How important is social media for increasing trust for attorneys?
John: Hi. I’m John McDougall and I’m here today with Andrew Laver. He is the President of the Philadelphia LMA Chapter. We’re going to be talking about law firm content, social media, and blogging for trust and rankings. How important is social media for increasing trust for attorneys? At the very least, is it a negative when you click on social media icons and they reveal almost no followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter?
Andrew: I think to answer the second part of your question first. It probably is a negative when you click on the icons and see nothing on Twitter. Facebook, I think, personally, and I know that from firms that I’ve spoken to, especially under their social media policies, is a site that they would like to stay away from.
Facebook is really more of a social “this is your personal life page.” You post pictures of yourself, your family, you check in at places, you sometimes post political views. You want to keep that as far away from your professional life as possible.
Twitter toes the line. It really depends on how you personally use it, how you may clarify some of your statements, if you’re using it for a biz dev purpose, if you’re using it to get new business, if you’re using it to vent your frustrations about something, or just your random “I’m eating a bran muffin” thing.
If you go on Facebook and cross that line with your job, I think you run the risk of probably turning more people off than you do attracting them. It’s best, in my personal opinion, to keep Facebook separate. Twitter, again, can toe the line.
If you want to be out there, social media wise, professionally, LinkedIn’s probably the way to go. You don’t post pictures of your family. You don’t check in at Starbucks. You say, “Here’s me. Here’s my experience, here’s what I do. These are groups that I’m a member of. Here are some people who can speak to me, my experiences, the work I do, or anything along those lines. These are my professional interests.” That should be it.
I just think Facebook is way slippery slope. You’re inviting clients, or potential clients, into your life. What if they don’t like what they see? Then, you’ll lose them. If you keep them separate, you don’t run that risk of happening. With work being so tenuous for some people and everyone fighting for the same dollar from the same clients, keep it as above the line as possible.
If you click on a link and you see no one there, that link should not be on their page. If you have a Twitter account and you’re an active Twitterer and you’re going tweeting throughout the day, or even if it’s about publications you have or other thought leadership you’re doing on your own and you have zero followers, you’re doing something wrong, probably.
You have to find a different way to attract people to boost up those numbers. You should still have it. You should still do it. You need to find a different way to get those numbers up, like you’re saying. Probably it’s a total negative to see zero. All those zeros are a very scary number for a lot of people for certain things, but it’s Twitter. Everyone follows everything and everyone. It shouldn’t be that hard to at least get a good decent solid number while you build your base.
Then, you hope people retweet it, they’ve favored it, and then a narrow circle of people and their followers follow you. That’s how you boost up your numbers. Facebook is scary in the professional world, and Twitter you have to be careful.
John: Yes. Great insights. I agree. When you click on social icons, whether it’s a law firm site or anyone, it just seems pretty funny to me that people would even put those icons if it’s a zero or an embarrassing situation. If you’re focused on something, certainly with law firms we’re hearing a lot from our survey about LinkedIn being the strongest. Other surveys have found the same with law firms that’s highly trusted and credible, more business focused.
Put up the things that you’re most proud of…in my personal opinion you can certainly do Facebook but, if you have a law firm Facebook page, you can share things, the charity things you’re doing, and some business but a little bit of the personal side to the business, in a healthy way, without going crazy. It’s a slippery slope if you take it into a…
Andrew: I’m thinking more of the solo practitioner. If it’s the solo practitioner who is doing both on the same page, that’s when you need to have a dividing line.
Trust and Attorneys
John: Yes. OK. People buy from those that they know, like, and trust. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, being an attorney is mostly among the least trusted occupations in America. Can attorneys gain some of that trust back and initiate the influence principle of reciprocity by giving of their knowledge to website content.
Andrew: Amazing that everyone hates attorneys until they need one, isn’t it?
John: Yes. Absolutely. David Wilkins, when I talked with him in one of our first chats on the surveys, he runs the Harvard Law Legal Professional Services program, he put it nicely. He said, “Everyone hates attorneys except their own attorney.” Like you just said…
Andrew: Of course, although some people hate their own attorneys, too. It’s tough. It’s a big stigma, like you said, and it’s not an easy question to answer. There is no easy fix. I don’t even want to use a really bad example, because any example I could use would be bad. It’s not like attorneys did something wrong the one day and everyone just hates them, like in a movie, and they can do one thing to turn the tide in their way.
