3 ways to build your brand online
Build your firm's presence online, or risk falling behind
By Cassie Bell

Market yourself online 537


Law firms perceive social media to be risky or remain unconvinced it will work for them, according to a new report by the Australasian Legal Management Practice Association (ALMPA), in partnership with Julian Midwinter & Associates.

The report explains that, despite the obvious potential for business development online, the legal sector is still risk-averse when it comes to new technologies and approaches, particularly regarding the use of social media.

Yet people are increasingly perusing online profiles, comparing photos, analysing tweets and reading blog posts to facilitate their business transactions. An astounding 49 per cent of Australians engaged with a business via social media in the past six months. The reluctance of law firms to board the digital bandwagon, therefore, can jeopardise both business prospects and existing client-relationships. The road can go one of two ways. Build your firm's presence online, or risk falling behind your competitors.

Here are three steps to get you started:

1. Define your brand

A legal “brand" goes beyond a simple logo or tagline. It is, in essence, the identity of your law firm: its story, its reputation, its people and presence. All of which amalgamate to form its marketing collateral.

It is therefore imperative that all team members have a clear and comprehensive understanding of what that identity encompasses.

Lawyer-turned-branding expert Dan Toombs is the founder of FastFirms – an industry-specific marketing agency that consults on brand design and development, and digital marketing strategy. He says that the main difficulty for firms when beginning to build their brand online is that they struggle to identify what their brand really is.

 “[Many firms] know they're different from their competitors, but struggle to articulate how they're different and how to communicate that difference in a way that appeals to the market,” says Toombs.  “The firm's story, their ‘why’ is not always readily apparent and often needs to be teased out.  “The mistake that so many firms make is that they run to the design and development … without doing the necessary introspective ‘why’ work. “It's almost akin to grounding a piece of litigation without a Statement of Claim.”

The way to approach defining a brand will depend on the individual firm, however, start by asking questions such as:

• What is our firm philosophy?

• How do we operate as a team?

• And – perhaps most importantly – what makes a potential client choose us, over them?

2. Consolidate your platforms

Apart from a website, most businesses hold at least one social account across the Big Five – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

LinkedIn is overwhelmingly the social network of choice within the legal industry, with 94 per cent of firms using the channel to interact with clients, compared to Twitter (68%) and Facebook (65%). However, each has their respective benefits, depending on the kind of interaction you want to have, with whom and how often.

Boutique media and communications firm digbylaw recently made the bold move to rebrand their firm, to mark its 10-year anniversary. The firm initiated a fresh marketing campaign that spread across all five major social networks, as well as photo-sharing app Instagram. Principal Stephen Digby says their aim is to create an online presence that “immediately conveys our culture and approach” so that “potential clients can quickly tell if our range of skills is appropriate for their particular issues”. 

“Social media is a great way for us to engage directly with our clients and the industries in which they operate,” says Digby. “It keeps us up to date with what they’re doing, as well as what’s happening generally in their markets. This not only keeps us informed, it strengthens relationships and can reveal new business opportunities.”

Maintaining accounts across multiple social platforms, however, requires commitment and isn’t necessary for all firms. Start by opening one or two accounts and focus on mastering these.

If and when you do begin juggling multiple platforms, consider using an interface such as Hootsuite, which consolidates your accounts and allows you to manage them from one streamlined display.

3. Keep up your momentum

Following the responses to the ALMPA survey, trends show that even when law firms do turn to online channels to brand their businesses, 26% are updating their content fewer than four times a year.

In the perpetual realm of social media, you may as well not exist.

“Too many firms let their websites function as little more than digital brochures when there is significant potential for them to attract new visitors,” the report says.

The easiest way to ensure content remains relevant and up-to-date is to draw on your resources – give each team-member a channel to look after, or ask them to share interesting articles or observations throughout the week.

And don’t be afraid to ask your student-paralegal for help – there is no one more social-media-savvy than the “digital native”… and they will relish the opportunity to spend an hour in their natural habitat.

More reading:

• Law Firm Brand Rankings

• LOD 2015 Looking Glass Report

• Successful website checklist

• UK Law Society - Social Media Practice Note