Every Social Media Consultant is Lying to You

Lawyers – I’ll let you in on a secret . . . .

Social Media Marketing Doesn’t Work for You

There, I said it.

We’ve done it to you again – the self proclaimed mavens, experts, gurus and (self) published authors who peddle social media marketing to you guys have been lying. Or we just don’t understand how marketing works in legal.  But probably we’re lying – because we’d really like to cash your retainer to help you republish your blog posts on your Facebook page, even though there are plenty of tools that will automate that process for free.  Just like the SEOs did do. And you’ve all fallen for it again.

Now, I’m not the first person to say this, but it seems like no one is listening.  To understand social media marketing for lawyers in soundbite, consider this from Sam Glover’s anti-Facebook diatribe:  

People aren’t interested in a law firm. At best, they are interested in a particular lawyer, but normal people are about as interested in a law firm as they are interested in a proctology clinic, and for similar reasons.

Legal is NOT a Social Issue

With few exceptions, legal issues are extremely private.  I’m more likely to publicly  “like” my anti-herpes medicine than my DUI lawyer.  It’s not because I hate my lawyer – in fact I love her – its that I don’t want anyone to know that I need her because I’m facing incarceration, divorce, arrest, unemployment, deportation, or the IRS.   And if I need a lawyer for one of these private issues, there is no way on God’s green earth I’m initiating that search on anything remotely public like social media.

And this is the mistake that most self proclaimed social media experts (especially those who don’t work exclusively in legal) miss.  Standard social media marketing practice recommends building social media-based relationships with thought leaders and leveraging those individuals to expand the conversation about your brand.  This works for sneakers.  It works for religion. It works for Chevys and Harley Davidsons.  It works for soap and soup and sex toys.  It doesn’t work for lawyers.

If you personally wouldn’t start your search for a plumber on Twitter, why on earth would you imagine anyone initiate a search for a DUI attorney on Facebook?

Classic social media marketing – chasing likes and fans and pluses and followers simply does not apply to the legal marketplace.  Let’s go back to the classic social media marketing strategy – identify key influencers and leverage them to broadcast your message and shower you with likes, pluses etc.  There is simply no consumer social media key influencer built around getting divorced, or incarcerated or slipping and falling or being in an auto accident.

There is nothing more lonely that a DUI lawyer’s social media profile – which may have a few likes from his mom and law school buddies but otherwise is a barren wasteland screaming “nobody likes me”.  And stop sending out those like requests – I get plenty of them every day and nothing does less to “build a relationship with your audience” than begging for them to publicly advertise how much they like your divorce firm.

Everyone Wants Your Social Media Dollar

It seems that everyone is getting into the social media marketing game – even Lexis Nexis is happy to take your money to “Establish a Presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter”.  Bleh.  The Lexis Nexis marketing drivel epitomizes the huge failure of applying generic social media concepts to the very unique legal marketplace:

Half of all online conversations take place on social networks such as Facebook® and Twitter®. And 47 percent of customers say social media sites influence their decision to purchase a company’s products or services.

Join these conversations, demonstrate thought leadership and improve your search engine rankings with social media marketing from LexisNexis®.

You’d think that Lexis, being well, errr . . . Lexis, would have taken the time to survey people about how social media sites influence their decision to purchase a lawyer’s services.   But they didn’t – because they already know the answer and the social media consultants don’t want to admit it.  They’d prefer the legal industry continue to believe in the false complexity and ever falser effectiveness of this latest marketing channel fad.

Even if social media were effective in legal . . . it is simply impossible to outsource the joining of conversations, and demonstration of thought leadership.  And don’t get me started about the suggestions of the links between social and SEO – other than to say that Matt Cutts continuously insists that Google Plus’ are NOT a ranking factor.  But I digress.

The Only Thing You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing For Lawyers

If (and this is a big if) prospective clients use social to vet a prospective attorney – consider what you want them to see.  Let me give you a hint:  what you don’t want them to see is a slew of third party outsourced regurgitations of local news articles thinly related to your practice of law all ending with an identical admonishment to quickly call your law firm – vomited verbatim onto your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Google Plus.

This is what you want them to see:

Cory Hicks

This is a guy I want to hire – yes he’s a lawyer, but there’s no leather bound books, scales or justice of roman columns.  For the love of all things holy, he’s not even wearing a tie!  He’s a dad and the three most important things in his life are standing right next to him.  Kind of reminds me of me.  The is the kind of guy I’d be happy to spend some money on.  And I bet he’ll never ask me to add this silly page to my “circles.”

Or how about this guy:

Valentine's Day

This is from Jeffrey Lapin’s Google Plus account.  Jeffrey hates abusive debt collectors – and frankly, if I’m dirt broke and being harassed by some aggressive scumbag in a call center who threatens my house at every possible step I probably hate them too.  If I jump with fear when the phone rings, I’d be pretty happy if Bill the Debt Collector got dumped  by his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day and wish Bill a lonely miserable Valentine’s Day sitting in front of the TV all alone.

