How Can Lawyers Benefit from Facebook?

Excerpted and adapted from Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers by Dennis Kennedy and Allison C. Shields, forthcoming in September from LPM Publishing. Pre-order the book today with a 15% pre-publication discount. 

Why Should Lawyers Use Facebook?

As we were writing this book and speaking about Facebook for lawyers, this was the question we heard most often, so we’ll try to answer it here. But as social media use (and Facebook itself) evolves, the answer is likely to change.

Right now, many lawyers are using Facebook on a personal level, but they’re not sure how to use it for business. Some scoff at the mere suggestion that Facebook can be used at all in the practice of law, for business development, or otherwise. But at its core, all social networking, whether online or in the real world, is most effective when it is used to communicate and build relationships. If the people you want to reach or with whom you want to build relationships are using that particular platform on a consistent basis, as is increasingly the case with Facebook, it might be wise to explore ways to use that platform to help you meet those people and allow them to get to know you, both as a professional and as a person. In other words, you need to go to where your target audience is.

We are about to reach an era where young lawyers entering the profession will have spent most of their Internet lives on Facebook, and older lawyers will have been pushed into Facebook to see pictures of their grandchildren and to communicate with their children. No one knows what the Facebook era will look like, but it does not seem realistic to say that you can simply avoid it.

What Can Lawyers Do to Benefit Professionally from Facebook?

The other question we often hear, in one form or another, is, “How can lawyers benefit from Facebook?” The real question is often, “What do I do so Facebook brings me new business and new clients?” Lawyers wonder why what they’ve done with websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, advertising, and more is not enough. They worry that Facebook is just the latest fad, and they seem to enjoy telling us that they haven’t obtained new clients from Facebook, as if that demonstrates something about Facebook rather than their use of it.

For websites, blogs, LinkedIn, and the like, you can find hundreds of articles purporting to tell lawyers exactly what five or ten steps they must take to have success and bring in business. Experts seem to be everywhere. With Facebook, you don’t see as many “experts” and the five-step guides don’t seem to exist. In part, that’s because Facebook is evolving; it’s relatively new, large, and somewhat uncharted territory. However, it’s also because Facebook maps to real-world relationships, so each person’s use of Facebook is individualized. While writing this book we found it striking how much our everyday use of Facebook differed. The friends you have and how they use Facebook will also have an impact on your use of Facebook.

Given the somewhat personalized way each of us uses Facebook, we nonetheless wanted to get your thinking started by giving you a list of ways that lawyers might benefit from using Facebook. All of these uses are addressed in detail in Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers.

  • Create a supplement to your formal website with a Page for your firm that’s more informal and informative enough that people will “Like” the Page.
  • Use the Timeline to tell a compelling story about the history of your firm or your career, emphasizing highlights.
  • Post informative Updates about issues and developments in your practice area so that Friends remember that you work in that area and make referrals to you.
  • Use Facebook Events to publicize and manage presentations for clients and others.
  • Participate in Groups related to your practice area to make connections with others in the field.
  • Create your own Group to publicize a practice area, reach a target market, or create an interactive version of your firm newsletter
  • Comment on, Like, or Share others’ links or Share Updates of your own to engage in conversations and interact with influencers and potential referrers.
  • Quickly and easily monitor what is happening in your network.
  •  Use the personal elements of Facebook to put a human face on your professional presence.

People do business with people they know, like, and trust. If you use Facebook with that in mind, and with a goal of getting to know others, Facebook might well be a good way to develop business.

However, most lawyers will say that they joined Facebook or were asked to join Facebook by a friend or family member. Part of the message of this book is that using Facebook for personal reasons can be highly valuable and rewarding. Dennis often describes his high school reunion Facebook group as the best benefit of being on Facebook. You can read this book and get plenty of help for using Facebook effectively for personal reasons, and we think it is okay if you want to use Facebook for just these purposes.

There are three essential parts of your Facebook presence that you need to understand well: Identity (Profile/Timeline), Friends, and Participation. Understand these three building blocks and you’ll go a long way toward “getting” Facebook and will most likely find the time spent on Facebook valuable.

  • Identity on Facebook allows you to establish a Profile explaining who you are and a Timeline that shows people things about you that happen over time. These components, and especially the photos you use with them, give people a good sense of who you are.
  • Friends are the people you are connected to in your networks. Facebook lets you identify people in your existing networks (e.g., your Outlook contacts) who have Facebook accounts and find new people. You can invite them all to connect to you by sending them a Friend request (“Friending”). By accepting Friend requests, people show that they are connected to each other and, in some cases, such as family relationships, can show the nature of those connections.
  • Participation is cultivating, tending, and engaging with your Facebook network. If you are not finding value in Facebook, it’s most likely because you have neglected this key aspect of Facebook. Social media is participatory media. You need to put effort into your online networking just as you do in your real-world networks.

 

About Lindsay Dawson

Lindsay Dawson (@lawpracticetips) is Marketing Manager for Book Publishing at the ABA Law Practice Management Section. A full list of books published by the ABA Law Practice Management section can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/uHTFmO.

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