The problem with lawyers, attorneys, or the profession is that, no matter what, there’s always a good guy and there’s always a bad guy. It depends on which side you’re on. You’re always going to have a plaintiff and you’re always going to have a defendant. You may have a few more plaintiffs and a few more defendants. Someone is always going to be the wrongly accused. Someone is always going to be the guilty party.
Because of this great nation we live in, everyone has the right to legal representation, whether they deserve it or not, whether they should have it or not. Until people can wrap their mind around the stigma that, “Jesus, they were just doing our job.” At the end of the day a public defender may not like the person they’re representing but, because of the laws of this nation, that’s their right. Whether they did it or not, they still get to have their day in court.
I’m sure that criminal attorneys are hated more than just straight out health care attorneys, compared to elder care, compared to litigators. Litigators are probably up top with those…divorce attorneys and criminal attorneys, it’s so tough! It’s a battle that we face every day. For those people at bigger firms it’s not as hard because people are coming to us, in a lot of instances, because they need our specialty, our expertise, our connections.
It’s a great position to be in when you’re not necessarily chasing after work, but being the one who’s chased, based upon your experiences. I don’t know how else to get that trust back. It’s almost like comedians. The first thing they joke about is attorneys and, then, it’s doctors.
I don’t think the tide will ever change fully where everyone just loves attorneys, we sing Kumbaya, hold hands, and hug every time we see one. Again, at the end of the day someone’s a good guy and someone’s a bad guy. If you’ve had too many experiences with the bad guy, you’re not going to care about the good guy.
Can blogging or vlogging influence trust in attorneys?
John: In terms of blogging and sharing, maybe, eBooks or video, you take two scenarios, a and b. A, an attorney is not interested in blogging, not interested in YouTube or putting content out there, and people may form opinions about that person. B, the attorney that’s blogging and having videos on their website, and you can hear them speak, you can see their move, their body language. Do you think that can play a part influencing people?
Andrew: Yes, to a degree. One of the big trends that I’ve seen recently, and know a firm that I was at had done it and other firms are asking about it, is the whole video example you’ve used. We’re not just talking YouTube channels. It’s more of embedding videos of the attorneys on the website. It gives you a way to see behind the curtain.
Most websites will have an attorney’s bio, like we were talking about before, and their picture. At least you can see that this person has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and they’re normal, compared to, maybe, three eyes and a head full of snakes. If you see a video, you now are able to raise the trust to a degree.
Like you said, you see their face, you hear their voice, you hear their story whether they’re speaking about a specific topic or just themselves, what got them interested in law, why they chose a specific firm. That could help turn the tide onto the “Yeah, we like you side,” compare to the “Boo, we hate you” side. Generally speaking, about just the profession itself, I’m not sure how much of a change that would have.
Industry wise, I do see a big trend towards trying to help people see behind the curtain more, “Here’s us”! The example you gave of pro bono activities out in the community and stuff like that, “Here are things that we do. We’re people just like you, [jokingly] we’re humans,” or anything along those lines. Absolutely, I think that can help raise the visibility, in a good way, of a firm, a person, and a profession, generally.
John: Have you done anything with YouTube and video for any other firms you’ve worked with?
Andrew: YouTube is tricky because at the last firm I was at it was actually blocked from employees from using it, just for private security purposes or maybe there was a bandwidth issue. YouTube, I think though, to the regular user is a good way to host things. It’s a good platform. A lot of firms…that’s from where I was at, we actually embedded our firm…it was an mp4 format we used.
If you went to the website, the attorneys that had been interviewed and were videoed…it was about a three to six minute clip of the person that, on the back end, we would interview them. We had a general range of questions, what do you like to do, how did you get into law, what did you do before you got to this firm, why did you choose this firm. Then we edit it down, slice and dice it to flow as a conversation so you don’t actually hear the questions as much but more of the answers.
It not just speaks to a specific attorney, the practice group they’re in, or the type of work they do. We also wrap it in nicely, in a nice bow with why they chose to work at that firm, which I think, subconsciously, to a viewer would be, “I want to work with this firm, too.” Either it’s a recruitment tool for a lateral, for example, or a recruitment tool for a potential new client.
In the back of your mind, “Oh, Someone chose to be here,” gets you out of that thinking of, “This is a bad person, this is a bad firm.” It just seems to plant a little seed in there that people want to be here, people chose to be here, people stay here for a while, all along those lines. It’s a big industry trend from what I’m hearing and seeing of people starting to go to the route of video, and trying to figure out how to do it, and the capabilities of their websites, and hosting, and how it can all be repurposed. All along those lines like you said.
