Social media is a powerful marketing tool for immigration attorneys. Although it might seem time consuming, it is a way to harness your legal expertise and direct it in a meaningful way. Having a social media strategy can make the time you spend on social media a valuable part of your business development activities. Here are some tips:
Establish Your Goal
Just like any other marketing tactic, with social media, you should first identify your goal. Knowing your goal is essential to strategizing and measuring the success of your efforts. For example, a common social media goal is increasing awareness of your personal brand – think “Joe X, the friendly immigration lawyer!” or “Mary Y, the removal defense lawyer the government never wants to see!” Other common goals include establishing yourself as a thought leader, strengthening engagement with your community and clients, and generating leads for potential new business.
Setting marketing goals is not unlike setting immigration goals with a client. Every consultation is bound to include a discussion of the potential client’s objectives. Do they plan to work in the United States for a few years and then return home, or do they want to settle down and have a long-term future here? Just as your client’s goals determine your legal strategy, your marketing goals should determine your social media strategy.
Identify Your Audience
As an immigration attorney, you already know that identifying your audience and their background is important, whether it be the USCIS adjudicator you’re trying to convince or the consultation you’re trying to parlay into new business. The same concept applies when posting on social media. By identifying your audience, you can decide which platform to use and what kind of content to create. Looking to engage with and strengthen client relationships? Facebook is a good option for connecting with individual clients by posting your commentary on relatable news stories or hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Facebook Live once a week. Are you trying to generate corporate leads? LinkedIn might be the best platform for this goal, with posts featuring news stories relevant to companies that hire immigrants or successful case studies in target industries serving as good hooks. Perhaps you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader. Twitter is a great way to connect with other lawyers and journalists covering immigration news by linking to a blog post you’ve written and sharing your unique perspective on current events.
Once you’ve established your goal and audience, post accordingly and consistently. The key to effective social media content is to avoid being blatantly self-promotional. Instead, think about what is most useful to your clients—or your target clients or audience—and post about that. This concept is in-line with the “give to get” mentality. You’re going to feel like you are giving a lot away, but without doing that, you won’t get anything in return.
Upkeep and timing are also important keys to managing successful social media accounts. Twitter moves quickly, so just posting once a day may not be enough to get noticed, whereas a platform like LinkedIn may require less posting. In order to make the best use of your time, it is also valuable to think through the best time to post. LinkedIn, unlike Facebook or Twitter, is a social media platform where engagement is higher during the workday. Facebook and Twitter engagement is usually highest during lunch hour and commute times, and Facebook’s algorithm favors engagement over anything else, so the more your followers like, share, or comment on your posts, the more your post will be shown to others. You may also need to experiment with different types of content and see what works best for you. It’s not unlike responding to a Request for Evidence—you’ve gotten some feedback from your audience, now provide a response informed by that feedback.
Engage (or Don’t Engage)
Social media isn’t a megaphone you are shouting into; it’s a conversation. Respond to genuine comments and questions. Follow your target audience. Engage with other users’ posts, and they might follow you back. You’re looking to build long-term relationships here, and that takes time. Stick to the rules of normal social etiquette. There may be instances when you’ll want to purposefully disengage or not engage at all, like when you’ve gotten popular enough to earn the attention of a troll or two. When conversations start to get emotional or confrontational, keep it professional and logical, regardless of how the person on the other end might be handling the situation. Your professional reputation will be on the line.
Personally, my goal and strategy have been slightly different for each platform I use. On Facebook, I seek to engage and strengthen relationships with my personal network and AILA colleagues. On LinkedIn, I post on topics of interest to my contacts in the business immigration world, focusing on things I think will be of most interest to my clients. On Twitter, I promote myself as a thought leader by posting news stories and commenting on them. My target audiences are also different for each platform. On Twitter, I’m connecting with journalists and other lawyers mostly, on LinkedIn corporate contacts and current clients, and on Facebook personal friends.
Social media is a powerful business development resource for any immigration attorney based on its utility as a tool for rapid and broad engagement. But just like petitioning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you’ve got to know what you’re working with. By monitoring trends and developments, you can plan a strategy for success and share your expertise accordingly – because let’s be honest: no one knows immigration law better than you!