When I talk to lawyers about their web marketing strategies, one of the first arguments they raise in defense is “Yeah, but, it’s not like they teach social media marketing in law school!” Guess what, now they do!

The MSU College of Law recently wrapped up its first-ever social media contest. The law school partnered with BARBRI, one of the top bar-prep organizations, to offer cash and class-based awards to students who went above and beyond in developing their online brand. According to the college’s press release:

Contest finalists worked since mid-November on building their online brand, establishing legal expertise in a chosen area, and developing a network of professional contacts. The contest encouraged law students to use social media to develop their careers and build relationships. Contestants wrote original blog content, reposted tweets, and networked with other professionals. Students explored site analytics to learn more about connecting with their core audience.

That doesn’t sound like any course I took in law school! But what it does sound like is a real, practical way to prepare upcoming lawyers for marketing themselves in the real world with real competition. According to Daniel W. Linna, Jr., Assistant Dean of Career Development:

“To be competitive, lawyers must develop personal brands and professional connections both offline through face-to-face networking and online through social media. . . . Students are learning to better market their professional expertise and demonstrate why employers and clients should hire them.”

But far too many lawyers are sadly lacking in this core competency of running a law practice, or even getting hired as a lawyer. They rely on old-school reputation and word-of-mouth marketing tactics to bring clients to their door. And these tactics do still work, kind of.

Even in the modern technological world, potential clients are still looking for a personal connection with a potential lawyer. That’s why a personal introduction or recommendation is still the quickest route between introduction and cash-in-hand.

But what old-school lawyers are missing is what happens behind the scenes between the referral and their initial consultation. Tech-savvy business owners and lay people rely on social media and the Internet to confirm what their friends have told them. When they get a referral to Joe Smith, business lawyer, the first thing they do is type that name into Google.

That’s why content marketing and social media marketing are so important. When that search engine reaches out for your content, you want to flood the potential client with testimonials, informational articles, and customer reviews that show him you can live up to that recommendation. Developing a robust online presence gives the potential client proof that you are the expert her friend says you are.

As lawyers, maybe we all need a crash course in social media marketing like the one offered by the MSU College of Law. It could help us wake up to the market around us and provide better resources to our clients and referral partners.

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Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist. She helps lawyers create robust content marketing plans and writes content to improve their search engine rankings. If you need to kickstart your social media marketing campaign, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.