Using Social Media To “Keep It Real” With Clients

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have been under renewed pressure to eliminate fake news or false advertisements from users’ feeds. This is a monumental task. But these social media woes are also relevant to legal entities looking to advertise or network using social media — because some of them are creating fake profiles or posting disinformation in order to obtain new clients or sway them away from competing firms.

And really, that’s just a bad idea.

Social media can be a great tool for law firms to use in order to disseminate factual information, but we always advise against made up “facts.” Clients want the truth. If they find out they’ve been lied to, then you’ll lose their support for good. That’s why you should steer away from dishonest behavior, such as posting irrelevant or nonfactual articles, or hiring companies that say they can give you fake followers, subscribers, etc. (which some firms will buy because they think it will give the business more credibility if people notice that others are paying attention).

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was at the forefront of an investigation into the latter practices, which are largely considered immoral and unlawful by government entities. Devumi, LLC had been accused of selling these fake followers to those who wished to boost social media performance. A case against Devumi was recently settled by the FTC.

The settlement prohibits Devumi from selling “social media influence” or misrepresenting that influence on behalf of anyone else in the future. 

The reason why these practices are illegal is because they allow other individuals or companies facilitate acts of deception with regards to consumers. Devumi also allegedly “sold fake LinkedIn followers to marketing, advertising and public relations firms, among others, and fake YouTube subscribers to musicians who wanted to increase the popularity of their music.”

Devumi was one of a string of settlements decided by the FTC. These settlements should reduce the number of bots running rampant on social media platforms.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “Bots and other fake accounts have been running rampant on social media platforms, often stealing real people’s identities to carry out fraud. With this settlement, we are sending a clear message that anyone profiting off of deception and impersonation is breaking the law and will be held accountable.”

A Twitter spokesperson tweeted: “The tactics used by Devumi on our platform and others as described by today’s NYT article violate our policies and are unacceptable to us. We are working to stop them and any companies like them.”

How Will Future Law Firms Be Built And Managed?

Anyone with a growing law firm today most definitely understands the value of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all essential tools for growing one’s client base over time. They can be used to hit targeted demographics faster and more effectively than any other tools we’ve had access to in the past. With technological advances arriving faster than ever, it’s left a lot of us wondering: what’s next?

It’s safe to say that the era of one-on-one attorney and client interaction is done and over with. The increasing benefits of automated software and artificial intelligence are helping more successful firms make more money while the less successful firms still manage to scrape by. 

The era of the legal secretary is certainly at an end because of these inventions. Consider for a moment what their tasks used to be: scheduling, billing, managing phone calls, forwarding mail, etc. But most of those tasks can be carried out by automated systems now.

When hiring individual attorneys now, law firms expect more. The associates are basically miniature law firms working for an umbrella corporation. They have their own clients, their own billing systems, their own markets, their own specialties, etc.

But the world is changing fast.

Take something simple, like an attorney’s note taking. Many still like to use legal pads, but the up and comers are mostly keeping a laptop on hand in order to keep track of information. Many automated software systems offer a level or organization that was unheard of a decade ago. Soon, these same systems will be able to use general artificial intelligence to gather and organize data sets on their own, and even review case notes so that lawyers don’t have to do it themselves.

There’s just one problem: lawyers hate change, and historically they’ve always been terribly slow in adopting it. Their clients are usually the ones who stand to lose the most from this sluggish pace of adaptation. 

There’s also politics to consider. For example, Elizabeth Warren has made it very clear to the American public that she wants to break up huge tech companies like Facebook and Google, companies that are certainly doing miraculous things, albeit in a somewhat uncouth “the end justifies the means” sort of way. We have to consider what happens if she gets her way and breaks up some of the big companies that other businesses rely on for advertising.

Then again, no one knows who will win the 2020 presidential election or how much power they might have. It’s one thing to say what you want to do, it’s another thing entirely to make it happen.

Should My Law Firm Use Social Media To Advertise?

If your law firm maintains business profiles on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram — then you might want to consider using them to advertise. Each of these platforms is relatively cheap. Heck, on Instagram you can actually make money depending on how much of a following you have. If it were only that easy for everyone! Whether or not your law firm should advertise probably depends on where you are in the process.

If you have a smaller law firm just starting out, then you may choose to hold off. Smaller law firms typically benefit more from advertising in places where people are actually searching for legal help. That means trying to ensure you’ve built an outstanding and informative website with easily digested advice and instructions. It also means trying to ensure your perfect website reaches as high in Google rankings as it possibly can, because you want more people to see it more often.

Smaller firms will also want to promote the networking skills of their staff. Word of mouth will increase the size of your firm more than anything else.

Bigger firms can move on to advertise in other places — like social media. It’s relatively cheap to do so, and easy. On top of that, you can choose exactly which demographics you would like to target with each ad campaign, making it easier for you to convert clicks to clients.

Before starting an ad campaign, decide on a set of goals. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to increase traffic to your website? Do you want more people to recognize your law firm’s brand or logo? Are you trying to better your reputation? This will all help determine how you define a target audience.

Before starting a social media ad campaign, you’ll want to ensure that you have content for potential clients to consume when they make it to your page. How will you compel clickers to consume the information you want them to consume? Videos and podcasts work wonders if you find the right person to present them. How you present the information also depends partly on your audience. If your demographic is senior citizens, then they’re not very likely to sit down to listen to the podcast!

Last but not least, after you’ve started an ad campaign you can track various metrics. If something isn’t working, you can often change it mid-campaign. But try to adjust each campaign to be a little bit better than the last one and you’ll have new clients rolling through your doors in no time at all.

Should You Make A Social Media Account For Your Growing Law Firm?

Finding ways to grow your new law firm can be stressful — but it can also be fun. Finding and hiring the most creative minds in your area is part of the struggle, but they can help you discover new methods of growing your client base and keeping it engaged. Then again, some strategies can help you keep your partners or employees engaged as well. Are social media accounts right for your law firm? It depends.

First, it’s important to know the difference between a social media account made primarily for your business — whether on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. — and those made for individuals. More law firms are jumping on the social media bandwagon than ever before, but some acknowledge that they may have done it too soon (or at least without properly researching both the benefits and the pitfalls). 

For bigger law firms, improper management of personal accounts can turn into a disaster.

One attorney recently shared his story about a construction company that was being sued. On his personal Facebook account he commented, “It’s pretty obvious this company is in some big trouble!”

From the outside looking in, that’s a fairly innocuous comment — unless your law firm is trying to take the case, which is exactly what happened in this situation. The construction company and the law firm were in talks, and in the course of its research, the construction company came across the post previously made by the lawyer. Needless to say, the law firm did not get the new client.

While this can be seen as an example of why law firms shouldn’t muddy the waters with social media, that’s not really what it is. Instead, it should be seen as an example of how to properly navigate those waters.

Law firms hoping to grow their client base or increase engagement through social media need to sit down with employees and train them on how to use both the company’s social media accounts and their own personal accounts. Individuals should be asked to keep their personal pages public so that potential clients might find them easily, but also to keep the majority of their personal posts private and friends-only. This will reduce the chances that a potential client will find a potentially disastrous post.

Law firms can also take steps to train employees how to post information and subjects that do more to benefit the firm than harm it. In 2019, thousands of people lose their jobs for making controversial statements on social media every day. It’s no joke.

It might be a difficult job to balance the social media high wire just right, but it’s a necessary job as well.