Social media presents a host of marketing, branding and networking opportunities for law firms. However, capitalizing on these opportunities requires firms to differentiate themselves in a competitive and continuously evolving space. From increasing emphasis on video content to the rise and fall of social networks to new platforms entering the corporate social sphere (see The Washington Post on TikTok), social media marketers are faced with the task of monitoring the changing environment, developing strategies that fit within their firm's brand identity, securing buy-in from firm leadership, and executing content that captures audience attention. While the platform and medium of the day may change, some strategies remain evergreen. This article will explore three best practices for crafting attention-grabbing social media strategies and quantifying how your law firm's social media efforts contribute to the success of your organization.
Put your audience first
Unless you are developing content for an internal social network, your social media audience will often consist largely of external stakeholders, including current clients, prospective clients, firm alumni and prospective hires, both lawyers and professional staff. Your content should speak to those audiences and their needs, rather than taking a firm-first voice. In other words, give your audience a reason to care about you. According to data collected by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, the top three things that make content effective are audience relevance, engaging and compelling storytelling, and the triggering of a response or action.
A simple way to achieve these three points is to begin posts with an issue that speaks to the audience and end with a call to action, rather than leading with "Firm XYZ did this" or "Lawyer A will speak at a program" and ending with no indication of where a link will take the reader. This approach gives your audiences something useful to connect to and presents the firm as a problem-solver of the given issue.
Once the content is drafted, it is important to connect the content to the greater conversation surrounding the topic by tagging the lawyer or organization mentioned in the post and using relevant hashtags. Tagging lawyers allows readers to easily visit their social profiles to learn more about their work and hashtags connect your post to the greater conversation surrounding relevant topics. These actions make your posts easier to find and connects your firm’s brand with key issues online.
Once the language of your post is finalized, be sure to incorporate a visual component into the post that supports or supplements the copy, rather than repeating it or being purely ornamental, such as a standalone speaker headshot or a firm logo. Visuals not only take up more real estate on social media feeds – they also provide an opportunity to provide additional information outside of the post copy (a great resource for Twitter) and to showcase visual aspects of your firm brand. Some simple tools that do not require strong graphic design skills include Canva and Adobe Spark.
Have quantifiable goals and content to meet them
A social media campaign is more than one-off postings or a series of posts on a related topic. Hubspot defines a social media campaign as "…a business’ coordinated marketing effort to reinforce information (about a brand, product, or service) using at least one social media platform. These campaigns are strategically focused, have measurable outcomes, and influence social media followers to feel or act in a certain way."
While social media is frequently the final step in content posting, taking a strategic approach to campaign development can help expand the reach of your firm's content and demonstrate the value of social media to internal stakeholders. Rather than posting something once on social media, consider repurposing the core message of a piece through different content types. Successful campaigns work towards a goal with consistent messaging, reiterated regularly, with content that captures audience attention and meets their needs.
One approach to develop a campaign is to begin at the end and explore what is the desired outcome of the campaign. Answering questions such as:
- What does "success" looks like for your firm's campaign?
- How will this success be quantified?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What social media platform is the audience using?
- What is the desired call to action?
Finding answers to these questions requires front-end research, before content creation can begin. Exploring audience personas, such as which social media platforms they use, preferred types of content and best time of day to reach the audience is a very valuable time investment, as is hashtag research and customer journey mapping.
This front-end research will inform the content creation process, including:
- Appropriate platform and platform specs
- Desired medium (video, article, infographic, etc.)
- Voice and messaging
- Supplemental campaign resources (webinars, gated content, specialized web pages to house content, etc.)
Measure what matters and learn from the data
As established in the definition of a social media campaign, having "measurable outcomes" is part of developing a campaign. When determining what "success" looks like, it is important to establish and track key performance indicators (KPIs) that will determine if your goals were met during the course of that campaign. KPIs will vary based on the goals of your campaign. LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Analytics offer dozens of metrics – there is no need to track them all. One formula for determining the appropriate KPIs for campaigns, presented by Madeline Gryczman at Digital Summit 2019, presents five steps to developing effective KPIs:
- Consider your business objectives
- Consider your campaign objectives
- Define success
- Identify KPIs that will illustrate whether "success" has occurred
- Collect supporting metrics
Once you know what data you want to collect and have a means to collect it, determine your reporting plan. A reporting plan should include how often you want to share metrics (weekly, monthly, quarterly?) and what your data actually means. When reporting, particularly to colleagues outside of the marketing department, it is important to make your data easily digestible and focus on the campaign goals. Reports should address "So what?" and "Now What?" In other words, what is the data saying, what insights can we make based on this data, and what forward-looking recommendations can we make based on the data?
The evolving nature of social media can make it challenging to capture stakeholders' attention and differentiate your company from competitors. However, the issues discussed here should serve as a strong foundation to effectively communicate with your social media followers and your internal leadership team alike.
By Ashley Hollingsworth, Industry Marketing Manager – Healthcare and Life Sciences at McDermott Will & Emery