#12DaysRewind: 4 Takeaways and a Prediction About Social Media Marketing
By Jacob Eidinger, Jennifer Forester
January 19, 2022 | 8-minute read
Technology Management Social Media and Engagement Content Type Article
For the 12 Days of Social Media, the LMA Social & Digital Media Shared Interest Group (SIG) co-chairs decided to do something a bit different this year. Using the hashtag #12DaysRewind, we took a trip down memory lane and shared some of our favorite blog posts from this annual campaign since its inception in 2012.
What have we learned? Social media and its related marketing strategies have evolved dramatically. What was once considered an informal way to stay connected with friends and family has become a fundamental business development and communication tool for lawyers, executives and marketing professionals.
As we emerge from a second full year of the pandemic, the need to stay engaged online with our peers is more pronounced than ever. The good news for lawyers is that it’s never too late to get started or scale up.
Here are four key takeaways from #12DaysRewind and some thoughts on what the future holds for social media marketing:
1. Lawyer Attitudes About Social Media Have Changed — Or Have They?
Far more lawyers use social media today than they did a decade ago. In fact, most lawyers are on some form of social media — including in-house counsel. Among lawyers who participated in the ABA’s recent 2021 Legal Technology Survey Report, 81% said they personally use social media for professional purposes.
In the early days of the SIG, legal marketers often received pushback from lawyers who simply did not want to spend time on social networks. To combat this crisis of confidence, Laura Toledo, director of business development and marketing at Nilan Johnson Lewis and LMA Midwest immediate past president, offered eight rebuttals to cynical lawyers for the 12 Days campaign in 2013. Some of these oft-heard excuses are clearly obsolete — imagine an attorney today trying to describe social media as “just a fad.”
However, challenges remain when communicating the value of social media to busy lawyers. The ABA survey found that among those attorneys who use social media, only 52% use it for client development. That is a huge missed opportunity, especially when you consider that the overwhelming majority of lawyers and in-house counsel are using LinkedIn.
In 2019, Lindsey Bombardier, director of business development and marketing at Lenczner Slaght and LMA Canada Regional director-at-large, offered excellent tips to get lawyers on board with social media. “We communicate a lot of information to our lawyers, and we must remember that we aren’t the only ones trying to get a message through,” said Bombardier. “Be well prepared and well informed.” Providing training and coaching can also help lawyers become more comfortable using social media.
2. Visual Content Is (Still) King
Since the dawn of the SIG, social media pros have emphasized the importance of eye-catching visuals. Today, it is an imperative to stopping the scroll; most social media algorithms prioritize video and image-based content over posts that only contain text or outbound links.
Fortunately, you don’t need a master’s degree in graphic design to produce compelling visual content. Canva launched in 2013 and now has over 60 million monthly active users who rely on its “freemium” graphic design tools to produce content for social media, print marketing materials and beyond. “You should always add something visual to your blog posts because visuals draw people in, and help to set the scene and the emotion you desire,” Nancy Myrland, legal marketing consultant, presciently wrote back in 2014. “Canva makes that easier than I can even describe,” she added.
Video also remains a highly effective tool for audience engagement. While a successful strategy takes time to create, the payoff can be huge. In 2017, Matteo Bava, senior marketing manager at Perkins Coie, shared some excellent tips for creating standout video content. “Give some free advice to your audience; if it pertains to them, they will want to come back for more,” he wrote. Notably, Bava recommends lawyers drop the legalese from their videos to sound more conversational and engaging.
The boom of TikTok and the advent of the “creator economy” means that short-form and even live video is quickly becoming a consumer favorite. “Q&A sessions for live video are creating more avenues for connecting social media users to social media content creators, and in turn feel like they are part of the brand experience,” Jessica Aries, legal marketing consultant, wrote back in 2016 when live streaming was quickly gaining popularity.
The key is consistency — firms and individuals that publish timely and relevant insights with regularity can develop loyal audiences that keep coming back for more.
