Fear of Facebook Part III : Fan Pages for Law Firms?

“There’s a lot of business done in country clubs, but you’ll never see a company open a booth in the club’s dining room.  Instead, individual business people network quietly there, blending into the scene and using the social atmosphere to their advantage.  That’s how I feel about Facebook, at least for now.  Individual lawyers and strategists can get a lot of benefit from Facebook.  But as soon as the firm comes in, as the firm, it somehow breaks the social rules of the medium and calls negative attention to itself. “ A comment from an attorney in response to my post from the other day….

For two years now I’ve been using the comparison of old things in new places, i.e. LinkedIn becomes the Chamber of Commerce, Martindale.com Connected is the Bar association meeting, Twitter the cocktail party and Facebook is like the country club, to illustrate how the new social web tools fit into our lives. We’re not doing anything different—humans seek connections—we’re doing the same things only differently. I’m not suggesting that online tools can replace the benefits of face-to-face socializing, but I know first hand that together offline and online networking are a complimentary duo.

Yesterday, Curt Meltzer, the editor of PinHawk Legal Tech Digest (sign up for a free trial here), who shared that attorney’s comment with me, added….

“I reminded my friend that law firms have often (at least in the past) rented tents at golf events/tournaments, spending lavishly on client entertainment. The name of the firm is typically evident on the outside of the tent. The good old days!”

And they still do, sometimes with great branding benefit. So is there a difference between sponsoring a sporting event at a country club and hosting a Facebook Fan Page? Let’s explore…..

What is a Facebook Fan Page?

According to Facebook, they noticed that people were trying to connect with brands and famous artists in ways that didn’t quite work on Facebook. So they created a feature, Fan Pages, where you connect with your favorite artists, movies, celebrities, and businesses, and show your Friends what you care about and recommend by adding those Fan Pages to your personal profile. Likewise, you can also see which Pages your friends are fans of via the “Info” tab on their profile.

Brilliant! Especially if you have a brand that people want to follow. Tell a friend marketing has always been a powerful strategy and the Internet is making it even easier with reviews, favorites, recommendations, and comments. We all pretty much trust the opinions of our friends when it comes to making decisions about what we purchase, right?

Brand or celebrity Fan Pages are effectively like normal profiles on the site and have the ability to have friends, add pictures, and applications. They have tabs that uncover more information and Page owners communicate by “updates” which show on the update tab, or a person’s wall if they select to show them in their updates. Unlike normal profiles, however, a Fan page has two walls; one for what the Page owner writes, and one for fans to write their own messages.

Can Law Firm Brands Have Fans?

Sure, why not? Corporate America is jumping on board in droves, so, why not law firms? Some corporate brands are actually doing it quite well. They have figured out creative ways to engage their fans –coupons, contests, applications, games, service operations, special offers, give-aways, and so on.

Law firms, on the other hand, that have launched Fan Pages tend to be more conservative. They use them to push out press releases, articles, announcements and event invitations. On law firm Pages, Wall postings by Fans are pretty much non-existent. Seriously, what would a law firm Fan write? And so, while the lack of interactivity and conversation on law firm Fan pages goes against the social web purist in me, the fact is, hey, why not brand your law firm on Facebook? It’s another opportunity for name recognition, presence in search results, and another channel to push messages for a small investment of the marketing department’s time to set it up and keep it populated. Seems to me that the larger or more international the law firm the more likely a Fan Page would fit into a social media strategy as they are more “brand” focused than their smaller, local brethren. But who knows…..

Here’s a list of AmLaw 100 firms with Fan Pages that John Byrne of Drinker Biddle put together on The ByrneBlog. I looked at a few and went ho-hum. The tone of the Page was flat and in some cases they even took the About copy from their firm web site and pasted into the info page. No attempt to be creative or even adjust the language and style to reflect a more hip persona. Oh well….there are a few bright spots.

Check out the Fan Page for Baker Daniels created by Melanie Green and her marketing team, which is like a mini-law firm web site on Facebook! Of all the law firm Fan Pages they seem to be getting closest. Recently they launched a survey for their Fans with a hook to be entered into a drawing to win B&D branded stuff if you completed it.

The verdict as to whether a law firm (as opposed to an individual with a profile page and social networking goals) can achieve much in the Facebook space beyond a push-messaging channel is still out and probably will be for a while. Offering an iPhone app of your blog content from your Fan Page may be a start, but hardly something to talk about. (Give me a good example of a law firm using Fan Pages interactively in the comments below and I’ll send you a copy of my new book, social.lawyer, when West Publishing releases it this summer.)

Meanwhile, it’s smart to keep your options open.  To create a fan page, one simply has to go to here and create it. You can access the Facebook Help Center to get ideas on how to promote it, get fans and cool things to add to it.

And finally, for those who are confused about the difference between Fan Pages and Groups I’ll cover that in my next post…till then…Happy Facebooking!

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1 Comment

  1. says: Ann

    I enjoyed what you had to say about Facebook Fan Pages. I myself am always looking for ways to increase the usefulness of our Fan Page. You asked about interactive fan pages and I have been working to make ours just that. I am still in the early stages and looking for more ideas, however I have started a contest where we describe a unique/weird law and ask followers to guess what state that law came from. We then post the answer a few days later. My plan is the eventually partner up with some local businesses to offer monthly coupons for the followers who guess the most correct. Like I said it’s still in the workings, but hopefully it attracts some attention!

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