How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Legal Practice
Any of the links of this article are likely to be affiliate links. I only recommend products I use and enjoy myself, but I might as well get paid for all the hard work it took to discover them :) I'll try my best to highlight this information when possible.
Attorneys Are Missing Out on Instagram
It comes as no surprise to you that I'm a female, millennial and absolutely ADORE Instagram.
What started as a love affair with my audience has grown into my ability to grow my practice with this free marketing and SEO platform. (Say whaaaaa? Yes. This is yet another overlooked SEO tool, keep reading...)
Instagram is no longer a platform just for weight loss pictures and blurry food photos. In the 5+ years it's been around, it's grown into a platform that defines your status in your chosen industry.
Why Instagram Matters
I'm in my twenties. My peers and I all share a common sentiment: we do not understand Twitter, and don't really get the point of LinkedIn either. Facebook is a total pity party that we only reluctantly attend every now and then to read about earthquakes or watch viral cat videos.
Snapchat is still cool if you're less than 25 years old, and have no money for legal services. Pinterest is not a social media platform. So we're left with Instagram, and it's amazing ability to adapt to its users' needs (i.e. they are now basically Snapchat too).
If you plan on serving clients in their 20s and 30s, you cannot expect them to find you on the platforms you've grown comfortable with, i.e. Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. I barfed a little just writing those three things.
Make it easy for them- show up where they are, be the 'cool' lawyer who gets them (as you will inevitably have to do if you are going to even remotely understand how to grow your Instagram following strategically). There's nothing that turns me off faster to a business than to click their Instagram icon on their website and see they have a handful of followers.
It tells me they're lazy, they don't care to understand where their consumers are at and that they probably won't do a great job of trying to satisfy me, because they've underimpressed me up until this point.
What Your Follower Count Says About You
The number of followers you have is a barometer for how much others should trust you and as an extension, your products or services. A few hundred followers indicates you're relatively new and therefore, not super-trustworthy. A few thousand? Now you're getting somewhere. Tens or even hundreds of thousands? At that point you'd be an influencer, capable of charging for sponsored posts and incredibly trustworthy in the eyes of your audience. Why?
Because you don't get 10,000 followers on accident.
Followers demonstrate you're fluent in your clients' language. And if you have more followers than they have, it wows and impresses them. It gives you leverage.
In fact, when a large company took to bullying my client this year, I thought about deploying my army of fashion blogger friends, who collectively have millions of followers and who may be willing to put this company on blast. I didn't, we're working it out, but it's nice to know I'm only one email away from an Instagram tantrum that helps sink a dying, middle-of-the-mall store/bully.
Followers are not just a vanity metric- they are a powerful tool if your goal is to get more clients and be seen as a leader in your industry.
So then how do you get new followers?
Getting new followers is hard, which is why most people give up and call it quits on Instagram before the keg even shows up at the party. It's a huge missed opportunity not only for the reasons I've stated above, but also because as I've said before, Pinterest + Instagram are the blue ocean for attorneys. Let all those other attorneys duke it out in their stupid PPC campaigns and LinkedIn articles that no one's reading. You be the smart one and go where the clients are, but the other attorneys aren't. Easy peasy, yes?
Except we're right back to the follower thing. How do you get them? In a nutshell, it has to do with three things:
1. Your photos
Your photos can't be dark, blurry or shitty. What you think is a good picture probably sucks. Buying a fancy, expensive camera will not save you either.
This is going to sound mean, but I've never been one to sugarcoat the truth. Unless you are a professional photographer who has had your work featured in magazines (I have; this is not so much a vanity metric as it is confirmation that your work is slightly more artistic and appealing than baby barf), I highly recommend you invest in stock photography that you actually know is good.
2. Your hashtags
You can't use stupid, generic hashtags like #lawyer. You will get buried alive under the pyramid of trolls and lawyers with stupid numbers of followers, like 100k+. Most of the attorneys are in South America, so I'm not sure what that says about them, other than their licensure regulations probably aren't as tough.
This is the part where you can't skimp and hire a social media strategist either, unless he or she is like 25 and lives on Instagram. You have to be IN an industry to get its nuanced hashtags, and the best way to learn what these are is to expose yourself to others who are already in that industry.
