By Catherine Bailey, Managing Director at Legal Futures Associate Bar Marketing 
We can no longer ignore the vital role that social media has in promoting practices and driving instructions. Whilst some solicitors and barristers have reluctantly started to tentatively explore the ‘Twittersphere’, others have taken to tweeting with great enthusiasm… but that has not always resulted in the desired outcomes!
Those wanting to embrace the social stage without committing social faux pas need to consider a few simple but crucial dos and don’ts that should act as your golden rule book for social media marketing across all platforms; not just Twitter:-
- Check and adjust your privacy settings to feel comfortable with what you’re sharing on each network
- Be authentic by identifying yourself using your name and set name, where possible, as social media users are wary of anonymous posts
- Mind your manners and show respect to all those engaging with you online by allowing them to speak up too
- Following on from the above, give followers an opportunity to talk so you don’t monopolise the conversation
- Maintain confidentiality of ‘internal only’ information however difficult this may sometimes seem
- Invest time and energy to contributing meaningful content which positions you as an expert in the community
- Keep up with ‘hot’ topics and trends as they may be ‘cold’ tomorrow!
- Measure your efforts by using analytics and adjust your posts as needed
- Use images and multimedia such as videos so that you ‘show’ as well as ‘tell’ and bring your messages to life
- Interact with the good as well as the bad according to your customer service policies and practices
- Thank your brand enthusiasts then retweet, repost, share and like these positive comments
- Have fun because social interactions should be just that!
- Engage in inflammatory or inappropriate discussions, particularly about law firms, sets and other lawyers as it’s unprofessional and will inevitably result in a damaging backlash
- Use potentially offensive or insensitive content – you need to always protect your chambers’ and your own personal brand
- Reference clients, partners or suppliers without their prior approval otherwise they may object
- Post anything unless you want it to linger on the web forever because removing it is nigh-on impossible
- Spam your followers with constant, rambling, self-promotional, one-sided dialogue
- Ignore bad feedback as the best response is to initially apologise and attempt to take the interaction offline to resolve properly
- Give up after a short time because social media marketing rarely delivers instant results
Getting the most from your social media marketing
Rather than just setting up a Twitter page and venturing forth into the unknown, it’s advisable to think about why you would want to do that and what you hope to gain.
All good marketing communications are multi-channelled and multi-level, meaning you target your audience using a variety of methods (events, mailers, emailers, adverts, social media posts) and a variety of levels (both formal and informal, tailored appropriately to the recipients). Selecting what channels to use and when to use them is part of your strategic marketing plan which is always driven by your overriding operational goals. By starting at the top and identifying what it is you want to achieve from your efforts, you can plan your communication strategies according.
Your communication strategy should include a range of social platforms, the most prevalent for law firms and sets being Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (for those with direct access), Google+ and increasingly Instagram. For each platform, you will need a communications plan. This plan necessitates asking yourself four questions: 1. What’s your goal for this channel (awareness, instructions, thought-leadership)? 2. Who’s your target audience? 3. Where are these people? 4. How do you get their attention?
Of all the social media platforms (bar TikTok – which is a whole different ball-game), Twitter is one of the most spontaneous sites on which users post ‘what I’m doing right now’ type updates so they’re often the first place to hear real-time breaking news. For those not yet familiar, it’s effectively a microblog site that hosts short pieced of digital content containing text, images, videos and hyperlinks to other sites.
The benefits of being active on Twitter include:
- Speed with which news items can be posted as it demands less time and effort
- Messages such as daily news, company updates, industry announcements, re-purposed content (shared from other sites) and other golden nuggets of information can reach thousands of followers in seconds
- Empowers users with mobile access due to its portable nature
- Easily digestible content because posts are short and generally casually written
- Trending topics help users to stay abreast of current events and get involved in relevant conversations
- Ability to schedule posts for any time, day or night, which is particularly useful during holidays when you want to maintain an online presence
- It allows your personality to shine through (let’s hope that’s a good thing) so that people feel they know you and trust you
The other major advantage of Twitter relates to increased search engine visibility. Since Twitter and Google announced their partnership early 2015, there’s close integration between the two sites. Twitter content, in the form of tweets and hashtags, feed through into Google search results. So, being active on Twitter supports for search engine optimisation strategy too.
Ten steps to succeeding on Twitter
1. Set up a firm page or personal page
To get tweeting, if you’ve not already done so, set up a page. This shows the rest of the world who you are. Every element should contain your best content and reflect your identity because first impressions count.
The four components of your Twitter profile are:-
- Your username: Otherwise known as your Twitter handle. Up to 15 characters in length, this should be something that makes it easy for Twitter users to find you (for example ours is @Barmktg ).
- Your profile photo: as your main profile image and something that’ll appear alongside every tweet you post, this is important. Often, company logos are used here as it’s a small square space. 400px x 400px to be precise.
- Your company overview (or bio): You’re restricted to 160 characters so get to the point quickly. Concisely describe what your company does and what makes you special. This will entice people to follow you so it’s got to work hard. You can also add your location, website URL and other useful information.
- Your header photo: Recommended dimensions are 1500px x 500px. This is essentially your company’s billboard. Make it representative and striking.
You can view trending topics from the ‘Moments’ tab, see your page notifications such as new followers and retweets on the appropriately titled ‘Notifications’ tab, and send direct messages to your followers in the equally well-named ‘Messages’ tab, all of which are in your top toolbar.
2. Tweet and pin
Post regular tweets relating to your business, areas of law and the wider legal industry. When on the home screen, simply click in the ‘What’s happening?’ box, type your content, upload a photo or video, add a hyperlink and hit the ‘Tweet’ button. Your tweets will be displayed on your profile page and delivered to your followers’ timelines.
