Now that you’ve built an optimized and informative website for your law firm, you’re ready to leap into legal marketing with social networks. After all, it’s going to be just like advertising with the Yellow Pages: update your status with a quick “call us if you’ve been in a car accident,” and go on with your day, right?

Wrong. Many attorneys will make the mistake of failing to adapt to new media—not because they don’t use it, but because they assume it works just the same as advertising outlets they’ve used in the past. Whenever a new marketing platform emerges, there is an adjustment period as people learn how that platform is used best. Consider how different Facebook is from the time it was created. A good business always changes and adapts to suit the needs of its customers. You should also be adjusting and adapting to fulfill your customer's needs on social media.

The key to using social media to promote your business is understanding how—and why—it works. People don’t have to wait to leave messages on answering machines anymore; they can send instant messages on Facebook. They can communicate far more easily, and with anyone they want, in seconds—and the communication is key in choosing whom they interact with. Let’s compare prior methods of communicating with your clients:

  • One-way. In the beginning, attorneys relied on business cards, brochures, and print ads to promote themselves to the public. These forms of advertising are still available, but they are highly limited—the equivalent of shouting your name from a rooftop and never answering.
  • One-to-many. Websites improve upon the old model: they are still reaching a large number of people from a pulpit, but they offer some ways (including email and blog comments) to interact with the person at the top.
  • One-on-one. Imagine you are reading a gossip column and want to know if a movie star actually did what the article said. Years ago, you would have had to contact her agent; today, you can ask her directly on Twitter. Social media breaks down the barrier between people, allowing us to interact with anyone at any time on a one-to-one level.How to interact with clients on social media websites.

There are three main rules to responding to one-on-one customer messages. First, always have a quick response ready. Even if this is an automated message, your client or potential client needs to know their message has been received. Second, address their specific issue. Scripted messages are perfectly fine, but your potential client wants to know you are reading their message. Last, prioritize you're follow up. The internet is full of people, and most of those people aren't your ideal client. Make sure you are dedicating your social media time to your most productive leads.

What can social media do for your firm? It can show your prospective clients that are a person: a flesh and blood human with values, opinions, and your own expertise. Your personality is your biggest asset on social media sites, as people will hire or recommend you entirely based on how you interact with them.

Ben Glass
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Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.