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The Hard, Cold Truth about Social Media for Lawyers

(WARNING: You won’t like hearing this)

Most lawyers have a token presence on social media. Maybe you have a fan page on Facebook or a profile on Twitter and perhaps you occasionally post on Facebook and Twitter.  But social media hasn’t done squat for you and you’re convinced that all of the talk about social media is just hype.

Maybe social media works for cool, hip businesses, like the café/bistro in your town, but you’re convinced it doesn’t work for lawyers.  You haven’t got a single new case call from social media and you haven’t made a dime from all of the time you’ve spent posting on Facebook and Twitter.  So, you finally reach the conclusion that social media is not for lawyers and just go back to the good ole’ days of waiting for the phone to ring with your next case.  Huge mistake!

Why Lawyers Fail at Social Media

It’s time to take the medicine: just having a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn won’t do a damn thing for your law practice.  Having a fan page on Facebook or a profile on Twitter and LinkedIn won’t do anything for you if you just ignore it.

Almost all lawyers treat social media as a platform for sending press releases about their law firm. But consumers could care less that you just got a verdict or settlement in a seven-figure case or that you were just selected to Super Lawyers for the 4th consecutive year.  You’re wasting your time if you’re just using social media for self-promotion.

And just maybe you are posting informative articles about legal issues that might interest consumers on Facebook and Twitter.  You’re trying to help solve problems for consumers by answering the questions you get asked every day and you post new articles every day on social media.  Okay, not bad, but this alone won’t get you any new cases or make money for you.

The Secret to Success on Social Media

So what is the magic secret to getting new cases from social media that is ignored by 99% of lawyers? ENGAGEMENT.  The concept is to listen to conversations, comment and engage one-on-one with consumers and referral partners.  Be real and creative—no lawyer talk allowed!

“You need to jump into every relevant conversation you can.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

And don’t just engage on your law firm’s fan page or Twitter profile—search Twitter and Facebook for conversations relevant to your practice area.  It’s simple—just enter a keyword in the “search” tab of Twitter or Facebook and you will find active conversations taking place in your area of practice.  Get involved in this conversation and keep the dialogue going.

Engaging on social media means re-tweeting, sharing and replying to conversations and being active and participating in the conversations. But no sales pitches allowed!  You want to help others and this does not mean, “Call me and I’ll help”.  One little helpful tip can eventually lead to your next big case.

Why you won’t do a Damn Thing

Now, I know what you’re thinking: you don’t have time for this social media nonsense. You don’t have time for this idle chit-chat on FaceBook and Twitter.  You’re busy and you’ve got work to do.  I get it—so do all of us.  But if you ignore social media, social media will ignore you.

Social media changes the platform where business is done.  It’s just like the brick and mortar stores who refused to accept e-commerce for what it was—a new way that consumers buy.  Traditional brick and mortar book stores, Borders and Barnes & Noble, are almost dinosaurs because they refused to accept that e-commerce and Amazon were real threats to them.  Just within 5 years, Amazon became one of the largest and most profitable businesses in the country, while Borders is bankrupt and Barnes and Noble will be next.

And 95% of lawyers think like the brick and mortar stores by refusing to accept that social media is the place where business is being done.  Every day big cases are being referred through social media and if you’re not engaging in the social media conversations, you won’t make a penny from social media.

Don’t be a Dinosaur!

Last January, I settled a truck wreck case for $1.5 million that I got solely through a connection that I made with a lawyer on LinkedIn.  I didn’t have a personal relationship with the lawyer who referred the case to me—in fact, I didn’t know him at all.  But he got my name from a lawyer who I met on LinkedIn and this social media relationship led to the referral of the truck wreck case.

A legal fee of almost $500,000 was generated solely through a new relationship I made on LinkedIn.   This would not have been possible if I had not been engaged in conversations and dialogue with other personal injury lawyers on LinkedIn.

What was the cost of getting this new case?  Not a penny—just a little elbow grease on LinkedIn.  How’s that for a return on investment?  And there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing.

What Social Media is Really About

Back in the good ole’ days, word of mouth was everything.  You gave great value to your clients and they referred new clients to you.  The key to your success was building strong, trusting relationships with your clients, who then became evangelists for your law practice. Caring and commitment helped grow your law practice one client at a time.

Funny thing is, nothing’s changed. Social media is all about relationship building, but now your relationships are not limited to your town or county and talk of your good work is not limited to your small X on the map.  Now, word of mouth of your great work expands to reach a much broader audience through social media.

Yes, relationship building is what social media is about.  But lawyers and their law firms on social media don’t get this—instead, they think social media is about the number of “likes” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter.  The number of “likes” and “followers” is meaningless.

“The quality of your fans and followers is vastly more important than the quantity.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

How many of your friends and followers are actually paying attention to you?  If you’re not engaging with them one-on-one, your status updates will only be seen by 3-5% of your friends and followers in their news feed.  That’s right, Facebook and Twitters have “crap filters” that will not show your status updates to your friends and followers unless you have a dialogue with them, i.e., tweets, replies, sharing.

But when Facebook sees that more people are commenting, sharing or “liking” your posts, it will show your content to more friends in their news feed.  So how do you get your friends and followers to engage with you?  Before you post on social media, ask yourself:  If you were to read this post, would you share, comment or “like” it?  If so, great; if not, don’t post.

Never Let the Dialogue Die

There are many social media platforms and over the next year, some will die (remember MySpace?) and new platforms will emerge.  Today, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn rule the roost and Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are emerging social media superstars.  But don’t let picking the right platform for your law practice sidetrack your social media strategy.

You don’t need to have a profile on ten social media platforms and picking the right social media is not really important. Because let’s face it—if you’re not engaged and participating in conversations on social media, you will get nowhere. Just pick one or two social media platforms and engage and participate in conversations.

Give tremendous value and tips to your social media friends and followers.  Don’t hold back anything!  Soon enough you will have new relationships with strangers outside your local market and yes, actually begin getting new cases and making money from social media (and let’s face it, making money is what this is really about).

Why Social Media is so hard for Lawyers

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but social media is a long-term play.  You will not see immediate results from your social media efforts and after a few months you will be tempted to give up.  You want the easy slam dunk cases promised to you by the sales guy for traditional media (i.e., phone book, radio and TV) and you don’t want to put in the time and effort it takes to build one-on-one relationships in social media.

Hey, no one said building relationships on social media is easy.  But whether you accept it or not, social media is here to stay.  You can adapt or die.  It’s up to you, but with some hard work and patience with social media you can build your community of raving fans…and you might even get a new case or two.

How can we help you become more awesome?

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