Using Social Media to Market Your Practice: Part 1

This post is part of the MyShingle Solos summer series which will run between June 17 and July 3, 2014. 

sthompson This post is written by MyShingle Guest Blogger Dr. Sandra Thompson

In my first article, we reviewed several ways to market your practice without spending money on things that clients may like initially, but that will have no long-lasting effect on whether you get their business. One of those great ways to market your practice includes the use of social media, and your ability to use it and embrace it may mean the difference between lags in your practice workload and staying busy.

The first tip: Identify someone at your firm who will handle social media updates 

This point is something that is often overlooked and shouldn’t be, and as a matter of fact – it should be the first thing you should consider. Most solo attorneys and small firms don’t have marketing directors to handle this for the firm or attorney. If the person in charge of social media updates is you, make sure you leave time in your schedule each day to review it and do it. If the person in charge is not you, make sure that you provide training and regular oversight to that person, so that you can avoid inappropriate or unprofessional posts. 

I work with a lot of small businesses – most of them are not law firms or law practices – and they always have one or two people assigned to social media. They meet regularly to discuss social media marketing, to review new tools and sites, and to recalibrate and/or reinforce standards for posts, shares and “likes”. A social media calendar for the week or month should be developed and adhered to by everyone. This calendar or schedule can be as basic as developing a table in Microsoft Word where you have a Date column, a Tweet column and a Facebook column. The proposed tweet or Facebook post is shown by the date, so that they can easily be reviewed and approved.

Everyone also needs to understand the protocol for “on-the-fly” posts or tweets, such as those that come with a litigation victory or development, a client who is in the news (from a positive standpoint), a development in the law, such as a Supreme Court decision or new USPTO initiative, etc. It is advisable to treat these posts as you would treat letters or E-mails to clients – it is your responsibility to review and approve them before they are posted or tweeted, because if something is inappropriate or unprofessional – it is you who will be answering the tough questions from your clients, your contacts or reporters. 

The second tip: All Social Media is not created equal

Social media generally takes two forms: a) those outlets that are suitable for professional use, and b) those outlets that are suitable only for personal use or for limited professional use. Twitter and Facebook work very well for professional use. Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and other sites may be suitable depending on your type of practice. For example, if you are a patent attorney, Tumblr and Pinterest may be good sites to use to share interesting inventions and published patent applications. These two sites allow you the ability to educate users of those sites on the breadth of patentable inventions. In doing this – you may also get onto the radar of those inventors or companies for future work. Instagram may be a good outlet, if you give a lot of public presentations. Vine may not work at all for many of our practices, because I rarely meet attorneys who can say much of anything in only six seconds.

Twitter and Facebook are the two most popular social media sites – and as many of us know – they are very different. Facebook allows you to control your group of “Friends”, if you have a personal page and provides tools to allow users to control some privacy aspects of their pages. Twitter is more of an open landscape, and even though you follow other users or are followed by users, you get posts from many different and other sources. Given that you can see tweets from other people and companies, it stands to reason that a larger facet of the public can see your tweets as well. Understanding these differences will allow you the power to be seen by a larger audience, but also opens your posts up to wider scrutiny.

The third tip: Separate your professional from your personal

I cannot stress this tip enough: do not mix your personal page or Twitter feed with your professional page or Twitter feed. In this day of hyper-sensitivity to the thoughts of others, keeping your personal pages personal may be the best thing you do when using social media.

Facebook allows you to set up a personal page where you can control your friends and privacy, and a public page, where other Facebook users can go in and “like” your page. If you set up a public page for your practice or firm, you are posting on behalf of the firm or attorney. In addition, Facebook gives you several options that may help market your practice, such as the ability to build your audience, promote your page, look at who is liking your page, number of likes for a defined period of time, etc. Some of these tools come at a cost, such as promoting your page.

Twitter allows you to set up multiple accounts with the caveat that you need to make sure you remember which account you are in – if you have a personal and a professional account. If you want a great example of how easy it is to mix things up, you only need to look at what I call the Kitchenaid Incident of 2012. You can also direct Twitter to post to your Facebook account, when you tweet something – thereby saving you the time of going into both sites for the same post.

Now that you are ready to utilize more social media in your marketing efforts, be sure to read Part 2 of my article on social media tomorrow, which will focus on how to get the most out of these sites, promote your clients, and bring in new clients.

Sandra Thompson is an intellectual property attorney in Orange County, California. She represents patent, trademark and new media clients in the areas of energy, nutraceuticals, entertainment, biofuels, chemicals and chemical intermediates, green technologies, telecommunications, vehicle design and software