How to market legal services on Facebook


Facebook is a great place to meet prospects and potential referral sources. With a few clicks, you can find and connect with exactly the kinds of people you’re looking for, at no cost whatsoever. The ease with which this can be done, however, too often leads otherwise smart professionals to do things that actually chase prospects away.

Facebook is not an advertising medium, it is a networking medium, and the rules of networking are the same online as they are in the “real” world. Use Facebook to meet people, just as you would at a Chamber of Commerce or Rotary event, and then build a relationship. It’s okay to let them know what you do–that is what people do when they meet, after all. It’s not okay to assault them with self-serving promotional messages.

Just as it’s easy to add friends on Facebook, it’s just as easy for them to block your messages or delete you. Understanding and applying a few simple rules of networking etiquette will go a long way towards helping you use Facebook and other social media sites to build your law practice.

Make your profile about you. People want to be friends with real people, not companies or products or causes. Use your real name, and provide information about yourself–what you do, what you like, where you have been, what you think about the world.

You can describe your practice in your profile and add links to your web sites. Think of this area as your online business card. If someone wants to see what you do, they can look in this section. If they want to know more, they go to your web sites. You can also establish a fan page or group for your practice and link to this from your profile.

Your profile photo should be, not surprisingly, a photo of you. Photos of your dog or a pretty sunset can go in your photo album, but when I’m considering a friend request, I want to see who’s asking. Use a decent head shot and don’t clown around. You really do have only one chance to make a first impression.

Be appropriate. The world is watching –and judging you. If you use inappropriate humor, if there are photos depicting you as inebriated, if you are too extreme in your viewpoints–these can all have serious negative consequences.

Use spell check. Use correct grammar. Be judicious in your use of emoticons, abbreviations, and slang. Your real friends may not care about any of this but I can assure you, many of your business prospects do. All they have to go on is what they see on your page, so be careful about what you post.

As for invitations to join your cause or attend your event, please be aware of how your friends might perceive you in light of your activities. Are you involved in anything ill-suited to your profession or the image you wish to portray? Are you always playing games or taking surveys and, seemingly, never working?

Don’t advertise. Don’t post an ad (or a link to your website) on someone’s wall. Ever. Disguising it as an offer for a free ebook that is part of your sales process doesn’t fool anyone. Don’t do it.

Look, you wouldn’t like it if someone came to your house and stuck a sign in your lawn advertising their services, so why would you think anyone wants your ad on their Facebook property? If you post an ad on my wall, I will delete it. If you do it again, I will delete you.

The same goes for email. If I accept your friend request and you immediately send me messages about your product or service, that’s a big turn off. You might have something I want, the best price, the greatest service, but don’t be surprised if I don’t buy from you.  It’s not quite spam, but it’s close, so don’t do it.

Your status message is different. It’s on your property–I only see it if my settings so allow. But don’t abuse this by posting a never-ending stream of promotional messages. Once in awhile is fine. Do it every hour, like I see some people do, and we’re done.

I change my status message usually once a day. That works for me. It’s okay to change yours several times a day, but make sure you have something meaningful to say. Some say it’s okay to make your status posts two-thirds about you, one-third about your business or offers. I say that’s too much advertising. There are other, more subtle ways to spark interest in what you offer. (See below.)

Add value. Your profile, your status updates, your notes, your videos, your comments on others’ posts, should be perceived, by and large, not as self-serving or frivolous but as adding value.  That doesn’t mean you can’t let your sense of humor show or that everything you do must render a benefit. It does mean that you should show people that you have something to say and something to contribute to the relationship.

You can offer tips and advice, share resources, or describe interesting experiences. I  try to post an interesting quote every week day, and I post occasional videos and links I believe my friends would like to see.

You could write articles (“notes” on Facebook), and provide helpful information. This note is an example. When you post articles, not only do your friends see you as making a contribution, they also get a demonstration of your expertise.

By contrast, updates about the sandwich you just ate or the movie you watched are of no value to anyone unless they come with a meaningful recommendation. I don’t care that you are walking your dog or checking your email. You wouldn’t call me on the phone and tell me these things, so why tell me online? Someone who posts something merely for the sake of posting isn’t adding value, they are simply adding clutter to an otherwise over-cluttered Facebookisphere. [I just coined that word; feel free to use it.]

Adding value also means making an effort to patronize your friends’ businesses.  You’d do that in the real world, wouldn’t you?  And if you can’t hire them or buy something yourself, provide referrals. When you do that, you help two friends and earn the gratitude of both. Be a matchmaker. If you have a friend who is looking for a new employee, for example, and you have another friend who might be a good fit, introduce them.

Add value and people will want to be your friends. Waste people’s time with meaningless information and you might soon find that when you do have something of value to offer, nobody’s listening.

Be yourself, but be normal. Don’t hide your personal side. The things you do for fun–hobbies, games, surveys, widgets you post on your page, and so on, define you and make you interesting. When your friends see they share those interests it can strengthen your relationship. But if you are on Facebook to build your business, you must establish a balance between your personal and business identities. When in doubt, always lean towards your business persona.

In the real world, if you came to my office and I threw a sheep at you or gave you photo of a chocolate martini, that would be weird, wouldn’t it? And yet that’s what people do online. Look, I do silly things on Facebook. I’m opinionated and have a profoundly warped sense of humor and I like to stir things up from time to time. But the majority of my Facebook friends who have an opinion of me would, I think, describe me in positive, business-like terms.

A little flair now and then is interesting. All flair, all the time, is clownish, and people don’t do business with clowns.

Friends first. There is a maxim in marketing that says, “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Be that person.

“How To Win Friends and Influence People,” written decades before the father of the founder of Facebook was born, offers great perspectives on how to do business on Facebook.

Dale Carnegie counsels us to focus on other people,  not ourselves. Talk to your Facebook friends (through messages (email), IM (instant message), and, eventually, by phone and in person) about themselves. Ask questions and listen. Let them do most of the talking.

What do they want in their business or personal life? What problems do they wish to solve? Look for ways you can help them. Provide advice or information or referrals, if you can. Just listen if you cannot. Again, that’s what friends do.

If your services can help them solve a problem or obtain an objective, offer them. If not, don’t. And if you do offer them and they aren’t  interested, drop the subject. They may come back to you some day, when they are ready, or they may not, but they will never hire you if you pushed them or annoyed them to the point where they deleted you.