Jeff gets it.  He gets me.  Maybe I’ll give him a call.

And I’m sure the social media marketing peddlers will disagree . . . they’ll site the impact of social shares in driving links, they’ll mention “authorship” and assure you they can get your little picture in Google SERPs, they’ll convince you that social will improve your rankings.  Sounds like SEO to me, not social media.  There is a fundamental difference. Don’t entrust your firm’s marketing to someone who can’t make the distinction.

Oh – and if your social media marketing consultant mentions Pintrest, run screaming.

Update:  This post is getting a surprising amount of interest – so I thought I’d end it with this picture:  a post of all of the twitter results for the query:  “need accident lawyer”.  The results are embarrassing and utterly devoid of consumers starting their search for a lawyer on this most widely accessible (i.e. not through private connections) social platform.  Try a search for your own practice area here:  search.twitter.com and see if you don’t get similar results.

Need Lawyer

10 Responses to “Every Social Media Consultant is Lying to You”

  1. Great post Conrad. You’re right on point.

    There is a clear distinction between SEO and social media. Most of the social media gurus who not in the legal world, don’t understand the mindset of a consumer who is searching for an attorney to fix their problem.

    You clearly hit the nail on the head when talking about a DUI problem and how most people don’t want their friends and family members to know they are searching for a DUI attorney to solve their legal problem.

  2. If the above is your view of social, then I can understand where you are coming from. But with a more expanded view of what social, including blogging, is and how it is used I think you would see it differently.

    The best lawyers get their best work from relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. Not advertising or overt marketing, It’s always been the case and always will be the case.

    Heck I bought plenty of advertising and did other marketing while practicing for 17 years. My best clients and biggest fees came via clients who came via word of mouth and relationships (someone referred client to me or client knew me). When the Internet came my way, my best work came from engaging my audience and building an online reputation. Again the relationships and reputation thing.

    Social is all about relationships and reputation. If you’re not not nurturing relationships online, you’re going to lose opportunities for business. If you’re not building a reputation online that’s the equal of your offline reputation, you’re not getting that reputation in front of a lot of people that matter.

    I am no social media expert. I am just a lawyer applying a little common sense in an attempt to help good lawyers.

    I am not sure what motivated you to pen this post but it seems very short sighted to tell lawyers not to do what is working for so many lawyers and has worked for lawyers for decades – real and authentic engagement to build relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation.

    I don’t view social and SEO as exclusive, nor do I discount the value of SEO for lawyers.

    • Kevin –

      I can use my own experience to validate that what you describe above works – I’ve sent many of my non-legal friends in the direction of attorneys who I’ve met thanks to social media. But these requests come as embarrassed, private emails, always with a request to “keep this quiet”. What you describe is relationship marketing facilitated by social. Not the other way around. And I’m an atypical case – because of what I do, I’m probably more legally networked (thanks to social media) to lawyers than almost any other non lawyer out there.

      As marketers, I think we overlook the reality that legal issues are simply not social.

      Despite my overactive social presence and almost 10 years of legal marketing I’ve not once received a single request from my network for an attorney introduction blasted out on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, MySpace, or Digg. Yet social media marketing peddlers would have the entire legal industry believe this is the case. Common sense tells us otherwise – as does the social media record. Check out the image below for a twitter search on “need accident lawyer”. Nothing but lawyers talking about themselves. I think you will acknowledge that this is the embarrassing result of the lies social media marketers tell the legal industry. I had to go back 3 weeks to find the first non lawyer marketing post. 3 weeks in all of twitter to find a single person looking for an accident lawyer.

      Need Accident Lawyer

      I agree that social is a great networking tool – its how you and I first met – but suggesting that there are hoards of prospective clients clamoring for representation on Facebook and Twitter is a lie we marketers need to stop repeating.

      • People looking for an accident lawyer via a Twitter search are as foolish as the lawyers and marketers who would think anyone would look for a lawyer that way. That’s akin to saying the doctors at Mayo Clinic who are very active on social, including Twitter, are expecting someone to do a search for a cancer doctor and come to Mayo.

        Don’t paint with such a broad brush on social is all I am saying. It works well.

  3. Hi Conrad!

    You post is very interesting but I must say you are wrong.

    Iam a lawyer, and running a consulting firm helping lawyers raising profits form Internet, especially from blogs and other social media. Some of my clients raised their practise to the level their never dream of (http://rejestracjaspolkizoo.pl, http://przesył-energii.pl, http://intercyza-blog.pl, and many more). My own blog http://www.podwojneopodatkowanie.pl is earnig form me like a cash mashine.

    So my practise is completely different from your point of view.

    Its to easy to say: go into social media, or: dont go into social media. It works, but it must be correctly implemented.

