Heather Milligan, the Director of Marketing for Barger & Wolan LLP, Jayne Navarre, the Director of Law Gravity LLC, and Russell Lawson, the Marketing Director at Sands Anderson Marks & Miller, P.C. would be presenting. The topic was Social Media Strategies for Small to Mid-sized Law Firms. Jayne began by introducing the attendees to the term "social web" as a catchall for technologies like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogging. Russell commented that entering social media is "like drinking from a fire hose," echoing sentiments from the earlier panel. Because of this, he said that he did research before engaging online. Jayne asked them what their greatest challenge in social media has been - Russell said that it is getting people to engage frequently and Heather answered that it was finding champions in her firm who are willing to speak up in and about social media. She added that legal marketers would be surprised at who the champions at their firms can be. Laura Gutierrez commented via Twitter that educating attorneys about social media and time are her biggest challenges.
In terms of strategy, Jayne advised that social media should be part of your day - it's important to integrate it into your work flow and carve out the time needed to make it effective. She said that social media tools are things that lawyers are already using, just reinterpreted through technology. The role of the legal marketer is to help them transform what they're doing into the 2010 version. At the heart of it, social media is about engaging people, and if you're not doing that, you're wasting your time. The panel pointed out that social media doesn't require that lawyers stop other kinds of business development, like attending alumni events, only that they consider it as another tool they can use. Russell talked about his firm's use of social media, saying that he is having a tool built that will allow him to feed attorneys topics daily, which they can then write about on the social web in blog posts. He already sends a social media tip out twice a month to his attorneys, and his firm has started @sociallawyers to help educate other lawyers as to what his firm thinks works in social media. To get buy-in from the attorneys within his own firm, they write an internal document called "Look Who's Famous Now," which shows the exposure that lawyers are garnering online. He said, "We think clients want firms who understand social media."
Heather talked about her firm's experience with their blog, saying that they want to seed the conversation that they want to have out there, to help them to be perceived as experts. She added that once you write on something three times, you're generally considered an expert. Jayne agreed and cautioned that knowing your objectives are important in developing any strategy - don't just grasp a tool without knowing why you're doing it. She added that you can't just write a blog and think people are going to read it. I commented on Twitter that I thought there was some value in experimentation, and I do, but it's important for marketers to keep in mind that whatever you say online lives there forever, so, as with your own personal social media efforts, you should still promote yourself professionally even while learning about the tools. Adrian Lurssen added some examples of strategic objectives via Twitter, which included revenue, education, and branding. From the podium, Heather included getting the firm name out there for Google searches and expanding into key areas. She said "a blog is a living tool," and talked about linking posts to attorney bios on the firm's website, which shows where interest and exposure is (someone asked how to link the bios, and Heather is currently doing this manually, but it is also feasible to use an RSS feed). This also helps with search engine optimization (SEO). She told the audience not to discourage any lawyers from blogging, but to encourage others to write more.
Russell said that their online social media plan includes a networking component on LinkedIn and Martindale Hubbell, as well as blogging and Tweeting. They plan to add Facebook into the mix this year, along with YouTube. He said that it's all about teaching our attorneys how to be in the top three results through SEO and keywords. Someone in the audience asked whether his firm purchases keywords, and Russell said that they do it organically by looking for niches where there isn't competition. Gina Rubel added via Twitter that "YouTube is a fabulous SEO tool when used right and [you] can't forget that it's owned by Google."
One of the biggest takeaways from the session was when Jayne said "Your online footprint is your new bio." She polled the room to find out how many people had Googled themselves, and everyone raised their hands. Gina added on Twitter that when you ask lawyers the same question, less than 10% have. Jayne then asked how many people can say they account for 9 out of the 10 results of the first three search pages. If you don't, or don't like what your Google search is turning up, you can change this by "owning" name through social media participation.
Having and correctly engaging through a blog is one way to increase your ownership of your name's search results. The panel discussed branding of blogs, and whether they should be the same as the firm's website, or separate. Heather said that her firm's blogs all look similar, but with different colors, to reinforce the firm's visual identity. She talked about how the hits to her blog come from different sources and encouraged expanding your exposure by repurposing your content and publishing and publicizing it everywhere. Laura tweeted that although her firm's blog is completely separate from the blog's website, it's the number one referrer to the site. Jayne asked Heather whether Twitter drives traffic to her blogs, and she agreed wholeheartedly. Jayne also mentioned Lance Godard and his 22 Tweets interviews on Twitter as a way to highlight lawyers and their social media profiles. The panel agreed that when a firm's attorneys get the spark of interest in blogging, it's important to move fast and use their energy. Additionally, don't let the blog "go" - keep updating it to continue interest. Attorney Donna Seyle talks about blogging as an attorney and "How to Find Time for Social Media Engagement and Be a Lawyer Too" in her latest post, which includes some great suggestions.
The panel recommended ensuring that your identity and/or your firm's identity is consistent through all social media channels, by using the same important keywords in all of your profiles. Because social media is such a personal and individual thing, the panelists added that although they assist their lawyers with finding topics to blog about as Russell mentioned earlier and Heather indicated, it's not a marketer's job to write their lawyers' blogs. Heather said that she will go through her RSS reader and send interesting topics to relelvant groups within the firm so that they can blog on it.
Jayne asked the panel how they have handled disclaimers, and Russell said they've embedded behavior metrics in their social media policy. He also suggested that firms follow and monitor their attorneys' social media activity. In addition to being an opportunity to see where you can assist them in adjusting their social media efforts, it's also a great way to keep involved in what's on their radar screen and what interests them. Jayne asked the attendees how many firms have added personnel for social media marketing. Very few people raised their hands, and Sonny Cohen mused on Twitter that "that will change (when they get serious)." In the meantime, it shows that marketing professionals are handling the burden of learning and adapting social media to their firm's strategies. The panel suggested that in addition to monitoring your attorneys, it's important to pay attention to what your audience wants to read on your blog - you can do this by looking at your analytics and then providing content based on their wants.
Those attending agreed that Heather, Jayne and Russell are talking about these tools and how to use them through their blogs and Twitter streams, so it's helpful to follow them and learn from them!