3. Technology and Marketing Automation Can Help Scale Your Social Efforts
From scheduling and reporting tools to project management software, several of our past 12 Days contributors have stressed the importance of a technology-driven approach to social media marketing.
Many third-party publishing tools, such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social, have built-in reporting features to better measure the impact of your campaigns. In 2018, Jennifer Simpson Carr, director of business development at Furia Rubel Communications, provided helpful advice on choosing the right metrics as part of the content marketing planning process. “Creating an overall content marketing plan (or any business plan for that matter) helps organizations focus their time and resources in a very targeted way,” Carr wrote.
Social listening tools and RSS readers can also help you gauge public perception of your firm’s brand, while identify trending topics around your lawyers’ practice areas. This in turn can inform your content strategy.
In addition, user personalization can help firms widen the impact of their digital marketing efforts, wrote Jacqueline Madarang, director of marketing technology and operations at Blank Rome and LMA Marketing Technology SIG co-chair. “Developing a user personalization digital strategy can help law firms reach their audience on an individual level by pushing out targeted messages in website copy, email campaigns, social media posts [and more],” said Madarang.
4. Social Media Is All About Relationships
At its core, an effective social media strategy boils down to developing genuine relationships. Firms should not spend all of their energy bragging on social media about various accolades, trials they’ve won or major transactions they’ve led.
Instead, focus on delivering a benevolent social strategy that brings value to your clients, colleagues and community. “As in life, a social media relationship is a transaction,” wrote Roy Sexton, director of marketing at Clark Hill and LMA president-elect, back in 2015. “It can be small — making sure you acknowledge a client/co-worker/colleague birthday — or big — writing a killer blog post that gives great analysis on a developing legislative issue or case victory,” Sexton added.
Moreover, the pandemic has significantly exacerbated the need for online connection. For the 12 Days of Social Media in 2021, the SIG collected a series of personal stories from LMA members about how the pandemic impacted their firm’s marketing strategies. Across the board, marketers saw success leveraging social media to help clients stay on top of new developments in a fast-changing world.
“I wish I would have waited to get started with business development,” said no attorney ever. By thinking of social media as an online extension of their in-person relationships, lawyers and marketers alike can build authentic connections that drive new business and client loyalty.
Our Prediction: ‘Trust’ Will Be a Central Theme in 2022
On Oct. 5, 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee about a trove of leaked documents related to the spread of political misinformation, hate speech, teenage mental health and a host of other serious issues on the platform. Haugen’s explosive testimony, and the swift public backlash that ensued, revealed a larger problem for social media: lack of trust from their users.
Maintaining credibility on the very platforms that have sowed mistrust will be a challenge for lawyers in 2022. To do this, attorneys must exercise caution when sharing others’ content to make sure it is reliably sourced. Moreover, original thought leadership should be thoroughly researched and backed up with citations where appropriate.
On a more personal level, legal consumers may be actively scanning firms’ social media accounts for any clues that might indicate whether they can be trusted. Firms that demonstrate a public commitment to DEI and social responsibility, for example, may generally be perceived as more trustworthy than those that do not. Lawyers who outperform the competition by showing up on social networks as humans with personal stories and professional points of view may also be more readily perceived as trusted advisors.
On the bright side, the general air of skepticism surrounding social media presents an exciting opportunity for marketers. In a sea of misrepresentations and half-truths, lawyers and law firms can leverage their thought leadership on social platforms to cut through the noise and establish themselves as credible authorities in their respective practice areas. The key is consistency — firms and individuals that publish timely and relevant insights with regularity can develop loyal audiences that keep coming back for more.
The 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study from Edelman and LinkedIn punctuates a “pivotal time for thought leadership in the business world.” The study reports 64% of buyers say thought-leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing an organization’s capabilities and competency than marketing materials and product sheets.
We all need lawyers to be seen as truly trusted advisors. Attorneys and the rule of law have a hand in practically everything of significance in our world. Legal marketers can take pride in their purpose of helping lawyers be exceptional — online and offline, in digital, virtual and real-life ways.