Someone recently asked how to incorporate an Instagram account into a law firm’s social media. He didn’t think they necessarily needed to be on that platform, but the client insisted.
On behalf of all social media and digital marketing professionals out there, please understand that we probably know best when we tell you that just because you heard a platform is the latest and greatest requirement to reach your target audience doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be on it.
Though each platform has a series of pros and cons that your local digital marketing professional can talk your ear off about, let’s focus on this specific instance with the law firm wanting to use Instagram.
The first thing you need to ask a client like that is WHY they want to be on that platform? Why does a law firm, that does not have a tangible product or visible service and often deals in secretive engagement with their clients, want to have a presence on a visual site? Is it because they heard it’s the best way to reach millennials? Is it because they, personally, use that platform? Is it because they have a presence on each of the other main social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc and now want to branch out? Figuring out the underlying reason for it may give input in how to best answer the question of whether they should actually be on there or not.
You should always carefully choose your channels and see what works best for your audience specifically. Not everything will. Not every brand has a successful presence across the board. Maybe a company or firm has a popular Twitter where they are absolutely killing it but they’re not that prominent on Facebook. Maybe their voice doesn’t translate well to a new platform. And if they haven’t found a centralized voice yet, the branding issues go far deeper than simply trying to figure out what platforms to try out!
Since law firms don’t exactly sell a product in the most traditional sense, the main goal should be brand recognition rather than trying to improve sales. Instagram is a bit unique since it’s more of a visual rather than textual format, but the idea is the same to reach out toward your audience, engage with them and inspire them to want what it is you have to offer. Pushing services on the audience is a surefire way to fail. The best method in this case would be to educate. Be seen as a leader in helping people. Sending out some posts with tips or bite-sized bits of information is a great way to achieve that.
Seriously, though. Non-visual brands should avoid a visual platform. Otherwise, it is likely a waste of time. A good rule of thumb to remind them is: Find your audience, don’t make your audience come find you.
If you’re going to be visual, do it professionally.
They’ve decided that your law firm absolutely positively needs to be on Instagram. So you start an account for the practice. They’re logged in and browsing Instagram. They’re looking at this beautiful shot of a group of people from an office. This other company has shared a great candid picture of employees engaging each other in laughter and conversation. There is an amazing image of employees volunteering for the community. They’re all great pictures that resonate well.
And they’re all probably professionally taken with real cameras and likely staged and edited for maximum impact, not taken on the fly by an intern with a smartphone.
If they don’t have someone in place on your team already who has a creative mindset and the resources to give that level of output from a staged photo and don’t want to shell out the money to hire a photographer, they need to stay off Instagram. It may sound harsh, but it’s a photo-sharing app and most people don’t have the understanding of lighting and angles to capture the most visually interesting image. The corporate version of a selfie is not going to get anyone very far.
Remind them that people are judging the brand and the brand’s ability to deliver quality based on pictures. Poor resolution images are the fastest way to get people uninterested.
It is also important to make sure all posts are thematic, not just with the brand as a whole (this is where that ever-so-important branding guideline their marketing team came up with comes into play!) but also thematic with each other. There is a natural flow that you want to achieve with your posted shots that lead to your compelling visual story line. You want a defined look and feel and a solid message that each post reinforces. If they can’t understand that, they are doing themselves a disservice by being on the platform.
In short, don’t mistake simply having a presence for quality marketing.
But what about my competitors?!
Their competitors are on Instagram and they’re going to get all the business of the people who are age 35 and younger who are the main demographic of Instagram users. They’re worried that they’re going to look uncool. Everyone else is doing it. They’ll fret about things like “What if we lose out on an opportunity because we’re the one law firm in the city who isn’t on there?!”
Well, that’s a risk. The trick here is to have an educated guess as to what their law firm’s audience is going to be looking for and seeing what the best ways to provide that are. It’s not set in stone. Just because something doesn’t work at this juncture doesn’t mean it won’t work shortly down the line or in a year or three. Not having an Instagram until you are ready is far better than having one that is dormant. Sometimes, not having one at all and using the resources on another more appropriate platform is best.
How do I know if I’m using it right?
Misuse of an app is one of the most common pitfalls of a business venturing into social media. This is why hiring a brand consultant or a social media firm is a great idea, even for small companies with a limited budget. So we’ll imagine that the law firm has gone over all other social media platforms to determine if they are right for them and now we’re left looking at Instagram. We know it’s a great platform for creatively showing off your products and services, but we don’t really have a way to do so as a law firm. There are some ways to work within the parameters and still have the potential to be successful on the platform, but you need to have a much lengthier consultation with the firm to determine what ways those are.
#Engagement – What the client will need to be told
Other things to remember when choosing to utilize a platform are:
You have to engage your audience, not just post things in hopes that they like it.
You need to be consistent in your message and visual aspects.
You need to know the appropriate way to use the platform, both the technology and the community/culture of the users. (How and when to hashtag, what acronyms are commonly used, what memes and other inside jokes users may have developed, etc)
You need to proofread everything. Seriously. Everything, every time.
You need to take the time to understand the support tools that will make using a successfully implemented app easier.
You have to be patient. You aren’t going to start your account, then log in the next morning to find you have 50,000 followers. It’s something you have to work at and build.
You have to learn metrics. Analytics. What all this data means, how to get it and what to do with it.
If your client can’t agree to all these items, their social media plans will never work out the way they want them to. Be sure they know it!