Law firms are finally catching on to the social media craze after years of reluctance that saw companies in other industries strengthen their brands online. A My Case study found that 57 percent of law firms now maintain a LinkedIn presence, 35 percent are on Facebook and 21 percent are using Twitter.
But what about Instagram? Turns out the app wasn’t even included in the survey, begging the question: why are law firms off the map when it comes to social media’s fastest-growing platform?
Perhaps there’s a disconnect between the management at law firms and Instagram’s younger demographic, with more than 75 percent of users under age 35. Or maybe it’s the perception that Instagram is reserved for sunsets, skylines and swimsuits that is keeping law firms away.
Regardless, law firms intent on branding themselves around their community, culture and clients are missing an opportunity to tap into a base of users that’s 700 million strong—and growing.
Instagram’s audience may skew younger, but the millennials of today are the clients (and employees) of tomorrow, making the platform fertile ground for building a brand online.
Getting started on Instagram doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Here are three areas where every law firm should be focusing as they plan their Insta-debut:
Potential hires—and clients—want to know a firm is cultivating a strong corporate culture. Company outings, philanthropic initiatives, holiday celebrations, office design and firm achievements are all tailor-made for Instagram.
Have fun with it by getting firm members engaged. At Schwartz Media Strategies, we’ve launched an #SMSStrong hashtag to highlight the accomplishments of employees outside the office—from hiking the Inca Trail to helping disadvantaged children in Guatemala.
Social media users naturally gravitate to accounts that feel authentic. Allowing the firm’s personality to shine through will result in followers and engagement. For example, the account @lawyer_stories features personal and professional stories about attorneys’ lives beyond law, including spotlights on community involvement, diversity in the profession and overcoming adversity.
Law firms large and small boast about being ingrained in their communities when courting new clients and potential hires, and Instagram offers a blank canvas for illustrating just that. From showcasing a firm’s support for a nonprofit, to posting about the best place to grab a power lunch near the office, Instagram enables law firms to strengthen the connection between their brand and their locale.
Global law firm DLA Piper fills its Instagram feed with images of team members participating in events in the neighborhoods they serve. Recent examples include an LGBTQ parade in Liverpool, a tree planting event in New Zealand, and a breast cancer walk in Brussels.
Firms are understandably sensitive about promoting their clients, and in some cases may be prohibited from doing so. When a client’s work is public, Instagram presents an opportunity to align a firm’s brand with the type of casework it knows best.
Maybe it’s a real estate practice showing off renderings of a client’s development or an environmental practice spotlighting a remediation project. Both examples underscore how a simple image can sharpen the way clients, referral sources and consumers perceive a firm’s strengths.
Once an Instagram content plan is in place, it’s time to win followers and foster engagement. Consider the following tips for growing your footprint:
• A picture’s worth 1,000 “likes”: Instagram favors bright, high-quality visuals that are easy on the eyes. Think striking visuals and few words. The platform allows pictures sized up to a maximum of 1080×1080 pixels, so do your best to use it all.
• Tell a story with captions: Just as a provoking narrative can win over the hearts and minds of jurors in a courtroom, thoughtful captions can generate social media buzz. Storytelling on Instagram begins with strong visuals, but an image’s caption completes the story, encourages engagement and adds brand value.
• Tap into influencers: Dedicate time each week to following likeminded Instagram accounts, “liking” appropriate content, and commenting on the images posted by target audiences, from clients to community partners. The more you engage with others, the more likely they’ll reciprocate. For instance, The Florida Bar has effectively grown its social media network by engaging with members and constituents in real time.
• Leverage hashtags: Hashtags allow for organic discovery of posts within a search. While the platform allows up to 30 hashtags, six is an optimal number. Popular legal hashtags include #lawyerlife, #lawyering and #attorneyatlaw. Take advantage of Instagram events like #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday by posting vintage photos of the firm.
• Think vertically: Instagram presents an opportunity for associating a firm’s brand with a specific sector, be it health care, real estate, hospitality or entertainment. Demonstrating expertise and forging online relationships with potential clients and referral sources within those industries is a natural way to open the door to new business.
Compelling visuals and meaningful connections on social media are a powerful branding tool for any business, and law firms are no different. Instagram is a cost-effective platform for strengthening a firm’s online character, presenting early adopters in the legal community with a chance to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape.
Alisha Marks Tischler is executive vice president at Schwartz Media Strategies, a public relations, marketing and digital media firm that counsels clients in law and professional services, including The Florida Bar.
Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Daily Business Review.