photo courtesy KROMKRATHOG/freedigitalphotos.net

photo courtesy KROMKRATHOG/freedigitalphotos.net

Businesses are spending more than ever on social media marketing, according to Duke University’s CMO Survey taken last month. In the next five years, social media budgets are expected to increase from their current rate of nine percent up to almost a quarter of businesses’ entire marketing budget.

What’s the reason for the big increase? According the latest report from Shareaholic, Facebook accounted for 23.39 percent of social referrals to websites in the second quarter of 2014. This is a 10 percent gain since March and a massive 150 percent gain from the second quarter of 2013. Facebook is such a valuable referral source because 64 percent of Facebook users visit the site on a daily basis, according to Pew Research. Facebook leads in social referrals because its users are loyal, constantly staying plugged into their News Feeds and find content can’t seem to get shared by friends valuable.

Other social networks are also on the rise. Twitter and LinkedIn generated 1.14 percent and .04 percent of social referrals, respectively. Pinterest and StumbleUpon also showed gains year over year. Almost 20% of adults use Instagram, making over 200 million active users who photo-share an average of 60 million photos a day.

Not only does it make sense to market your law firm through social networks from a business perspective, but as a lawyer, you need to know the ins and outs of social media to appropriately represent and advise your clients.

According to the Social Media Committee of the Federal and Commercial Litigation Section of the New York Bar Association, “Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are becoming indispensable tools used by legal professionals and those with whom they communicate.” In fact, it is so indispensable, that the Bar Association developed ethical guidelines on social media. The guidelines say that lawyers must be conversant with the nuances of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn because clients are using them.

This committee of the New York Bar is basically saying that lawyers must be able to use social media to competently do their job. You aren’t going to be acquainted with the particulars of social unless you are using social media, so get here are some takeaways to make social networking an integral part of your overall business plan.

  • Check out the social media tips and educational resources available from the American Bar Association
  • Look at increasing the portion of your marketing budget allocated to social media
  • Don’t ignore Facebook, even if you don’t want to mix business and personal, don’t like Facebook’s privacy rules or don’t have the time to figure it out. Like it or not, Facebook is one of the main ways to build your relationships and reputation as a lawyer. Experts think that Facebook will very soon be as important to Americans cell phones are today and newspapers once were. It’s how we stay connected, receive news and get information.
  • Make the most of your marketing budget by outsourcing your social media staffing rather than hiring a full-time person (or department) to manage your social networking. Since your marketing/IT team is not dedicated solely to social media, bringing your current staff up to speed and dedicating team members to social may cost more than outsourcing and could result in lessor performance and/or greater security risks.
  • Share photos and videos via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. Build goodwill and rapport with your local community by sharing pictures of law firm employees having fun while participating in civic events or celebrating holidays around your office. Take a look at Instagram’s section on how to use the network for business and Instagram’s blog for business to learn how to use Instagram and share photos and videos beyond the Instagram site.

Remember, it is important for you to be on social media to market yourself and your firm, but the even more important reason to use social media is because is what your clients use to communicate. You don’t have to be a social media expert, but knowing social media basics will make you a more well-rounded attorney who can better represent and advise your clients.