Social media is not disappearing any time soon. As one platform wanes, another is on the rise. In recent times, it has become expected by the public that every business or organisation will have a presence on social media. LinkedIn has a professional bias, Facebook a personal bias and Twitter stands somewhere inbetween.
Let’s see the implications these have had for the operation of legal firms.
Using it for communication and marketing
Because the masses use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for communication, it is inevitable that legal firms will do the same. They can create posts with links, information, photos and videos. It’s all instantly circulated, so it has a huge advantage over written documentation. This is so it can be discussed by the public, and their response be gauged.
Many firms now use Twitter and Facebook to promote their services. Some Scottish legal firms use Twitter to market houses. Many others use LinkedIn as part of their business development.
Social media marketing is all about redirecting traffic to the company’s website, to promote business. The starting point could be a Youtube video on a specific legal subject. Alternatively it could be a promotional post on Facebook, or professional information on LinkedIn.
When looking at this useful article, it’s easy to see how a link can be included within a social media post. On arriving at the company’s website, people will find that an enquiry can be simply raised by filling in a few boxes and clicking ‘send’.
The power of posts
Successful social media posts are ones that have a high level of engagement. It is said that 80% of the content needs to be about the customer. Some legal companies tweet on Twitter every two hours. That’s a huge commitment, but the resulting business speaks for itself. Much advertising has what’s called a ‘call to action’ at the end, and these can be clearly defined in a social media post.
It has been found that video posts are king of the hill when it comes to customer engagement and sales. When people watch videos on Youtube or Facebook, they will appreciate the personal element. They may respect the knowledge of the lawyer, and feel sufficiently confident to approach them for business.
Blog posts are another opportunity for law firms to seize. There can be several a week, each directing people to the business’s web pages. The content can be rich in the search words people are entering on Google. This is all a part of Search Engine Optimisation for businesses. Legal videos on Youtube can also have titles and descriptions that are rich in searchword content.
Legal training and social media policies
Would-be lawyers often take online training. There is usually a link to the training provider’s social media pages. These provide a rich resource of information, but also create an avenue for online communication.
All businesses need to create a social media policy these days. This relates to both the company and the individual employees. Law firms are not exempt. Any boundaries to the release of information will need to include the use of social media, from a professional and ethical standpoint.
In the past, it has been known for individual lawyers to promote their business without acknowledging that they are part of a firm. This is the risk of lone rangers who break their contracts and effectively steal clients. Now that social media is used as a promotion tool amongst lawyers, this aspect must be considered.
One survey revealed that 1100 legal cases had been influenced by social media in just two years. Attorneys can issue a subpoena of the social media pages relating to either side of the case.
Questions can be asked about the accused, such as: ‘Did they make threatening comments on social media?’ ‘Were there any racist posts?’ A social media platform may also contain an account of the events that differs from the police statement.
Clients are often advised to deactivate their social media accounts during the trial. They are told not to delete them, however. This is because if they include anything relevant to the case, it would be viewed as deleting the evidence. This is a chargeable offence.
Not even jury members escape the legal implications of using social media. In one case, a juror was removed because they expressed a personal opinion before the official verdict. When jury objectivity is needed, they are advised to refrain from watching the news, or using the internet.
Defamation of character
This occurs when someone is accused of slurring the reputation of another. When legal firms comment about people on social media they have to be aware of the risks, especially when humour is involved. Similarly, their clients need to be silent on social media before the verdict has been reached.
Personal injury claims
Claimants are often advised to communicate with no one except their lawyer during the legal process. Social media posts can have an adverse effect on the claim. It has also been alleged that insurance companies representing the accused sometimes send anonymous Facebook friend requests to the claimant. This is to gain access to their private social media pages.
Lawyers are now considering the advice that people document their social media passwords (just as they do their other legal details) for the event of their death. It is understandably upsetting when deceased people keep appearing on Facebook, for example. One scenario would be an auto-generated post saying ‘It is -’s birthday today. Wish them well’.
People may also want to access photos from the deceased’s timeline. The issue of digital property ownership comes into play here.
Social media presents as many challenges as opportunities for legal firms. They are wise to ensure they follow a tight policy on its use. If this is adhered to rigorously, there is nothing to stop social media getting harnessed to the firm’s success. It can be used to make contacts, release information, gauge public response and generate business. Just as social media is constantly evolving, so will law firms need to adapt with the changes.