Monday, 16 September 2013

Guest Post - Social Media 101 for Attorneys

[This is a guest post by Chelsea Wilson, the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s online LL.M. degree program.]

You may have a J.D. and LL.M., but how much do you knowabout online marketing and social media? Blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platformsare providing new channels for attorneys to build their reputations and attract clients. Although some law firms arestill taking a traditional approach to professional networking and marketingrecent survey statistics show that social media engagement in the legal profession is gaining momentum and showing no sign of slowing down. Attorneys who don’t have asocial media presence are ignoring an increasingly important communication tool.

Despite these statistics, outdated rules with respect to online communication are hindering the adoption of social media by many large firmsSolo practitioners and small firms have a greater chance of success since they can avoid bureaucratic restrictions. Although there are very real ethical issues toconsider, as evidenced by examples of cases placed in jeopardy by social media postings by a juror, judge or prosecutor, adhering to some established best practices can help avoid the most common social media pitfalls.

Getting Started
Having an online presence means going beyond a law firm website and establishing an individual online identity. To get started, pick one or two platforms as your area of focus (such as LinkedIn and Twitter). You don’t have to participate in everything that’s going on (in fact, doing so might be a waste of your time)  find the platforms that fit best with your target market, goals and time constraints and make a commitmentto stay active in those communities.

Using search engine optimization (SEO) strategies when you create your profiles will help you stand out from the competition and rank higher in search results. So be sure to include both your name and keywords related to your practices area as you highlight your expertise and professional identity ithe profiles you createPro Tip: Go above and beyond with these small social media profile suggestions:

Include the URL for your firm’s website in the shortened bio (so it’s always on display)
On Twitter, include hashtags relevant to your practice area in your bio
Optimise the file name of your professional profile imagewith your name, your law firm’s name or your keywords.

Once you’ve set yourself up on a couple of social media platforms, make a commitment to visit and update your content on a regular basis. You can expand your influence by posting comments and questions related to other content that you’ve found online. Participate thoughtfully and contribute to the community rather than focusing solely on your firm. It takes time to establish a social identity, so be patient and don’t expect immediate results.

One note of caution — when posting legal content online, remember to provide commentary and insight rather than actual advice. This could mean discussing legal trends, court cases that you’re not involved in or new legislation. Your goal should be increasing your visibility among your peers and attracting the interest of potential clients rather than dispensing free legal services. To avoid any confusion on the part of your audience, add a disclaimer to your blog or social media profile clearly stating that the thoughts you’re sharing should not be taken as legal advice.

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s online LL.M. degree program, @WashULaw, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Masters in Law degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world. Join the @WashULaw Community on Twitter.

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