    Sorry for my mistakes 🙂


  4. Conrad, what you said is true – IF you define and limit social media only to those activities described in your blog post. But, social media is far more than like-storming Facebook and responding to people who use Twitter as a replacement for Google.

    Seriously, instead of “I need a personal injury attorney,” how about searching for the things people say when they need a lawyer. For example, I just searched Twitter for “got pulled over” and there were lots of juicy leads for a traffic lawyer.

    I’m not suggesting that those kinds of searches are the holy grail. I’m just saying that you haven’t thought of everything.

    Also, most attorneys get referrals from professionals in one industry or another. Those folks are connected through social media. As an estate planner, I would benefit from having a network of financial advisors talking about me on social media. I can use social media to cultivate referrals instead of prospects.

    I just think you’re being too limited in your thinking.

  5. First, thank you for the mention. I appreciate it.

    Second, I agree with you in part and disagree in part.

    Social media, by itself, will not help lawyers in certain types of law, such as criminal, as you mention, because no one is going to post that they need a criminal lawyer. Corporate lawyers also will not likely do well as their potential clients have better resources than social media to find a lawyer. I further agree that there are many marketers that will tell lawyers that their social media needs to be managed by a social media manager, who really only repost the lawyer’s blog posts or reposts other content. As you state, lawyers do not need to pay someone for “generic social media concepts to the very unique legal marketplace.” Most lawyers, either by figuring it out on their own or through some help, can do these things themselves. There are also plenty of automation tools. Marketers can be useful in setting up social media profiles and providing guidance on posting and branding. Some lawyers, who just do not get social media, may benefit from someone handling their generic SMM.

    My biggest disagreement is that social media does not help lawyers get clients. Social media is and should be a part of any SEO strategy. While +1’s may not help, just posting on G+ and shares do effect SERP. Bing, while only commanding a small portion of the search engine market, does consider Facebook Likes in its rankings. Also, social media helps lawyers network so they may get referrals from other lawyers. Furthermore, social media can help lawyers increase their brand awareness as well as promote certain causes, such as preventing drunk driving.

    The key to social media is not just regurgitating your blog posts, which are usually keyword loaded for SEO purposes. You need to stand out and create new and different content for social media. Whether this be through humor, which I try, or otherwise, depends on the lawyer and the type of law.

  6. Conrad

    Thanks for your thought-provoking article. But I must agree with Kevin O’Keefe that you are taking far too narrow a view of social. And, for that matter, of the legal profession!

    I will give you just one example of how powerful social media can be, from my own limited experience.

    I am a patent attorney in Australia. A few years back, I started a blog, initially as an experiment, and not because any self-proclaimed ‘social media consultant’ suggested it. At first, it was a lot of work for very little traffic. But fortunately I enjoyed doing it, and stuck with it.

    A few months in, I overcame scepticism and got onto Twitter. That took a bit of effort, too. But after a while I built up quite a good little community, including a few Australian tech and business journalists. Twitter also turned out to be a really good way to build traffic to my blog.

    Then Apple sued Samsung in Australia. This was a stroke of luck, as it happens. But I believe we make our own luck by being ready when opportunity knocks!

    Suddenly, expert commentary on the case, and on patent law more generally, was in high demand. Within days I was being quoted and linked in online articles. That led to coverage in the print media. Which, in turn, led to a surprise phone call at 7am one day for a chat on Melbourne’s top-rating breakfast radio program. (I know it’s a bit old-school, but it pays to be in the phone book as well!)

    The last few years have turned into a golden period for community interest in patent law, for a variety of reasons both good and bad. I now have over 1100 followers on Twitter, about 6000 unique vistors each month to my blog, and 500 subscribers on my email list. My blog has been cited in academic articles and submissions to government consultations. Most importantly, from a business perspective, I receive regular enquiries and leads from people who have found me, either directly or indirectly, as a result of my social media activity. I could never have built this kind of profile by traditional means.

    Not every area of legal practice involves embarrassment for clients. But even if your legal problem is an embarrassing one, you have still got to find a lawyer somehow. And profile and reputation counts. I know this first-hand, and I learned it the hard way, without the assistance of any “expert” consultants!

    It might be true that nobody ever found a divorce lawyer on Twitter. But I will guarantee you that there are people who found a divorce lawyer as a result of a profile and reputation that were built, at least in part, through social media.


    • Mark – thanks for the comment. You should know that my accent belies my passport – which has a roo and an emu on it. We still have a shack off a dirt road in St. Helens. I’m flattered to see Aussie lawyers on my site – and genuinely thanks for the feedback.


  7. Your post is great, because it explains why so many lawyers fail at social media. The fail because they don’t understand it, how to use it and the value of proprietary audience.

    Every Law firm needs audiences/prospects to survive. They are where you find new customers and develop more profitable relationships. And yet, most lawyers today treat their email, mobile, and social media audiences like afterthoughts instead of the corporate assets they are.

    If you understood the value of using social media to build your proprietary audience, your views may have been different. Clearly you don’t get it yet.