Spurred by Martha Sperry’s recent post about the numerous benefits to bloggers that Facebook offers, I decided it was past time for me to revisit and complete an old project: creating a Facebook Fan Page for my blog Law21. It’s still early in the process, and I’m learning as I go, but I can see a lot of valuable applications of a Facebook Fan Page to a legal practice, and I thought I’d share some of my initial thoughts here.
By way of brief explanation: a Facebook Fan Page is a dedicated page on Facebook for your business, organization or other commercial entity. You use it to publicize and promote your business by publishing news, updates, information, offers and so forth, and by inviting your professional contacts and interested friends to become “fans.” These people show up as members of the Fan Page, they can post messages and engage in conversations on the page, and they receive new entries from the Fan Page in their Facebook update feeds. Considering there are now 400 million people on Facebook, there’s good reason to take it seriously as a marketing platform. Nicole Black has an excellent summary of how to set up and use a Facebook fan page for a credit union — you should go read that first, substituting “law firm” in the appropriate places, and then come back here.
Setting up a Facebook Fan Page for your law practice is one thing — turning it into an exceptional value-add for both its members and your business can be another. A lot of Fan Pages seem to just sit there, rarely issuing updates, not really telling visitors anything interesting about the company or taking advantage of the features Facebook has to offer. This silence suggests that their owners created the Page because someone told them to and haven’t given it much thought since. These desolate Fan Pages don’t give people any payoff for becoming fans, and their low member totals are duly reflective. Their lesson is: don’t start a Facebook Fan Page unless you intend to give it regular attention; like an abandoned blog, it can actually drive down your prestige by conspicuously collecting dust by the side of the road.
Many other Facebook Fan Pages are active, but they’re not always the right kind of active. Just like a lot of personal Facebook accounts and Twitter feeds, these Fan Pages suffer from IAAM Syndrome: It’s All About Me. Every update and every data point on the Page is all about the business: its latest accomplishment, its newest office, its most recent press release, and so on. Absolutely, there should be some of this content — part of the goal of a Fan Page is to keep your Fans engaged in what you’re doing and what you’re up to, and to use them to spread that word far and wide. But it needs to be balanced, if not outweighed, by content about and focused on the Fans and what interests them.
For every entry on your Fan Page about your firm’s activities or offerings, there should be at least one or two entries that focus on your Fans: a link to a mainstream news article about one of your key practice areas that your clients (and potential clients) care about; a question or opinion poll about a current-affairs issue that affects your client community; a conversation-starter that lets your fans kick around an engaging topic, serious or otherwise. As Niki says in her article, a good Facebook Fan Page is a community, and you should do what you can to encourage interaction, facilitate dialogue and build relationships within that community.
On top of that, you can make this community even more special by giving your Fans bonuses or insider access they can’t get from your website or your firm’s newsletters. Write an article that’s only accessible by clicking on a link from your Fan Page. Provide an exclusive offer — a half-hour’s free consultation, say, or free parking in your building, or a list of kid-friendly diners near your office — that only your Fans will hear about. Set aside one hour to do a question-and-answer session for your Fans on any legal subject of interest. Give people an incentive to become Fans and to pay close attention to every new announcement or addition to the Page — increase their sense of belonging and exclusivity.
What’s more, remember that Facebook offers you a lot of unique options for packaging your content. You can create Photo Albums of your office or staff members, maybe for a special event like a birthday or baby shower, helping to humanize the members of your firm who are otherwise only known through those stiff, posed, smiling photographs on your website. Schedule Events at your firm like in-house seminars or outside speaking engagements by lawyers. Post Videos now and again, either little three-minute advisories from the managing partner or links to a relevant and interesting item at YouTube. Use the RSS Grafitti application to send your Twitter feed directly to your Fan Page. Profile one of your Fans once a week or once a month, introducing him or her in more detail to the other members of the club.
In short: keep it active, keep it interesting, and keep it about your Fans. Those are the three keys to a successful Facebook Fan Page — and, not incidentally, to everything you do, say or publish under your firm’s banner.