For example, I serve creative entrepreneurs, and work closely with a SAAS platform called HoneyBook. They own a community called the Rising Tide Society, which promotes hashtags like #communityovercompetition, #tuesdaystogether (<the name of their monthly event) and #fridayintroductions (which involve introducing yourself on your own feed on Fridays... mind blowing, I know).
You will need to find these hashtags in your own industry. Or, if you're super lazy, click here to download our hashtag cheat sheet. While the cheat sheet isn't everything you could use, it's a good start.
3. Your strategy
The thing is, while hashtags make your post searchable and indexed in Google (aka, super necessary), they also are kind of like a restaurant. No one wants to see how the sausage is made, they just want to enjoy its greasy, oozing deliciousness.
It's a total newb move to throw a bunch of hashtags in your caption. Everyone with a thumb and a fondness for emojis knows your first comment is where the hashtags go.
While my examples are crass, they serve the important point that you cannot just throw up a good picture with some relevant hashtags and expect throngs of followers to swarm your profile or become clients. You need to build this platform intentionally, with a dedication of time, money or both.
Why You Should Treat Instagram Like a Blog
The best way to think about this is to consider your Instagram to be a mini blog. Just as you would do with a blog, you need to have some sort of editorial calendar. It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to be effective at addressing the pain points and concerns your potential clients experience.
My super complicated and sophisticated method of doing this was to buy a monthly wall calendar and write Monday/Wednesday/Friday topics on it.
Then, because I am a procrastinator, I'd post on those topics on those days. Back in the olden days of Instagram (circa 2016), the time you posted mattered. Now, who gives a fuck? The algorithm will show your post to more people the more people like it. You no longer need to study average dinner times and charts on internet connectivity-- Instagram does that heavy lifting for you.
If you want to batch all this (aka write all your captions at once), I'd recommend using Schedugr.am, and you'll get $5 off if you use that link since I'm an affiliate for them. Schedugr.am automatically posts for you if you plug everything in ahead of time. There's a lot of other SAAS out there like that, but to my knowledge this is the only one who publishes for you.
So finally, now that you know you need good pictures, good hashtags and can't just throw up anything you'd like willy-nilly, lest you piss off your followers and they unfollow you, how do you actually game Google?
How Instagram can improve your SEO Rank for Keywords
Not only are your popular Instagram posts tracked and indexed in search engines, they're also capable of showing up on the first page of Google for a keyword you're targeting. Don't believe me though. Here's what you get when you search me on Google:
As you can see, when someone searches my name, they're going to see Instagram right after my website. Bonus points if you have a fucked-up name no one can spell, because you're suuuuupeerrrrrr searchable. I could find a better example but it's late and I'm tired so that's what you get. I'm pretty sure the Twitter and LinkedIn are clicked on because I haven't been on those two in so long, I needed to make sure they weren't hacked by like, penis pill sellers or something.
Anyway, if you choose a really obscure hashtag and make it your own, it could be something that sets you apart on Google. For example, if I were a family law attorney in Cleveland, here's what I would be using as hashtags, so that hopefully someone could find my Instagram profile in Google:
I think you get the point. While it's a little effort that you won't see immediate gains from, it will add up and you'll start to see your Instagram profile appear higher and higher in Google search results.
Now that you have followers on Instagram, what do you do with them?
From Instagram, I would bedazzle them into becoming a client. How? Every ounce of effort should be channeled into getting these new followers to your website, preferably through some kind of opt-in.
If you're not familiar with what an opt-in is, click here to see one in action.
You'll want to create one of these things on your own, and deliver through a landing page. The landing page can be on your website, or you could use a third party SAAS like Leadpages.
For more information on how to create a great opt-in, click here.
A word on the ethics of all this
I am not an ethics expert, nor am I probably allowed to call myself an expert on anything legal according to ethics in most states. However, as a general rule of thumb, until your State Bar catches up the the 21st century, it's a good idea to make sure you include as much contact information as possible.
Personally, I think it's overkill to state the whole attorney-client disclosure on a social or search platform. Any message or inquiry I get on Instagram, Facebook or the like is immediately redirected to my website, which has all my contact, disclosure and licensing information on it.