Believe it or not your firm needs a social media presence.
Gone are the days of social media being optional for professional services in Africa including African law firms. Not so long social media platforms were regarded as a bit of light hearted fun or a distraction from the real business of working. Fast forward a decade and the online landscape has been dramatically transformed. With a nearly 50% increase in mobile social media use in Africa in 2016 and with 7 of the 10 fastest growing internet populations in the world being in Africa, social media is completely changing the way business is conducted in Africa. According to the statistics, more than 60% of prospects who look for businesses online are more likely to use those who have an interactive and informative social media presence. Even in Africa where traditionally professional services marketing has been highly dependent on ‘in person’ business development, the power of technology means that increasingly online marketing and social media networking simply cannot be ignored.
It is worth nothing that increasingly social media platforms are playing a similar role to search engines in that audiences will use social media sites to research information on a given topic. It is therefore important that African law firms use these platforms to share their knowledge on particular hot topics. For example, by providing commentary on recent legal developments or by developing content about changes in regulatory landscape. The result is that African law firms who actively engage in social media make themselves much more easily discoverable generally and also in relation to particular areas of legal expertise.
The old saying about ‘people buying people’ means that in deciding which law firm to instruct, clients will very often search not a law firm’s website to understand its areas of expertise business but they will also investigate the partners and fee earners that form the legal team. Consequently, it is essential that in considering your social media strategy you think not only about your corporate brand but about your individual lawyers.
So having established that social media engagement is important, the question then becomes how should African law firms engage in social media? Below we outline a few areas to focus on:
Have a clear social media strategy
First and foremost, it is essential to have a clear strategy which addresses 3 key questions:
- Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach?
- What are your key messages? What do you want to say?
- Which channels will you employ? Which methods do you want to adopt?
Take an outside in approach
Secondly, a good social media content strategy should be outside in. In other words it should focus 80% on your clients and 20% on your business. 80% of the content you create and curate should be about your clients and about the things that are likely to be keeping them up at night. This can be done by creating thought leadership pieces or retweeting links and sharing articles that clients and prospects will find valuable i.e. content that responds directly to things that clients have specifically told you they are concerned about or things you believe they should be thinking about. The remaining 20% of content can be focussed on your firm i.e. your services, your practice areas, your lawyers, your pro bono activity. Things that tell the market what you are up to and how great you are!
Adopt multiple channels
Social media consists of multiple platforms, each with their specific characteristics and quirks.
- Facebook – with almost 25% of the world’s population on Facebook, the site is regarded as ‘the powerhouse of social networks’. The size of Facebook’s customer base and it’s powerful advertising platform means that it is definitely an important social media tool to consider.
- LinkedIn has over 100 million users worldwide and is considered the ‘digital business card’ for businesses and professional people. The platform is particularly useful for business to business knowledge sharing and network development.
- Youtube has over 1 billion users and is the main platform for video content marketing. A truly global platform, Youtube is available in 61 languages and is the second most used search engine in the world. And yet law firms use the medium sparingly perhaps because of time, cost and a lack of knowledge of producing videos. It is predicted that by 2020, 90% of all internet traffic will be video.
- Twitter is the ideal network for engaging in client conversations. With over 300 million users and a 140 character limit on tweets this tool is great for direct and immediate interaction with clients and prospects. Twitter is regarded as a critical platform for any business focussed on customer service. However, content has to be punchy and relevant to gain attention particularly given that 6000 tweets are issued every second!
The power of search engine optimisation means that every social media channel that your firm and its employees use has an impact on your google search results. Consequently, it is important to have presence across multiple channels and as noted above a very clear social media strategy. However, it is not necessary to be present on all channels and in some cases this can actually prove inefficient. According to the latest research by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, LinkedIn is by far the most popular social media platform among law firms, followed by Twitter and Facebook and YouTube.
Whether or not you want to engage in social media, your competitors are definitely either using social media marketing or at the very least thinking about it. Increasingly social media is being used by discerning clients (both domestic and international) to determine a law firms level of credibility and technical expertise. Consequently adopting a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to social media is unwise and potentially dangerous.
At its heart social media is about building your brand, engaging with clients and key industry influencers and above all securing your share of voice. It is also about expressing your firm’s culture and personality. Unlike websites and other online sources of marketing, social media allows dialogue. By using the available platforms law firms can tell clients and prospects that their brand is active and focused on engaging in communication. Not only does social media provide firms with an opportunity to speak, it also gives them a significant ability to engage in much needed client listening and intelligence gathering. Consequently an African law firm with no social media presence is at best invisible to existing and potential clients and at worst out of step with the market. In many ways an absence on social media particularly for lawyers who really should have much to say, is tantamount to attending a networking event full to the brim with potential clients and finding nothing useful to say. The range of impact could be between being a wasted opportunity and completely detrimental to your business. Your law firm needs a social media voice.
That said, having a social media presence without an appropriate strategy and plan can be just as damaging for your business as having no plan at all.
To find out more about social media strategy or to discuss how best to embark on your social media marketing journey please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cynthia Lareine is founder of Lareine Gold Consulting.