Helen Burness discusses the value to firm leaders in building a personal brand, and how to utilise social media to do so
Whether you love it or hate it, social media has had a dramatic impact on the world.
There are now an estimated 4.2 billion social media users globally, according to the Digital 2021: Global Overview report. The number of social media users has increased by an average of more than 1.4 million each day over the past 12 months — that’s 16.5 new users every single second. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
Whilst social media may not change the strategic fundamentals of great marketing, social media and digital trends continue to change the marketing landscape. It used to be that marketing had to be done through company channels, but by creating so many social media platforms we have democratized marketing. It has become a two-way street; just as businesses can communicate with people, now people can communicate back, from customers to the leaders to employees.
People buy people
I have always said that in the legal industry, people buy people. Buying decisions are often made on the strength of a relationship. People trust other people over a corporate logo, which is why client stories, testimonials and social proof carry much weight. We now find ourselves in a world where nearly every first touchpoint is digital, and every touchpoint is key to the perception of your brand. If you are not doing so already, it’s time to harness the power of the individuals in your business; from developing your personal brand as a leader to ensuring your employees use social media confidently, a personal brand has become a valuable business asset. Those who leverage theirs on social media effectively, with clarity and purpose, will see the return in terms of meaningful connections that convert into business opportunities.
Your personal brand as a leader
Social media allows you to access stakeholders and engage in meaningful ways. When you are transparent about your values, what you stand for, what you are looking to achieve, you are authentic and brave, people will follow you for who you are and what you represent. Social media enables you to show your human side and create a deeper connection with teams and customers.
There is much to consider before you launch onto your chosen social media platform. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Who do you want to connect with?
- What’s your competitive space and how do you ensure you stand out?
- What are your professional areas of expertise, your business interests and your personal passions?
- What makes you different as a leader?
- How much are you prepared to share?
- How do you engage with your community?
Mapping out your personal brand strategy
I will always advise founders to focus on six easy steps to building personal branding confidence on social media:
- Listen and observe
- Work out how you want to show up
- Build your community
- Engage with your community
- Post with purpose and nurture your audience
- Have confidence in your personal branding
It can feel overwhelming as a busy business leader, but it doesn’t need to be. Some law firm leaders with incredibly strong personal brands seldom ‘show up’, but when they do it is with great authenticity and impact. Consistency in ‘showing up” is key, as is using the valuable listening tool that is social media to tune in to conversations.
Remember, this is not about being a corporate PR machine; we’ve moved on. Thought is currency on social media and taking the time to put your own unique thought around posts is essential to standing out.
Empowering your team to use social media – in the right way
Along with the many business benefits of social media, personal branding and the opportunities it presents, there is that word in legal we fear more than any other.
I have seen social media policies for legal services businesses that make me weep. Policies that stifle, inhibit and limit. I once heard that one firm had a “watch list” of people who were active on Twitter to monitor what they were tweeting - the horror.
Not only does this send a message to employees that the company does not trust them (and flag up some cultural problems in general), it limits the critical role all employees can play in a business’ social media marketing strategy through endorsing the company they work for, extending the reach of the messages and increasing online engagement. By coaching your employees to be purposeful about how they “show up” online, you will create a tribe of employee social media influencers. Empowering your employees to be visible and develop their networks across social media will help fuel lead generation. You will create brand advocates who give a unique and personal insight into your company, your culture, your services.
Flipping the narrative
So, let’s flip that outdated risk about social media on its head.
Your biggest risk is not doing anything to support and coach your employees when it comes to leveraging their personal brands on social media.
Instead of social media policies that scare your employees off or inhibit so much they become “straight sharing” machines that nobody tunes into, look to guide your team in ways that will improve engagement, generate customer leads and ensure everyone knows your business is a great place to work. When you empower your employees to express themselves, it can lead to marketing magic that can works for all budgets.
Helen Burness is a legal marketing coach. After many years at the forefront of change in legal, she set up Saltmarsh Marketing to champion innovative founders and businesses in legal to give them a powerfully recognisable voice. Helen works with founders and teams of SME legal services business to help them leverage the power of their personal brand on social media.