The verdict is in: Facebook for Business a must for firms

Jim Calloway, The Daily Record Newswire

I have been saying for quite some time that every law firm, even a solo practice, should have a traditional web page. The last few years have made it apparent that your website also must be mobile-friendly.

I think the time has come to say that every law firm should have a Facebook for Business page. Note that that's not the same thing as an individual lawyer having a personal Facebook page, where all of your friends can post to your timeline. With a business page, the business controls the content - except for design restraints and, notably, reviews.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study on social media users, 72 percent of adult American Internet users now use Facebook, which translates to 62 percent of the entire adult population. If you factor in that some American adults cannot use Facebook due to factors such as disability, incarceration or lack of Internet access, that statistic becomes even more compelling.

Setting up a business page is not difficult, but some thought should be given to the process in advance, as the nature of our profession does present certain challenges. Graphics, for instance, have advanced far beyond the obvious - law books on a shelf or a gavel no longer make interesting visual content (if they ever did).

Review in advance the Facebook for Business pages provided by Facebook. These have a very good overview of the process and include information on setting up your page, marketing/advertising, etc. Start at www.facebook.com/business/overview.

The first thing to do in setting up a business Facebook page is to choose a classification of your business. Lawyers may be tempted to choose the "Local Business" option. However, finish reading this column before you do, because believe it or not, you may want to select "Websites & Blogs" as your type of business.

You'll then need to enter some general information, including the standard hours of operation, the address and, if appropriate, parking instructions.

Be very careful when selecting an official name for your business page. It will generate the URL for your business page, and, while it can be changed once, that's not an easy process.

The most significant issue is the challenge of setting up a firm name listing three or four lawyers, and what happens when a lawyer leaves. One may be tempted to set up some other firm name like Green Country Law that would not need to be altered if there is a change in personnel. But having different firm names on the firm site and firm Facebook page would be confusing to consumers.

While setting up the page, your firm's lawyers who have individual Facebook pages may want to add the business page as one of their favorites. But be cautious about publicizing your page too much in the early stages of its development, as there will not be any compelling content that will encourage a user to return.

One thing to appreciate and understand is that a Facebook for Business page will normally include consumer reviews. While these are often great for most types of businesses, they can be a challenge for lawyers. It's not possible to get one taken down just because a reviewer had something negative to say about the business.

Here are some potentially problematic reviews a client (or a complete stranger) might post:

- "My lawyer is the greatest ever. He is smarter than all of the other lawyers and specializes in family law. We won our case, and it was obvious that the lawyer for my ex-wife had no idea what he was doing."

- "We won our trial and my lawyer did a great job. It probably helped that she went to law school with the judge."

- "My lawyer did a terrible job and never returned my phone calls. He never listened to me." (Posted by someone you have never represented. Of course, this is a different kind of problem if posted by a former client.)

Furthermore, since you have limited ability to persuade a client to remove something from social media, you could run into ethics problems when an improper endorsement appears on your website. Others might assume that you can control what is on your Facebook page, and proving that Facebook will not let you remove a laudatory review is a challenge most lawyers would not want to handle.

When I taught a recent CLE program, I told the audience that reviews are problematic, and a lawyer should be cautious in allowing them. After much consideration, I've decided that a law firm may not want to enable reviews at all - at least when the firm's new Facebook page is being launched. This is not to imply anything wrong about the reviews.

But it turns out disabling reviews isn't as simple as it should be. Between the time I did my initial research and the time I finalized this column, Facebook changed the rules again. Not only did the instructions posted by third parties no longer work, but pages that Facebook published on the subject that I could locate through Google were mysteriously offline. Hopefully, Facebook just rearranged things and is writing new Help pages. But with Facebook, you never know.

Having said that, here is one way to turn off reviews on an existing Facebook business page today (with the disclaimer that Facebook may change things tomorrow):

1) Go to "About."

2) In the dropdown box where you select your page "Category," choose "Websites & Blogs."

3) Second-level dropdown needs to be chosen as to what type of "Website & Blog." (On our bar association's Facebook page, we chose government.)

4) Save changes.

So, given these complications, you might ask why a lawyer would still want a Facebook business page.

The reason is simple: paid advertising. All of those promoted posts you scroll by on Facebook are there because someone paid for that placement. Facebook and Twitter know a lot about their users, so you can design a precisely targeted campaign by geographical area, gender and many other factors.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is why many of the promoted posts you see on Facebook are things you have an interest in. Facebook knows. And you can limit the maximum campaign cost.

I did a $50 maximum Twitter campaign just to see how it worked, and over several days I got more than 8,000 impressions and a handful of new followers. The total cost was under $45.

The verdict is still out on just how useful all of this will be for lawyers, but most of us are more comfortable spending $50 or $100 here and there while we measure results, both in terms of new clients and increased website traffic. It takes more faith to sign up to pay $3,000 to $10,000 a month for SEO.

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Jim Calloway is director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He publishes the weblog Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips at http://jimcalloway.typepad.com.

Published: Thu, Jan 28, 2016

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