Facebook Friday – Law Firm Fan Pages

I am enthusiastic about social Web tools and particularly Facebook. Continuing in my series of Facebook Fridays, this post will address:

Should a law firm have a Fan Page and if so, what should it look like?facebook-logo

If you haven’t seen it in action, you’ve probably at least heard about how Dell or Zappos, the poster children for companies using social media, are creating revenue and positively impacting their brand in Social Media. According to various reports, most other companies, retail or B2B, have barely gotten started; law firms are no exception.

An April 2009 article on Adweek.com:

“Thousands of brands from large, medium and small companies… crossed that hurdle a few years ago of making a Web site. But they are not yet waking up to the fact that the Internet is not just about parking your information somewhere and hoping people stumble across it somehow. You have to be active for anyone to notice…. Companies obviously know Twitter and blogs and Facebook. They just don’t know how they fit in. “

Most law firm marketers are slow to increase social media in their marketing mix. It’s looked upon as mostly experimental and they invest only as time and priorities permit.

CMO from AmLaw 100 Firm:

“I think we definitely still have some work to do; our [Facebook Fan Page] posts do hit the fans’ walls.  Haven’t yet pulled the cord on tweeting, though.  Maybe soon, maybe not.  I think we’re more in the experimental stage with Web 2.0 to be honest.  And I think that’s OK as long as we’re not detracting from the firm’s overall brand (which I don’t think we are).”

Facebook Company Pages or Fan PagesFanSmall

Hello? Fans of law firms? I’m skeptical. I’m a fan of Elvis, Sephora, Apple Computers, and Total Wine and More (coupons!!!), but law firms? Nah! At least not until they move away from self-promotion and start engaging and adding value. That’s my 2 cents right now. But let’s explore.

Where do law firms fit in?

Many lawyers and law firms are networking on Linkedin and peer-2-peer industry sites and a few are migrating to Facebook. Which brings up a good question. What should law firms be doing on Facebook?

A marketing director from a regional firm in North Carolina recently told me;

“Web 2.0 is still coming-of-age for us. So far our facebook page is not a big referrer to the website. We’re not really trying to replace the big firm site as much as let a little more firm personality show through. We’re posting pictures that wouldn’t make it on to the big site, and letting folks comment (though not many do). We only have 47 fans, so it’s still small. I’m open to ideas on how to make it more interactive.”

Some random ideas.

The social Web is a canvas for “creative” people to express themselves via written word, photography, video, audio, community and building those silly applications –” Which Winnie the Pooh character are You?”  Why couldn’t a law firm build a branded app like “Which Supreme Court Justice are you?” or a “Make your own lawyer joke” tool?

Recent statics show that there are still more spectators than creators on the social Web but that number changes daily. The point is, if you are present on Facebook, get creative. Make it a destination where fans can interact and do something, well, creative.

Some firms are using their FB pages as alumni or recruiting tools –to limited success. If that is your objective, then try it. It’s still going to be a lot of work getting the creative juices flowing and compelling people to return or contribute. These pages will likely, however, keep your firm top of mind and may result in more referral work.

If your objective is marketing or identifying new business leads, you must ask: do your clients (or prospects) want to interact with your attorneys on line? Do you have the strategies in place to manage conversion and track it? What is the value that you will bring to your community?

Some firms are sponsoring causes on their Fan Page sort of like a footnote.  I suggest they create a Fan Page for a cause and become the footnote sponsor of that page. Have a contest, create badges, build community.

Best piece of advice for any marketing tool; know what you’re doing, what you hope to get in return, and keep your expectations and investment of resources in line with those objectives.

Reality Check.

People do not visit facebook to see the ads. So, don’t make your Fan Page or Company Page an ad. If your Page is little more than a rehash of your Web site article database, press releases, or event announcements your “fans” may see it as advertising and tune it out.

If you think your Fans will be back often to discuss the finer points of irrevocable trusts, set your expectations low. There’s a lot of noise out there and a lot of quality information available on other sites. The smart approach, if you’re going to make your fan page about irrevocable trusts, is to optimize your content accordingly. You can increase your chances of showing up early in a search for the topic and gain a new Fan (ahem…client). Have a strategy in place.

Save your money!

Look into the crystal ball, if your fan page is solely about Topic A (YOU!),  as more people begin to use Facebook as a portal to their complete online experience, your fans may find it a convenient way to keep up with what’s on your firm site without having to go to your site. While you’ll still want a static presence on a company url, you won’t need to spend six figures on it. Most of the valuable information about your firm will live on the social web in dynamic content. Skip the expensive CMS and invest in social media.

Be a maverick!

Social media is time consuming, requires creativity and may be tough to draw a direct line to revenue –at least at this stage of the evolution.

But, if you want to get started and test the waters, I say go for it. And let us know when you come up with something creative so we can ooh and ahh. And as certain as tomorrow follows today, when they’re ready — 2 years down the road –other law firms will copy you. Imitation is flattery. Be a maverick.

Happy Friday!

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