Writing 280 characters may sound easy (it’s certainly easier than the original 140 character allowance), but it can prove difficult to adhere to these length restrictions. Choose every letter painstakingly to get your message across in a coherent and professional way (these two sentences alone have over 267 characters in them). Insert links to your website or blog where your followers can find more detailed information on the subject. If it helps, use URL shortening tools to save vital space when embedding links into your tweets.
Tip: If you go over the character count, Twitter will tell you by showing you a minus number at the bottom of your tweet and won’t allow you to post until it’s rectified, and either back to zero or a positive number.
You can use the ‘Add poll’ to include a Q&A and ‘Add location’ to show where you are at the time of posting.
You can pin tweets to keep important items at the top of your timeline. To do this, click on the more icon (‘…’) situated underneath a posted tweet then choose ‘Pin to your profile page’ from the drop down list. By doing so, your followers can’t fail to miss your important news.
3. Interact with other Twitter users
Keep on top of others’ tweets and use the ‘Reply’, ‘Retweet’ and ‘Like’ facilities to pass along news items which you think your followers should read. You’ll find these three icons underneath each tweet in your timeline. Always acknowledge the source of the original tweet rather than trying to pass it off as your own. By encouraging the conversation, you are automatically promoting your brand.
4. Use hashtags
These are keywords or phrases that are prefixed with the hashtag symbol (#). Hashtags can be used anywhere in a tweet – beginning, middle or end – but can’t contain any spaces or punctuation. They categorise tweets, make searching for topics easier and identify trending topics from popular hashtags.
5. Plan a daily tweet schedule
Consistency and regularity are vital. Create a schedule comprising three columns, these being date, time and tweet. It doesn’t mean you then have to stress about writing a bucketload of new content. One big content piece can be broken down into several tweets and share others’ content too.
Also, bearing in mind the speed with which news becomes old news on Twitter, re-tweet your previous tweets on different days and at different times, perhaps tweaking a few words here and there, and changing the image to keep it fresh.
Tip: It all sounds rather robotic and not in keeping with the spontaneity of Twitter, however, it’s quite useful to have certain themes each month or week that have a number of prewritten tweets you can use to link back to pre-published content of yours. It also allows you time to be spontaneous on other days of the week. This way, you are promoting your brand overall and reacting to the news of the day.
6. Avoid being too salesy
Using every tweet to try and sell your services is doomed for failure. Spamming your followers with self-promotional, one-sided conversation will result in them unfollowing you. Instead, adopt the ABC system. This stands for: Attract the right fans; Build relationships; Convert / sell. In other words, as it’s a funnel, spend the bulk of your time doing the first two steps and a very small proportion of your time performing the last.
7. Apply growth hacks to get followers
There are multiple methods to grow your follower volumes, for example find users whose followers are your target audience and follow their followers (lots will reciprocate), and follow back your own new followers. A word of caution though: only connect with people whose profiles feature real images and people / firms who operate in your niche. Quality is better than quantity to have those meaningful conversations mentioned earlier.
Tip: Cross-promote your Twitter account on online and offline channels such as your website, email signature, business cards, printed marketing collateral, adverts, exhibition stand graphics etc. The more people see this, the more will seek you out on social.
8. Operate within Twitter rules
Aside from restrictions in characters for tweets, bios and your name, Twitter defines limits such as the maximum daily number of new follows, tweets and direct messages. Your account will be temporarily suspended if you exceed these limits. Google search for “Twitter limits” or access Twitter’s help centre  to learn more.
9. Look at Twitter analytics
As with any form of marketing, experimentation is key. Test different messages, different days and times and different frequencies then analyse your data to understand what’s working and what’s not. Go to analytics.twitter.com  and start measuring using real-time data. Learn and improve armed with analytical knowledge.
10. Use paid-for Twitter advertising
You have the ability to advertise on Twitter including retargeting by installing the Twitter Pixel on your website. You’ll need to set up your Twitter ads account first then progress through three levels: campaign, ad groups and ads.
The ads element is essentially your tweets. There are all manner of options available to you from audiences and campaign types to objectives and payment settings. When logged into Twitter, click on the ‘More’ button in the left hand toolbar, select ‘Twitter Ads’ and explore. The Twitter advertising opportunities are endless.
Dealing with negativity
Hopefully you will never encounter the dreaded Twitter Troll. These will either be people determined to cause malice or they may be people who are having a particularly bad day and have decided to start or continue an argument.
The best way to deal with them is to ignore them. They are craving attention so don’t give it to them. If you feel that they are damaging your brand, respond with an invitation to take their grievance offline so that you can better understand their issue and come to a resolution. Make sure that any of your responses are professional and courteous (despite what you must be feeling). If they refuse your offer of assistance, you can either ignore them and move on or use the reporting tools to highlight the issue with Twitter’s moderators.
Getting into a heated discussion will only damage your brand. Make your points clearly as neutrally as possible. You’ll find that your followers will come to your aid with positive comments, banishing the Twitter Troll and restoring your reputation.
Don’t be put off. Instead, do your preparation work and get tweeting a mix of serious and fun content. You’ll see your audience grow and with it your brand awareness and ultimately instructions. Best of luck!
Catherine Bailey is the Founder and Managing Director of Bar Marketing  Limited, a dedicated legal industry marketing agency utilised by leading law firms, solicitors, sets and barristers across the world. She is also co-author, along with Jennet Ingram, of ‘A Practical Guide to Marketing for Lawyers ’ by Law Brief Publishing, now in its 2nd edition.