One thing that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have irrevocably altered is the ability of companies and professionals to create and control “word of mouth” campaigns. Using traditional media, you can convey a particular message in magazine spreads and newspaper commercials, and it's not as if viewers and readers can alter these ads' contents. But on social media, the people you try to reach can comment to their heart's content—and those comments carry much more weight than any branding message you've concocted yourself.
On Facebook and Twitter, the Public—Not You—Controls the Message
“Dewey, Cheatham and Howe—we'll get the results you deserve in your denial-of-insurance claim!” That's the message you want to hammer home, using social media, about your law firm. So you create a fancy graphic incorporating that phrase, post it on your Facebook page and “share” the image with all your friends, and do the same with a tweet on your Twitter account. What happens now? Here are some possible outcomes:
- The picture just sits there, unnoticed and unremarked, either because it's not sufficiently interesting or you don't have enough friends or followers to attain critical mass.
- The picture does get retweeted and reposted a few times, mostly by close friends and family members wanting to help, but once again, the message does not resonate.
- The picture does attain takeoff velocity, but not in the way you anticipated. When it's reposted on Facebook, comments appear under it along the lines of, “Stay away from these guys, they seem like hustlers,” “This is why we need tort reform!” and “A friend of a friend knows Dewey, and you do not want him representing you!” (More likely, though, it'll be something like, “Just what the world needs—more lawyers!”)
- The picture attains widespread distribution on the Internet, but your message is so well-honed—and your practice has such a good reputation—that you have actually attracted the attention of potential clients. This is the best possible outcome; you'd be surprised how few lawyers actually achieve it!
You Need to Let Your Word of Mouth Build Naturally
There's nothing wrong with promoting your law firm on the Internet—but you have to remember that, if you include social media in your campaign, you will lose control of your message sooner rather than later.