Social Media is More Important Than Ever in a Time of Social Distancing

By Michael Bond, senior media director at Blattel Communications

Is your business on social media? This has become a key question in the age of shutdowns and quarantines. A record shop I occasionally frequent has created Instagram and Facebook posts where you watch them “thumb through the stack” of records from the comfort (and safety) of your home. It is innovative and keeps them top of mind. All businesses, including law firms, need to be visible in these challenging times – and that means posting to social media.

Without the usual amount of in-person contact and communication, social media and videoconferencing have boomed. We’re anxious and in need of a break simultaneously – watching cooking videos one minute and looking at virus numbers the next. Law firms are in a unique position to use social media to do two things: 1) “humanize” their high-powered attorneys and practices; and 2) tame and interpret the glut of policy changes coming from the government – from state and local shutdowns to disaster relief bills.

Statistically speaking, we know where the eyeballs are – on social media. Why then are so many firms behind the curve when it comes to channels like Instagram stories or Twitter threads? The simplistic answer is that many had yet to see the value in these channels, especially in the time before we were all cooped up in our apartments and houses. Email newsletters and articles posted to firm pages seemed to suffice. These are still valuable channels, but with attention even more split, a more comprehensive strategy is necessary. A firm needs to be on all the big channels – Instagram (for a younger demographic), Facebook (for a slightly older demographic), LinkedIn (for the corporate and B2B demographic) and Twitter (for a niche demographic). Most firms seem to have hit about three out of four – with Instagram adoption slower.

With dispersed workforces, including marketing departments, launching social media channels and creating content might seem like a challenge – but it really isn’t. Let’s consider some of the key elements:

  1. Something to Say – Everything from recapping the facts of a development to providing analysis. This is the ingredient you likely already have on hand, just in the form of a client alert. Can you highlight the key points and condense it into a social post?
  2. Channels to Populate – You can’t post if you aren’t signed up. Try to grab handles that all match, making it easier for people to follow.
  3. Graphics – Look to find a visual that represents the subject at hand. (Please, please, please NO COVID-19 blood test vials or views of the particle. These have been incredibly overused.)
  4. A Packaging “Professional” – This is your internal or external communications team member who is fluent on all social media channels and has license to mold the content to fit each one.
  5. Promotion! – All firm materials, website and email signature blocks in particular, should point readers to your channels.

It’s critical these days that firms post to all channels. Even before the pandemic, media consumption was changing. Linear TV watching was going extinct in favor of more personalized, on-demand streaming, and social media (especially YouTube and Instagram) were fast becoming dominant in terms of garnering attention. These trends have only accelerated.

The pandemic has also boosted a flagging channel – Facebook. More people are seeking social connections, if not in-person, and the ability to check on far-flung relatives and friends has been comforting. We’ve also seen government press conferences – in particular New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s – become “must see” events. This development has highlighted the platform’s scalability and accessibility for live events and, in particular, press conferences. Firms should consider experimenting again with Facebook Live.

Besides disseminating important information, social media also is a way to be human. COVID-19 is the great equalizer. Right now, we all are in the same distanced boat, and many of us are donning the same attire style as well – copious comfy clothes. For those with children, we have suddenly sprouted homeschooling environments. Our homes and our families are no longer abstract, and our Zooms reflect this change. This is a unique opportunity to share more of ourselves.

Some firms have shared Zoom collage photos, showing their attorneys and staff communicating from dozens of points. Others have shared off-the-beat content, including shutdown haikus (hat tip to Farella Braun + Martel LLP). With the loss of in-person networking and face-to-face relationship building, adaptation is occurring. For clients and the general public, knowing that your law firm is more than a bill that arrives each month – it’s made of humans who are muddying through this challenge – generates goodwill and maybe even some empathy. “I appreciate you turning this around so quick, especially given that your four-year-old is probably pretty needy these days.”

Two other key aspects of social media that are important right now are immediacy and brevity. These are push-button publishing platforms that simply don’t have the space for a lot of word padding. Consider starting by crafting social media posts and then expanding these into client alerts. The exercise forces authors to focus on the essence of the development.

Social media has become a comfort in very uncomfortable times. We see people and businesses, stars in our daily physical firmament, reminders that society is still here, just in a different form. Firms should want to get maximum views for their content, share meaningful personal connections and – perhaps most importantly – just be present. There is a real benefit to being sandwiched between a favorite restaurant’s post on takeout and baby photos.

 

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