Why is social media so important in today’s world? Attorneys can augment their existing word-of-mouth referral network by digitally engaging with potential clients. Today’s business professionals (including attorneys) are charged with being practitioners as well as business developers. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time in the day as it is to get work done for existing clients, let alone search for future clients. Social media outlets can help attorneys increase visibility in a time-efficient manner.

The old word-of-mouth marketing is being increasingly diluted in the commoditized world of service providers to high-net-worth individuals. Effective thought leaders are instead using digital platforms to call attention to themselves, their expertise and their practices with the proper audiences.

Attorneys can establish visibility through cogent, targeted messaging through social media outlets and by differentiating themselves from the rest of the pack. The more platforms they project their brand from, engage from, and share their content from, the greater the attention and return they can expect.
Attorneys should familiarize themselves with the multiple platforms available. These include: LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging.


LinkedIn

This is the easiest and most familiar way for many to test out the social media marketing waters. LinkedIn allows users to create profiles (similar to a resume) detailing their skills and experience, education and so forth. These profiles become an online tool used to communicate points of differentiation in their field. Attorneys should strive for succinctness in their resume format, using bullet points for improved readability. The goal is for others to see their profile, read it and connect on LinkedIn to create real-world opportunities by expanding the attorney’s network, referral base and the demand for his skills. Attorneys can join groups that will quickly and easily expand their professional network. By sharing relevant content and even by making brief comments on the learning, questions and opportunities of others, attorneys will strengthen their connections and as such, their referral base. In the process, they’ll heighten others’ awareness of them and their thoughts on areas related to their expertise.

A search on LinkedIn of the terms, “law firms trusts and estates” comes up with 748 results, identifying lawyers and law firms practicing in the field of trusts and estates. Many of the attorneys listed are simply using their LinkedIn account as a place to showcase their education and experience, as well as some of the recommendations they have received. Others, however, are using the site more dynamically, by participating in groups and sharing content that helps distinguish them as thought leaders.
One LinkedIn group that should be of particular interest to trusts and estates attorneys is the LinkedIn “Trusts and Estates Network,” a LinkedIn group boasting 4,325 members. Who are its members? According to the Group:

This community is for people with family trusts and their professional trust & estate advisors to network with one another and share information and best practices. If you have responsibility for your family's trust and estate planning or management, or are a trust and estate attorney, wealth advisor, CPA, estate planner, trustee, or advisor on wills, trusts and estates or estate planning issues, we welcome you to join our community.


Twitter

Twitter is a social networking website that allows registered users to set up profiles and send and receive messages. Though the messages are confined to a maximum length of 140 characters, most “power users” of the network quickly learn that the way to become a thought leader in this fast-moving network is by sharing links to rich, relevant content. Such links could be to reports concerning new developments in the law, which may significantly impact the desired client base. Strategies and techniques exist to maximize the reach of such messages.

With over 300,000 new accounts opened on Twitter every day, the reach of the network is staggering. The world is listening on Twitter and over 70 percent of the Fortune 100 calls the network their home.

Messages shared on the micro-blogging network range, among others, from news-related, motivational quotes, music recommendations, thought leader musings and self-promotion. Depending on the number of people being followed and their proclivity, there may be hundreds or thousands of “tweets” in a twitter stream each day. Just like a newswire, attorneys can go back and review all the messages or sort them by user or a specific hashtag (#) designation.

When users want to highlight their material by subject and thus make it more readily searchable, they may add a hashtag (the pound symbol in front of a word or multiple words with no spaces) to it. For example, #wealthmanagers or #HNW(high-net-worth) are popular hashtags used in the wealth management Twitter community. Users are directly addressed on Twitter via the @ sign in front of a Twitter-handle (or username). For example, a user would type @TheRudinGroup, @GlenGilmore or @TandE_mag to send something directly to specific users (in this case, us, the authors or Trusts & Estates).

Facebook

This year, Facebook will reach the benchmark of 132 million users in the United States alone. What does this mean? Clients expect to find you there, sharing content that’s relevant to their expertise. They expect their attorneys to be available and prepared to connect there for an introduction or as an extension of the attorney’s services in real life.


Blogging

For attorneys, blogging is another powerful way of standing shoulders above others in a crowded field; by sharing content at regular intervals relating to the attorney’s area of practice. Why is blogging so powerful? Social networks have become massive search engines where people go to look for information that’s relevant to them. Very often, the content searched for and shared on Twitter is content from blogs. On Twitter alone, there are about 1.6 billion searches conducted in a single day. When relevant content is found, it’s usually shared as well.

Most blogs are established so that readers are provided with an opportunity to comment on the blog immediately following this blog. This is what makes blogs “social” and also creates an opportunity for bloggers to make new connections.

When a reader does comment on a blog, etiquette encourages the blogger to respond to the person commenting on the blog. It’s here that attorneys must be particularly careful so that the exchange doesn’t inadvertently create the misimpression of an attorney/client relationship—or an actual attorney/client relationship. It should also be noted that in the context of blogging, a disclaimer that may appear in the blog profile may be deemed insufficient when the disclaimer isn’t repeated conspicuously during the course of communicating information that might otherwise be misconstrued as rendering legal advice.

And don’t forget: At all times in the “social” context, attorneys must be mindful of the proscriptions concerning communicating and advertising that govern attorney conduct ordinarily.