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Social media and networking in the workplace

02 March 2018 - By Angharad O'Flynn

The term ‘social network’ may seem like a modern concept – but it has been around since the 19th century.

The English-American temperance reformer and lecturer John B Gough used the term in his autobiography, released in 1845/46, to describe a downward spiral in his youth following the death of his mother:

“I again became involved in a dissipated social network.’’

Gough was referring to the network of people he surrounded himself with at the time; a ‘social network’.

While the term’s meaning hasn’t changed since Gough used it, its use nowadays usually goes hand-in-hand with the term ‘social media’; the digital networks of communication and networking.

While social media might seem like something used by young people, platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are used by many individuals and companies to promote themselves, engage with others and tap into potential client markets.

Social media is a set of tools that lawyers can use to position themselves on to the radar of people they want seeing their content. With existing clients, it’s another way to stay on top of things work related.

So, what steps can lawyers take to help establish, or improve their social media presence?

Pick your sites

Firstly, do your research. While popular and beneficial, LinkedIn isn’t the only option.

A lot of law firms use Twitter and Facebook with great success. Each platform has its own audience range and this is a good thing. You can reach out to more potential clientele while exposing your law firm to a more diverse audience.

Aesthetic

Your account pages needn’t be a cluttered with text and a mash-up of colours and graphics. Most sites don’t offer much in the way of customisation anyway other than changing profile photos and banner/cover photos; clean, simple but striking is the best way to go. And make sure it’s obvious that this is the account for your firm.

If you’re going to have social media accounts, on multiple platforms, visual continuity is recommended. If you can, use the same photos and banners for all of them. Include website and page links to your other sites where possible, as well as your contact details so you’re easily accessible.

That said, aesthetic is only one part of the recipe.

Strategy

Kirsten Hodgson’s company Kaleidoscope Marketing works with clients looking to integrate social media to achieve their objectives.

Ms Hodgson encourages clients to broaden their horizons when it comes to social media, and she advocates an holistic approach to social media.

“Ask ‘how can it support what we’re looking to achieve?’ And build it into your business development, marketing, client, sector and personal plans. I don’t think you need a separate strategy for what are, essentially, a set of tools.”

Interaction

Social media can also be useful as a great set of free researching tools.

For many businesses, social media is about connecting: “Twitter is really good for getting on the radars of hard to reach people,” says Ms Hodgson.

Social networks can also be used for client/prospect research and building relationships with clients, prospects and intermediaries.

The chances are a lot of a law firm’s clients will have both personal and professional social media accounts and will be active users.

Most people on social media want to be heard on some level, so engagement is important when building a relationship and supporting your clients is always a good idea because this helps with rapport.

Sharing content via social networks can help amplify and extend its reach and keep you top of mind with existing clients.

Liking your clients’ content or answering posted questions adds a human element and a personality to the account. Should you decide to interact with people, it’s a good idea to establish what tone you want your account to have: friendly yet formal? Or strictly business?

Hashtags and other features

The dreaded hashtag, or #.

Sometimes businesses find the use of a hashtag tacky or useless. However, when used properly, hashtags are an effective way of filtering your content into the social media feeds of those you want to interact with.

“On Twitter if you use a hashtag, those following that hashtag will be able to see your content and LinkedIn has more recently adopted the use of these too,” says Kirsten Hodgson.

“If you publish content on LinkedIn’s publishing platform and use hashtags, people searching those terms within LinkedIn will be more likely to find your content. An added bonus of publishing to LinkedIn is that content gets indexed by Google. Because LinkedIn is an authoritative site, content tends to appear much higher up search rankings than it would on your own website.”

Understanding each of the different personas or groups that you’re looking to target is also important.

“Tailor your content type to each persona. There might be certain groups that are visual and who like to watch videos and then you might have other clients who work in open plan offices where they can’t play videos because it’s too loud, or it makes it look like they’re not working.”

Organic vs Paid social media

Yes, this is a thing which exercises the mind of those working with social media.

“Organic” is a term used to describe how your post performs on its own without any promotion from the site.

“Paid” is exactly that: you pay to have the site boost your post’s visibility within certain categories for a period of time.

In the analytics for Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (or any other social media platform) you will find terms like “Organic Reach” and “Paid Reach”. These terms will display the numbers of times your post was interacted with both through the organic way (no help from the website) and through the paid way (if you paid the social media site to promote or boost your post/advertisement).

Using paid post boosting, you can specifically target groups on social media so certain people will see the content, which in turn can increase its reach.

“There’s an opportunity for firms to pay to target content to specific demographics so that it appears in their news feed,” says Ms Hodgson.

“For example, that could just be for branding purposes but it’s likely to work better when you want people to take action.”

Showcase pages

So far these are exclusive to LinkedIn and their purpose is to make it easier for LinkedIn users to follow those parts of your business most important to them.

“Showcase pages mean you can segment your business so prospective employees can follow your job posts whereas a developer client can follow your real estate related posts.

“If you have capacity to manage showcase pages they can make it much easier for people to follow those parts of your firm relevant to them. This means they’ll likely take more notice of your posts,” Ms Hodgson says.

Opportunities – or otherwise

“People need to be able to make an informed call. So, that means they owe it to themselves to at least understand social media … and what it can do and then make a call. You can’t just dismiss it out of hand,” she says.

“The other thing is thinking about how it can support you. If you’re recommended to people and they look you up online, LinkedIn profiles are returned very high up in the search results; so if you’ve got one you’ve got an opportunity to differentiate yourself.

“If you haven’t got one, you’ve got to think ‘how does that make you look?’ You could look like you’re not up with the play.

“It’s thinking holistically, understanding and then making the call.”

Many companies have benefited from taking advantage of social media and using it properly; both financially and when advertising. It is a good idea to give it a go, especially if you’re struggling to get your name out there. You don’t want to be the dusty old firm that’s only listed in the phone book.

Last updated on the 2nd March 2018