity or business contemporaries are up to and their hourly thoughts. Whilst this is true, there is a huge untapped resource online and many more social networks waiting to be invested in.

Social media tips and stats

So what use is social media? Is there more to life than posting pictures of your lunch? Well, actually, yes there is; but you have to make sure you are doing the right thing for your brand. Here is a quick guide to how the more popular networks can work for you.

  • Facebook: With more than one billion users, by far the most popular network and you’d therefore think the one you have to be on. Facebook is a good avenue to build a community, but may not be the best place to talk about your services and it isn’t very easy to interact with your community.
  • Twitter: If you want to really interact with clients, both potential and existing, then Twitter is the place for you. Described previously as a “micro-blogging” site, it has become a fantastic source for businesses with every kind of industry talking to their community.
  • LinkedIn: The best business social network; primarily thought of as a recruitment tool, with users creating a digital CV online with which to show off their achievements or tout potential employers. It does also allow you to list your business online, which users can then follow, and you can share business updates and industry news on a more professional platform than, say, Facebook or Twitter. It also helps if you are looking for new team members!
  • Google+: Google’s answer to Facebook; the social sharing network has been very popular since its inception with the digital marketing community as well as bloggers. Similarly to LinkedIn, you can build a page for your business and use this to promote any news on your business and your industry, as well as building a more professional community. It’s also a great tool to get in touch remotely with clients, allowing you through Google Hangouts to share activities online.
  • YouTube: You would be right in thinking it’s mostly for music videos, movie trailers and funny animal clips; but hidden away and becoming a growing part of YouTube are business videos. Do you have a message about your business you want to share? Have you created a testimonial video from some happy clients? Then YouTube is for you; you don’t even need a community, you can share it via other social media networks like LinkedIn.

You may want to look at other networks, such as Pinterest, Stumbleupon and Vine, though they make not suit the legal industry. At the end of the day, if you sample what they have to offer, you’ll find the ones that suit you the best.

Social media best practices

You can easily just have a go at social media until you get bored or feel it isn’t working for you; but if you pick carefully which networks you want to use and plan your output, you can make a success of it.

  • Consider your community demographic. You may think your client base and those you want to reach out do not use Twitter or Facebook for example, but bear in mind all ages are breaching the social media barrier. In 2013 Twitter’s fastest growing age group is 55–64 year olds, whilst on Facebook it is 45–54 year olds. The average ages for the two are 33.8 and 37.5 respectively. Speak to your clients to see what they use and what they’d find useful.
  • Make it friendly and an insight into your services; refrain from being too serious. The number of updates you publish will depend on the network: LinkedIn is for when you have updates to provide so is organic; on Facebook you wouldn’t want to publish more than two or three at most a day; whereas with Twitter you can be communicating with your community constantly, even giving updates at a rate of two or three an hour, depending on time constraints and content.
  • Don’t make it personal; you are a brand, with a message, a service and guidelines. Try to keep your updates along these lines. Professional updates can be light-hearted and friendly but still be on a business level. You’ll be more than aware as well of not becoming involved in a social media “debate” in any form. It is a perfect venue for clients to ask questions, but then take it down to a private line of communication.
  • If interaction isn’t your thing, then you can still “listen” to your social networks for people talking about your brand, your industry, or anything else you’d be interested in. Services such as Meltwater and socialmention are tools you can use to watch any mix of social media networks to see if your brand name or any keyword terms are mentioned, so you can then follow up as you see fit. It’s a great way to see how people are reacting to you online.
  • There are plenty of great infographics on Pinterest for tips and guidance for social media. This one covers the best ways to work with Twitter, keeping your messages short and to the point; it indicates what times of day and even which days of the week are best to tweet to maximise the engagement with your community.

Social media legal successes

So if you take the great leap into social, what can you expect and how can you get it right? Some law firms and legal teams have done this and have done it well:

  • One law firm uses Twitter as a source of real-time information, simply following industry peers and keeping up to date with news and changes as they are spread socially. Social media is presently a better news service than television or news websites, so utilising this way makes total sense.
  • A good example of using Twitter but using the softly-softly approach is taken by Breens Online, their Twitter account is only updated every few days with news updates and sharing of legal news.
  • LinkedIn is a great source of discussion groups, sharing industry ideas and news online. Hatton & Sharpe have built into their training the use of LinkedIn; building a good profile, interacting with peers and “selling the company” via your interactions.

Social Media is something that is avoided at your peril in this day and age; if you’re not looking to fully immerse and interact with a community you can still take the leap and slowly move online.

In summary, my suggestions are to find the one right network for you to begin with, interact with your community, and keep it short and sweet. More importantly, social media should be looked upon as a potential sales and customer service tool that is there to be utilised and positively built upon. Don’t be afraid of it and you may learn to love it!

Simon Bowers has been with Banc Media since March 2013 working with clients building content and links with bloggers and relevant partner websites. He has worked in the SEO and digital industries since 2010. Simon is also a blogger in his spare time, writing about fashion, restaurants and anything else that he finds interesting!

 

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