A majority of lawyers know what social media is and the basics of how to use the various platforms, but many don’t realize the potential these platforms have to communicate with potential clients and build community. In this episode of On Balance, hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent talk to Samantha Meinke about how and why lawyers should use social media for their practice. They discuss how to get started, how to maintain social media when you’re busy, and the definition and importance of responsive design.
Samantha Meinke is the communications manager at the State Bar of Michigan. In this role, she creates and oversees communications, marketing, social media and media relations strategies.
Mentioned in This Episode
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
How Lawyers can Harness Social Media
Intro: Welcome to State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast, where we talk about practice management and lawyer wellness for a thriving law practice with your hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent, here on Legal Talk Network.
Take it away ladies.
JoAnn Hathaway: Hello and welcome to another edition of the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast on Legal Talk Network. This is JoAnn Hathaway, Practice Management Advisor for the State Bar of Michigan Practice Management Resource Center.
Tish Vincent: And this is Tish Vincent, Program Administrator for the Lawyers & Judges Assistance Program at the State Bar of Michigan. We are recording today’s show at the NEXT Conference in Detroit, Michigan.
JoAnn Hathaway: Joining us now we have Samantha Meinke. Welcome to the show Samantha.
Samantha Meinke: Good morning JoAnn. Good morning Tish.
Tish Vincent: Good Morning.
Samantha Meinke: Thanks for having me.
Tish Vincent: So, we are glad you are here. Before we get started, please tell us a little bit more about you and where you work and what you do?
Samantha Meinke: I work for the State Bar of Michigan. I am the Communications Manager for the Bar and so I handle our social media and working with the news media, and I also help attorneys figure out how to use social media in their practices and to build their own professional social networks.
JoAnn Hathaway: Well, thank you for joining us today, Sam. We are here to discuss lawyers using social media, so we’ll let you kick off with that.
Samantha Meinke: Okay. Well, I did a presentation here at NEXT Conference this morning to try to convince lawyers that it’s in their best interest to build powerful social networks and social media. I think a lot of lawyers come to social media and they view it as an opportunity to advertise their law firms or the work they are doing, and they don’t think about the media that they are using, the medium they are using in order to get their messaging across. They view it as they have to showcase themselves in their 800 number and send it out to somebody, but social media requires that you have a conversation with people and that you have two-way communication. So, I try to help lawyers figure out how to do that and how to build communities by doing so.
Tish Vincent: Very interesting.
JoAnn Hathaway: Well, can you begin and tell us about some of the different social media outlets that you recommend and aggregators and how people can actually start doing this. Many seem to recognize they need to be doing it, but they really don’t know where to start.
Samantha Meinke: Absolutely. I recommend that lawyers start by having a blog actually. The reason it’s important to use a blog is that you need to have a site you can update frequently yourself without needing an intermediary like a developer to do it for you. And blogging software is really fantastic, because it’s set up so that the average person can use it and update web pages without needing any kind of coding expertise.
It’s really wonderful, you go in and you have an area, a platform you can use in the blogging software that looks like Microsoft Word, so if you can use that you can do a blog, and it gives you an opportunity to publish your knowledge and to share your personal story with people out there, and you don’t have a word limit when you use a blog.
I recommend people use that to start with and then they kind of treat that like it’s the hub of their communication efforts that they point all of their social media posts back to and that they supplement that hub with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which are the three biggest social networks, and each of them is different for different reasons.
JoAnn Hathaway: So as far as a blog do you recommend WordPress or do you have any other recommendations?
Samantha Meinke: Yeah, whatever people feel comfortable with I would recommend WordPress because it is the most popular blogging platform available, and there are a lot of developers developing really great plug-ins for WordPress and themes for WordPress. I think, don’t quote me on this, but I believe that about 7% of the websites in the world run on WordPress and there’s a lot to be said for using a platform that a lot of other people are involved in.
When you run into technical problems it’s easy to get help. When you need something cool to plug into it, it’s easy to do that, and recently it became very important to use responsive design in your website and when you are using a blogging platform, like WordPress for your website, all you have to do is change the theme of your blog, and it’s updated, the architecture of the site is built correctly to function properly on the Internet, so that search engines prioritize the content.
If you don’t have a responsive website, you don’t show up in the top of search engine results, which is very bad for your firm because people can’t find you.
Tish Vincent: Exactly.
JoAnn Hathaway: And Sam, some people may not know what responsive design is, can you explain that?
Samantha Meinke: Oh, sure, so responsive design, when you have a website you have content in the website and you can think of it like when you have a pitcher of water, you put water in the pitcher and your content is like the water and your website is like the pitcher.
So when you have responsive design, the content, the water, it’s like you can take it and pour it into a cup and it’s going to assume the shape of the cup versus the shape of the pitcher. If you pour it back into the pitcher, it takes that shape.
So, when I am talking about taking the shape of something I mean the screen size. Your website will show up differently on a phone screen than it will on a computer screen or a tablet screen, and it’s really important that your content do that because it will take a long time to load and not properly function if it doesn’t.
And because Google is competing furiously with the social networks on people’s mobile devices and more people are accessing the web from mobile devices than from computers these days, it’s really important that your content function properly there. That’s what that means.
Tish Vincent: I had never even thought of that; that’s very fascinating.
Samantha Meinke: Yeah. Well, the beauty of using something like WordPress or Typepad or Blogger, they are all kinds of tools that are great, is that you don’t have to think about it, you just start putting your content in and it builds it for you. It takes the guesswork out of it basically.
Tish Vincent: Right, somebody else has thought of it, so you don’t have to try to think of something you can’t even —
Samantha Meinke: Exactly.
