14 Social Media Etiquette Dos and Don’ts for Attorneys

March 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

social media rules for attorneysThe inspiration for this post came from a blog I penned on the Canada IP Blog on November 23, 2012. 

As we all know by now, social media is no longer a fad when it comes to business development and marketing for attorneys and legal professionals. If you’re not a believer, think about this for a moment: over 200 million professionals have joined LinkedIn to date, with two members continuing to join per second. LinkedIn is the social network for professionals.

Because social media is the norm, it’s how you use social media that will set you apart from the competition. Just because everyone is using it, doesn’t mean they are using it to its full potential.

14 Social Media Etiquette Dos and Don’ts for Attorneys

Do

1. Remember reciprocity when utilizing social media for business development. For example, if someone follows you on Twitter and they’re relevant to your industry, follow them back. If someone retweets your article on Twitter, share one of their posts that your network will find useful.

2. Respond to criticism and conflicting opinions. Whatever you do, don’t delete negative comments or feedback unless they are trolls or spam. Negative feedback can actually be a good thing as it allows the public to see how you handle yourself. I’ve heard many stories of great friendships beginning in this manner. You’ll be surprised!

3. Promote the competition. When it comes to the legal industry, there are literally thousands of professionals using social media, including your competitors. Don’t shy away from the competition. Follow them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook pages and interact with them on LinkedIn. Watch what they’re doing online and learn from them. Whatever you do, don’t attack them online!

4. Share all of the offline events that your firm is taking part in. For example, MBM Intellectual Property Law LLP, recently partnered with Global Entrepreneurship Week in Ottawa. We shared pictures from the event via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We also interacted with GEW Canada’s Twitter account (@GEWCanada) during the event. Overall, it was a great experience to see how social media can optimize offline event attendance.

5. Take part in relevant discussions. One of my favorite places for online discussions is LinkedIn groups. Take some time to research which practice group groups you find interesting and join the discussion. Answer and ask questions. Build your expert reputation.

6. You should respond to social media comments, questions and feedback quickly. For example, if you post an update on LinkedIn as a status update and one of your colleagues “Likes” the article, respond quickly and ask for their feedback on the matter. Or, if someone comments on a blog post you’ve written, respond quickly thanking them for their feedback. Reader interaction is gold on social media, this is how relationships are built online.

7. Remember your reputation and brand on social media. Everything you do online is public knowledge. If you have a contradicting opinion you’d like to share in response to a blog post, do so in a positive manner. Remember, potential clients are reading everything you say. It’s okay to disagree, but do so in a respectful manner.

Don’t

Handsome man humor funny gesture in a mirror1. Do not over-promote yourself when using social media. Social media is a wonderful venue to promote your legal services but remember, there’s a time and place for doing so. When it comes to online interaction, think about the 20/80 rule. You should be taking part in discussions and contributing valuable information 80% of the time. This leaves 20% of the time for self promotion. When you do promote yourself, make sure it’s in a respectable fashion and in the right tone.

2. Don’t jump into an online conversation without having something of value to share. For example, if two people are discussing a specific practice related rule change inside a LinkedIn group, and you have valuable insight that hasn’t already been discussed, feel free to provide your two cents. Do you have a whitepaper or blog post that’s relevant? Feel free to share the link within the discussion as well. You’ll also find that these sorts of discussions can give you great inspiration when it comes to content creation.

3. Don’t forget to link to your sources in social media posts. And don’t use pictures you don’t have rights for. This is a no-brainer for legal professionals but I had to include it anyway. If you read a blog post that inspires you to write your own piece, include a link back to the original article in your post. If you would like to add a picture to your blog post, visit a site like iStockPhoto where you can purchase pictures for reasonable prices.

4. Don’t leave your social media bio’s blank. Make sure you fill out each bio section completely. Some social media accounts require more than others, and you should have a short and long bio available. Don’t leave any section blank as this is a common newbie mistake that’s easy to fix. LinkedIn can be a bit tedious to fill out so don’t worry if it says your profile is 75% complete (my profile has never been 100%), just make sure you have your professional headline, summary, experience and education completed.

5. Don’t let your social media accounts become dormant. If you aren’t going to be consistent online, don’t create the account in the first place. Posting once a week isn’t enough. You need to stay active and treat social media as a daily task. Set aside 30 minutes each day and think of this like your “business development” time. Doing so will keep your profile fresh and will encourage people to engage with you as well.

6. Don’t boast about your praise online. If you receive praise for a particular piece of content you created online, don’t shout it from the social media rooftops. Retweeting positive comments you receive is generally frowned upon as well as “liking” your own Facebook posts. Don’t be that guy. If you receive praise online, thank the person privately or publicly recognize content they’ve created online.

7. Don’t use the same canned responses over and over again on social media. It can become very appealing to say a simple “thank you” each time someone retweets you on Twitter; however, this won’t get you very far, especially if someone heads over to your Twitter profile and sees 35 tweets saying “thank you”. Check the bio of the person who retweeted you and include their name and something you have in common in your response. Most people don’t do this online and this is a simple strategy to set you apart.

Do you have any do’s or don’ts to share when it comes to social media etiquette for attorneys? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

If you need help with your firm’s social media strategy, please feel free to contact me at samanthataracollier@gmail.com.

Samantha Collier

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Samantha Collier supports lawyers, law firms and legal industry consultants in their social media marketing efforts. Her blog, Social Media for Law Firms, won the 2011 Canadian Law Blog Awards in the Best Practice Management Category and she was recently recognized as part of "The 24: Canada's Top Legal Social Media Influencers" from The Counsel Network.