Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard for lawyers to build an online reputation? Everything is so public. There is a common fear about client confidentiality and not wanting to appear to be touting for business. Social media can seem like a chaotic place and law firms need to maintain a certain gravitas.
If you don’t take charge and actively manage your identity online then you are just leaving your reputation to chance. I’ve seen too many friends who’s online reputations don’t live up to how good a lawyer they are. This makes me sad.
Lawyers don’t want to mis-step and find their reputation in tatters. Too many senior partners remember the associate from Baker and McKensie who became infamous on social media for asking a secretary to pay his drycleaning bill or Claire Swire from Norton Rose.
When you write an article for a trade publication, give a presentation, or write a case summary for a yearly review then it behoves you to make the most of it. Post it on LinkedIn, Tweet it out and ask for a link to it from your firm’s blog.
Social media is simply another channel for you to build your reputation as a lawyer. But technology moves so fast that if you don’t participate, then you may find that the social media account names that you want are taken, or like some of my closest friends, you find that:
- The highest ranking item for your name is a student debating competition from ten years ago. Leaving people wondering whether or not you’ve done anything noteworthy since then.
- The front page of google is full of your (somewhat unimpressive) marathon times (these are often published publicly online without your permission).
- Another person with your name ranks higher than you, and that they are a bit of an unsavory character.
Problems such as these mean that when a client wants to find you on Google, they can’t.
As a lawyer, your reputation is everything. Twenty years ago it was all about the old boy’s network. And maybe it still is, but the next generation of clients are going to want to be able to find you on LinkedIn, Twitter and most importantly on Google. The best advice I’ve ever read on social media for lawyers was written before social media even really existed. Trusted Advisor by Charles Green sets out a plan for building your reputation gradually by doing what you do best. Everything I’ve learnt about selling professional services builds on his work.
Social media strategy for lawyers
The core of your personal social media strategy (within the umbrella of your law firm) will be based on:
- Who is the audience you want to reach?
- What topics do you want to be known for?
There is some good practical advice from the General Counsels of Telsa Motors and Fuji in this video called How to earn my General Counsel business.
LinkedIn is the cornerstone of your professional social media presence. Many law firms are requiring their partners to sign up for LinkedIn, but that doesn’t mean that people are doing it well. To succeed on LinkedIn, you should treat it the way you treat real life networking. You aren’t there to tout for business, you’re there to maintain relationships so that when someone does need advice they instantly think to turn to you. This means taking a softer approach to LinkedIn than most social media experts would advise. As a lawyer, you’ll want to focus on:
- Having a fully complete profile including major clients, practice areas and recent wins.
- Include a link directly back to your official profile on your law firm’s website.
- Posting occasional updates about developments in new legislation, recent cases and industry news.
- Keeping an eye on groups, discussions and news from your peers.
LinkedIn is the perfect place to gradually build a public reputation in your practise area without making a big deal of it.
You’ll find that Facebook is a powerful tool, but for most lawyers, it’s best to keep your professional and personal lives a little separate. Some criminal barristers find that Facebook is great for building a following online. But unless you are a public defender, then Facebook isn’t really a tool for business development for lawyers. You can still keep a part of your profile public so that the basic information does pop up in Google. Check your privacy settings to enable this.
Twitter is like a very public and simplified version of Facebook. It’s great for getting to the front of Google for your own name. If you do dive into Twitter then focus on short, simple updates and managing who you follow, rather than who follows you. You’ll want to very gradually build a small following of loyal and connected solicitors in your niche. Simply chasing a large following is not really a good look.
Running your own blog can be overkill for the average attorney. You only need to post once a month to keep it alive, but even that is probably too much for most senior associates. Instead, make sure that you are writing an article or two for your firm’s blog occasionally. Guest posting on industry or professional blogs can be great for your profile.
Google loves video content. A new video on YouTube will often rank on the first page of Google search results almost immediately. If you present at a conference or event then try and get a copy of the video and upload it onto YouTube.
Most firms are behind on this because they don’t have enough video content available. Your firm probably has a variety of videos that could be used on YouTube including a couple of recruiting videos from the 1990s. As naff as these videos probably are, they are alot better than being entirely absent from YouTube. Talk to your marketing department about uploading as much video content as possible.
There are some things that you can do immediately to improve your reputation online:
- Update your LinkedIn profile with more information on awards, major transactions and press coverage. These are all already public so you have nothing to fear from sharing them.
- Google yourself and make a note of what you see on the first page of results. If you’re happy with the results then, diarise to re-check again in 6 months time.
- If you’re not happy with what you see then start creating content that will displace your current competition with things that you do want to be known for.
- Set up an editorial calender with a plan for articles you will write, conferences you’ll attend and events that you want to go to.
- Keep your profiles and accounts up to date because Google (and your clients) love fresh content.