John: Those are some great questions. I’m sure that our listeners will appreciate the ideas for YouTube, and for asking questions.
I do think it’s important. If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, and researchers indicate that over 70 percent of what we communicate is through tone and body language and not just through words, then certainly YouTube and being able to actually just feel like you’re seeing the person and talking to them is important.
Is thought leadership and blogging for other lawyers, or for consumers?
John: Last question. Does thought leadership and/or blogging matter more to B‑to‑B, or business to consumer attorneys?
Andrew: It’s a good question. I think maybe more the consumer. It goes back to our overarching message of getting yourself out there, proving to be someone who is familiar with a topic, or a specific instance, or a case.
I think B‑to‑B, they’re almost ready in the door. Usually, make sure they stay happy. They continue to send work. They’re happy with their billable rate, the attorney’s they’re working with.
There is different ways to gauge their pulse, and see how they feel about the work you’re doing for them. They know you’re blogging. They’re getting all your alerts. They’re reading two percent of them.
The ones you don’t already have in the door, the people you may want to try and get in the door later or those who are looking for someone, I think that’s where it’s more important.
Again, to raise that visibility we were talking about, you are an active person, you are a thought leader, or on specific topics that will apply to maybe only a small group of people.
If you’re going to run a bigger firm, and everyone’s writing about it, or speaking about it, or has knowledge in it, then absolutely it’s way more important on that sense.
John: What about with General Counsel and trying to impress them? Have you had any experience with thought leadership, or sending blog posts in an email to a General Counsel and trying to peak their interest on something relevant?
Andrew: Sure. We’ve had this conversation a lot within the Legal Marketing Association, especially at our Annual Conference, where we have a GC Panel for example.
It’s one way to get them in front of us and vice versa. It’s a room of over 1,000 people of course. We’re all a captive audience at that point, because most of our target audience are General Counsel or In‑House Counsel, or people who have their ears.
It’s so important to remember that we’re probably not their only law firm, and we’re not the only people emailing them. Plus, they have their own employees, their own business to run, their own concerns to worry about.
I think that when it comes to a law firm alert hitting their inbox, if it gets opened…again, that’s a metric that someone can measure on your own back‑end of your own website, how many clicks you get, how many original views, how many times it’s forwarded, all those types of things.
I think the number of GC’s that open up our blasts, or alerts are probably low. They’re more concerned about just the actual work that we’re doing for them, and the business that they’re trying to run on a daily basis.
I’m sure they like seeing our name pop‑up very often. It goes back to our whole thought leadership staying active, and all those types of things.
There’s different ways you can bring it to their attention though. An alert sent from the firm is great, because they get thought leadership active, all those types of things.
Maybe if your thought leader’s in your firm are going to publish a piece, or they want to speak on a topic, or they want to write about a topic, if you involve the GC, if you invite them to coauthor or present with you, as much as your attorney’s want to present, and speak, and write, and be seen, do the GCs.
That’s something that came out of our last session at our last conference in the beginning of April in Orlando. One of the GCs said, You know what? I’m glad that you’re writing. I like to write. Let’s write together,” or “Why don’t you refer a piece for me to write, and I get the credit?” Something along those lines.
They want to remain active too. They want to be their own thought leaders, because maybe at the end of the day, they’re trying to fight for their job. We don’t know what’s going on in‑house.
Those are different ways that we can keep them involved, and make them be thought leaders too. Maybe if you see an article in a print publication that may be important to a GC, rip it out of the magazine or go buy another magazine, put a sticky note on top, “Hey, Tom. Saw this and thought of you,” and put it in the mail.
These are different ways to stay active and in front of your GCs, and have them thinking of you. Don’t inundate them with emails. They get tons of emails. Your generic alert about new HIPAA requirements or anything like that, it’s almost falling on deaf ears. You need to stay above the fright.
John: Yeah. I was at the LMA Orlando Conference as well. That was an awesome panel with the General Counsels. I forget the gentleman’s name that you’re referring to.
I loved how he said, “Hey. You want to get my attention? Don’t just say, “Hey. Here’s my article that I was in.” Say, ‘Hey. Do you want to write an article together?'” A really nice idea to tie‑in if you’re going to do PR.
Andrew: It resonated it with so many of us too.
