Should Your Firm Have a Social Media Policy?
Social media plays a critical role in modern law firm marketing, as evidenced by data from the 2019 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report. According to this influential study, 80 percent of law firms currently maintain a presence on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Today’s attorneys regard these sites as crucial for attracting and retaining business.
While most law firms utilize social media platforms to some extent, it’s important to be intentional in your efforts. Post content frequently and speak to issues that make sense for your practice area or community. Infrequent updates without a clear connection to your firm can endanger the brand identity you work hard to create offline.
Some law firms cause active harm by failing to follow ethical standards outlined by the American Bar Association’s Center for Professional Responsibility. In the best-case scenario, such negligence can lead to lost clients. In extreme cases, it prompts disbarment or permanent career damage.
To avoid such mishaps, you need clear and well-documented social media policies. Your policies should outline how the practice aims to present itself on all online platforms—and how it will respond if problems arise. While some firms neglect to implement such practices until after they’ve suffered significant PR problems, proactively crafting a social media policy can prevent significant trouble down the road.
Benefits of Developing a Law Firm Social Media Policy
A strong social media policy imparts a number of benefits to today’s digital-oriented law firms. Ranging from regulatory and ethical issues to marketing concerns, these can influence every aspect of your practice. Top advantages worth considering include:
Your law firm should maintain a consistent voice in all interactions with clients. This includes not only content and email marketing efforts, but also updates and comments on social media. How does your brand sound? Are you casual and approachable or is it important to come across as more authoritative and highly professional? The tone you take with clients should translate to your social media presence.
A clear policy can highlight how the brand will be cultivated and maintained. This will ensure that followers consistently encounter the same voice. Such uniformity will produce greater trust in your practice’s brand identity—an essential quality for building rapport with current and future clients alike.
Reduced Risk of Ethical or Legal Issues
Attorneys should be wary of sharing anything on social media that can be misconstrued as legal advice. Likewise, social media updates should avoid disclosing personal information, as doing so would go against the most basic ethical standards. Social media policies explicitly state which types of updates breach such standards, thereby reducing the risk of inadvertently posting problematic content.
Improving Brand Advocacy
When used correctly, social media enables law firm employees to act as powerful advocates for your practice’s brand without compromising your credibility. Without guidance, employees may struggle to develop updates according to your carefully crafted brand.
A detailed social media policy removes much of the guesswork, thereby inspiring confidence in the employees who represent your firm online. This, in turn, will help them craft the strong messages needed to successfully engage with followers.
Preserving Your Reputation
It takes ages to build a strong reputation—and only an instant to destroy it. By addressing law firm branding, ethical considerations, and other key concerns, your social media policy helps you avoid missteps that could harm the reputation you’ve worked so hard to develop.
What Should Your Law Firm’s Social Media Policy Include?
No two law firm social media policies will look exactly alike. Differences can arise based on practice area, target clientele, law firm size, and many other attributes. Still, most policies will include the following key elements:
- Details surrounding what, exactly, constitutes inflammatory or derogatory content.
- Guidelines about privileged information and how social media ambassadors can avoid its disclosure.
- Specifics regarding prohibited language that risks misleading followers.
- Guidance for who can represent your practice on social media—and under what circumstances.
- Advice for responding to negative comments from followers.
- Who will take over if conflicts on social media escalate.
- How facts will be checked and credits sourced.
- The extent to which disclaimers shared on social sites protect employees.
- Guidelines for potential security issues that might arise through social media.
Specifics are essential. Upon reading your policy, employees should understand exactly where your firm stands on the full spectrum of legal, ethical, and PR concerns prompted by social media.
Follow-through is just as critical. Social media policies should be implemented with care to ensure that their terms are upheld. Don’t hesitate to update your policy as your law firm changes or as new concerns arise.
With vigilance, a strong social media policy can protect and strengthen your law firm’s brand, helping you make the most of a powerful marketing platform. Don’t frame this as yet another obligation, but rather as an opportunity to strengthen one of your best tools for engaging with leads and clients alike.