Tish Vincent: — you can’t even understand.
Samantha Meinke: You can focus on what your strengths are instead of trying to learn that whole thing yourself.
Tish Vincent: Yeah.
JoAnn Hathaway: Samantha, kind of a two-parter for you here, a lot of lawyers that I have spoken to you they really feel like they are so busy and how can they keep up? There’s so many social media outlets, so some tips for that and also some tips for them as far as content, many of them are nervous, they don’t know where to draw the line and how much to include about their personal versus their business lives, can you address each of those?
Samantha Meinke: Yeah, it can be overwhelming for sure. I would recommend that people look into social media platforms. We have these tools, these aggregator tools, these platform tools that can help you – sorry, social media dashboards, is what I am trying to say, where you can use these to track what’s going on in all of your social networking sites and you can even use them to schedule posts to go. So you can sit down on a Sunday afternoon or a Friday afternoon and write your blog post or your two blog posts for the coming week and then schedule posts to go on Twitter, posts to go on Facebook, posts to go on LinkedIn throughout the week. And it looks like you are just on there constantly, you are really on top of things, but actually you have just sat down on the Friday afternoon and plotted it out for the week.
It really can give you a lot of reward and you can hit your content repeatedly so that it works really well for you and people — if they miss it on a Saturday afternoon maybe you can see it again on a Monday morning when they are actually looking. It’s fantastic. And you can also use those to track your engagement numbers to see how many people are liking or sharing or commenting on the posts that you are posting, that’s really important because the algorithms that run the newsfeed of social networks favor content that gets more engagement from people, that get those likes and the comments.
And so, if you have one of those dashboards running, you can track how many you are getting on each of your posts, and when you get a post that you get 10 likes from or 5 people share, you realize that content is really valuable to people and you want to repeat that kind of thing, maybe retouch that subject again. It’s very important.
And for lawyers who are afraid of bringing their personality into their social media use, you have got to do it. That’s where everything is going these days. People want to interact with you on a personal level and a professional level. They want to see the Flamingo socks that you wear to the conference, in addition to how much knowledge you have in your area of law. They don’t want you to just comment on your resumé constantly. They want to see who you are as a person and engage with you on that level as well.
Tish Vincent: I can see why, I mean, it makes you come alive as a human being and then you are more interesting.
Samantha Meinke: Absolutely, and you do risk turning some people off, but on the other hand you risk building really fantastic, deep meaningful relationships with other people and you should be going to the social media with the thought that you are going to build a community with people. Like, much like small town lawyers did in the old days when they were in the Rotary Club of their small town and the Lions Club and everybody in town knew that’s who they needed to go to for their legal needs; that’s exactly the kind of thing you are trying to do by using these social networks, instead of engaging with people just in your local community you are reaching out across your state, across your country and building relationships with like-minded people.
JoAnn Hathaway: Sam, can you address to — for instance on LinkedIn and Twitter and even Facebook, but I think business professionals, and correct me if I am wrong here, really gravitate toward LinkedIn reaching out to particular groups, and if you find that helpful, and if so, why?
Samantha Meinke: I do think lawyers definitely gravitate toward LinkedIn first, and I think that’s probably because it seems obvious. This is a professional social network so this is where I should go to be professional, but I think you should also bring some of your personality to LinkedIn as well. When you are using these sites you have got to showcase who you are and differentiate yourself from the other attorneys because why would somebody want to hire you versus any other attorney who does the type of law you do. You want to show them who you are, it’s really important. Did that answer your question JoAnn?
JoAnn Hathaway: It did, yeah, that was helpful.
Tish Vincent: I am wondering in this social media environment that we live in on Facebook where people can make comments, do any kind of wisdom to share with attorneys who are going to have a professional presence on Facebook about how to handle say a situation where there are negative comments?
Samantha Meinke: Absolutely, you will get negative comments. There are definitely a lot of trolls in the world that just really thrive on trying to make people angry.
Tish Vincent: Yeah.
Samantha Meinke: We have seen a lot of that recently.
Tish Vincent: We have.
Samantha Meinke: You would have to be asleep to have missed it. What attorneys should do when they encounter that is step away, don’t react while you are feeling anger to whatever somebody has posted, step away for a few minutes, think about what the most professional way you can handle it is.
When you have a troll come to bother you, how do you come out of that looking like the bigger person, and I would also recommend that part of that be that you encourage them to engage with you offline because sometimes those people get riled up and there’s no way to calm them down. But if you respond in a very tactful way and you try to calm them down and resolve the matter publicly so that everybody else can see that you are the bigger person and you took the high road, I think that’s very powerful.
Tish Vincent: Thank you. That’s good information.
Samantha Meinke: You are welcome.
Tish Vincent: That’s good information.
JoAnn Hathaway: Well, Sam, enclosing, do you have any final thoughts before we close the podcast for today?
Samantha Meinke: I encourage lawyers to go out and use social media, build those networks, build those communities. We have got a thriving legal social network out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and we want you to join us and be part of it.
JoAnn Hathaway: Well, wonderful. It looks like we have reached the end of our program. I want to thank Samantha Meinke for joining us today.
Tish Vincent: If our listeners have questions or wish to follow up with you, how can they reach you?
Samantha Meinke: They can find me on Twitter @SammieM or I am on LinkedIn at Samantha Meinke.
JoAnn Hathaway: Wonderful this has been another edition of the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast. I am JoAnn Hathaway.
Tish Vincent: And I am Tish Vincent. Until next time, thank you for listening.
Outro: Thank you for listening to the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast, brought to you by the State Bar of Michigan and produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network.
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