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Lawyers ‘break the mold’ with social media marketing

untitledWhen she graduated from law school, Lauren Eagan never expected she would be stopped by strangers to tell her they appreciate her work.

“Sometimes I’m out with my toddler and I’ll have a few people come up and recognize me,” Eagan said. “It’s not something you really get used to.”

Though this “fan girl” experience can be strange, Eagan welcomes the public recognition; it’s an indicator of her professional success. Since founding her firm, Seattle-based Eagan Immigration, in 2014, she has made social media a top priority in her marketing plans. The firm’s Facebook page has nearly 50,000 likes, while her Instagram account has more than 1,000 followers – which is a lot, considering in 2019 nearly 70% of Instagram users had less than that, according to Mention, a social media monitoring site.

The major turning point in Eagan’s online notability came in 2016 when she discovered Facebook Live, a feature of the social network site that allows users to broadcast real-time video. Every Tuesday night, Eagan would live-stream for 30 minutes discussing immigration law and answering questions from viewers. Four years later, she live-streams twice a week with more than 150 viewers tuning in.

Ninety percent of Eagan’s new clients now come from Facebook.

“In January 2020 I had 75 consultations and 59 were from Facebook,” Eagan said. “It’s just so much. My firm has grown exponentially because of it.”

Though the Virginia State Bar has advised to regard social media as a “powerful marketing tool,” many lawyers have yet to follow suit. Social media use dropped in all firm sizes last year, with the respondents from firms of 10-49 lawyers reporting the biggest drop of 62% to 42%, according to the American Bar Association’s 2019 TECHREPORT.

Declines in the use for client development were seen as well; respectively, 39% and 48% of solos and mid-sized firms reported using social media last year for marketing purposes, as opposed to 54% and 58% in 2018.

“A lot of firms are not designating [social media] as a priority for their marketing teams, and I think that’s a mistake,” said Rebecca Geller, founder and CEO of The Geller Law Group in Fairfax. “This is something that big law has not done, and even small to mid-sized firms overlook.”

Geller set out to “break away from the mold” of the big law firms she previously worked for when launching her practice in 2011, beginning with having her staff primarily telework to help maintain a work/life balance.

Social media marketing is another one of Geller’s top priorities – so much so that last year she hired digital marketing strategist Alicia Russman to manage her firm’s online presence.

And it seems to have paid off. According to Geller, her firm averages 20 new clients a week, a third of which are garnered via social media.

“I think sometimes people see lawyers as a profession that is hard to connect to,” Geller said. “But social media is a really helpful way to reach and connect with people, which is why I think it’s so successful.”

Though Eagan and Geller have curated unique online presences, both are in agreement that there are “three keys” to consider when developing an effective social media marketing plan.

Consistency is key 

Above all else, consistency is the key to successful social media marketing.

“If you post something a couple times a year, or once a month, that’s not engaging with your consumers. You have to find a consistent way to engage with people,” Geller said, whose firm posts on Facebook at least once a day, if not more, with a growing presence on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Eagan credits her business growth in part due to her consistent streaming schedule. Without fail, Eagan is recording on Facebook Live every Tuesday and Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST – early enough for the clients of her Seattle-based office to tune in.

Not only does the consistency help Eagan stay on schedule, but it’s something that her followers expect, as well. She recalled a time a client told her that he “watches her show” with his wife and children every week.

“If you’re going to change something up, make that announcement,” Eagan said. “They want to know you’re going to be there.”

Cater to your clientele

Though posting regularly is crucial, it won’t benefit your online presence if the content you share doesn’t cater to your clientele.

Eagan quickly identified Latinos, specifically Spanish speakers from Mexico and Central America, as her target audience. Therefore, all of her video content is done in Spanish. Though Spanish is not her first language, Eagan does her best to incorporate Latin “humor and culture” into her social media content in an effort to whole-heartedly connect with her clientele.

“It’s important to connect and be personal. That’s really challenging for a lot of law firms because you want to be professional… But I think a major reason I’m so successful is because I share a lot about my life,” Eagan said.

Above all, Eagan said her clients value family-focused content; therefore she regularly posts photos of her husband and son to her Instagram feed. As a result, clients tell her this makes them feel “a part of her family,” admitting that they’ve been following her since she was pregnant in 2017, if not earlier.

“Learn about your target market and what type of social media they use and what they like to see,” Russman said. “[Content] doesn’t have to be over the top or controversial, but you need to give people more of an insight of who you are as a firm and who you are as people.”

Authentic engagement over “selling”

One of Geller’s most commented on Facebook posts last year was a photo of her eating frozen pineapple in Kyoto, Japan.

“People really like knowing what our firm is up to, both professionally and personally,” Geller said. She makes sure to post a photo online every time her attorneys attend a professional event, have a baby or reach another personal or professional milestone. “People are interested in hearing that our attorneys are involved in the community and have lives outside the firm.”

Geller’s commitment to sharing updates on her attorneys’ lives adheres to Russman’s “80-20” rule: in other words, 80% of what you post on social media should be engaging, entertaining, personality-driven content, while only 20% should be focused on selling.

“Law can be such a buttoned up professional environment… that I think personality often gets lost in social media,” Russman, who worked in legal marketing for more than 10 years, said. “But if you just put out dry, boring messages, you’re not able to catch the attention or build engagement with your target audiences.”

The social media advantage for smaller firms

Though these marketing tenets can be used across the board, Russman admits that it’s often easier for smaller and mid-sized firms to curate a personable online presence.

“They have a competitive advantage because there isn’t as much red tape around what they can and can’t post” as opposed to big law firms, she said.

Curating a unique social media presence can also be easier for niche specialities – like immigration law – that caters to a more specific market. Nevertheless, Russman encourages law firms of all sizes to explore the marketing opportunities social media can offer.

Be on social media “now more than ever”

In this current wave of social distancing and working from home, Geller said now is the time for law firms to “step up their social media game.”

“People are bored. They’re home every night. They’re on their phones all the time… If law firms are not using social media right now, they are missing out,” Geller said.

An image shared on the firm’s Facebook page last week said, “First time in history we can save the human race by lying in front of the TV doing nothing. Let’s not screw this up.” According to Geller, the post was shared 50 times and reached more than 4,000 users – and perhaps offered a touch of humor people need right now.

“It was a way to show that we’re in this together,” she said, advising law firms to use this time to re-evaluate what their clients need, and cater social media strategies accordingly.

For more information, visit the VSB ethics opinion on social networking for attorneys.