John: I thought of that for my own business as well,.as an Internet marketing agency. It’s great when we’re doing PR, and we can say…
We got in the New York Times last November for our seminar series. How great if we can also say, “Hey. We’re in the New York Times, and three of our client’s were mentioned as well,” and get them together. Really, sort of share the love kind of thinking with the…
Andrew: It’s almost like thinking outside of box. You’re not only raising your own visibility, but you’re raising the visibility of your client’s. You’re raising your visibility to your client’s, in that you’re giving them these opportunities as well, and sharing it like you said. It’s amazing how much good will that can get you.
Andrew: I don’t think anyone really thought of that. No one even really thought of that. It’s just a simple idea. It’s almost like 1,000, 1,500 light bulbs went off in that room.
Legal Marketing Association news
John: Yeah, I know. That was a big takeaway for me too. That was good. Speaking of that and sort of wrapping up here, any LMA things happening in Philadelphia where you’re at, that you want to mention or your website for that?
Andrew: Sure. The Legal Market Marketing Association Metro Philadelphia Chapter, probably one of the more active chapters in the nation. There are, I believe at this point, we’re at about 26 chapters, a lot of which that cover larger swaths of land, have individual city groups.
For example, the Midwest Chapter covers straight from Michigan down through Chicago, and all those other states, and in between, and covers the area Southeast, Southwest, maybe.
The President’s based‑in Vegas, but she covers everything up to Colorado. The Southeast, she’s based‑in the Carolina’s, but she goes all the way through Florida.
All of the Chapter’s are doing great things. I am so proud of my fellow Chapter President, of how much thought leadership we have currently, that are sitting on this panel and that are running these Chapter’s currently.
I think the future of the LMA, it continues to grow. It’s a relatively new niche. It’s a relatively new thing that most firms are picking up on. It’s giving so much value. You’re bringing people in, who are totally outside of the legal realm and maybe haven’t been jaded, to go back to one of your previous points about lawyers.
They haven’t had these bad experiences yet. They want to come in, and they want to help. They have all these new ideas of how firms can raise their visibility, a lot of topics we’ve been speaking of.
We’re the same here in Philadelphia. We have a very active Chapter. We have tons of members. We cover the entire Philadelphia area, which runs from Harrisburg up to the Allentown, Poconos area. We cover South Jersey. We cover Wilmington and Delaware. We have a big area we draw from too.
One of the great things we’re doing if you head to our website, it’s legalmarketing.org/Philadelphia, you can see that we do recaps of the monthly educational event.
If you are based in an area where you can’t make it to our event, we’re going to post a written recap of all our educational programming. We also have a 6 to 10 minutes recap video, you can see what’s going on.
Maybe it peaks your interest for the next event, that you want to come into the city and see it. It’s usually hosted the third Thursday of every month.
We have a CRM, a Special Interest Group, a CRM SIG. That’s meeting in the coming weeks. We have a Spring Social coming up. It’s a real active Chapter, great people that are part of it.
People love to network from LMA. I’m not sure if this was the first conference you were at?
John: My second one.
Andrew: You will never meet a friendlier group of people, then you will when you go to Legal Marketing Conferences. I tell people this all the time.
John: Yeah. That’s great.
Andrew: You get us all in a room together, and we’re always talking, and all this kind of stuff. You would never know at the end of the day, we’re technically in competition with each other.
John: Yeah. That’s a good point.
Andrew: You’d never get that feeling from sitting in the room with all of us. We’re sharing thoughts. We’re sharing ideas. At the end of the day, we’re all bidding on the same RFP’s. We’re going left at the same dollar. We go at it in different ways. We have different experiences, different expertise.
It’s a great Association to be a part of. I’m so thrilled I became a member about seven, eight, years ago. It’s been great for me professionally and personally.
John: Yeah. Me as well. I couldn’t agree more. The quality level of both the speakers and the attendees is fantastic. Going to the lunches at the Annual Conference, for example. You just meet so many people.
The speakers willing to share so much incredible information. Like you said, you’re sharing with your competitors technically, but to have people say from [inaudible 0:40:23] and get up there and say, “Yeah. This is exactly what we’re doing with our blog. We’re feeding it to these channels. This is our process.” It’s a pretty amazingly sharing group for sure.
John: Yeah. I hope to meet you at one of the events. I was just in Philadelphia last week at a conference on Book Marketing, and Being an Author, and Speaking Engagements and things like that, with Steve Harrison. They’re a great group in Philadelphia.
John: I hope to meet you soon.
Andrew: I’d love to meet you in person. Let me know next time you’re here.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. Nice to talk to you, and we will talk to you soon.