Attention Lawyers: Now Is the Time to Get Social

It's not surprising that, for the most part, lawyers aren't very active on social media. But there's no reason for that. After all, each attorney has their own opinions and ideals that set them apart. And whether they're sole practitioners, hold an in-house position or work at a law firm, it's important for each to establish their own professional brand. Social media is the ideal way to let colleagues and potential clients or employers know exactly who you are and what you bring to the table. There's no reason to be intimidated -- there's not one right way to do social media. There are, however, best practices. These six suggestions are most useful to achieving a successful and productive presence on social media.

1) Separate personal and professional
Consider having two separate Facebook accounts -- one for family and friends and the other for acquaintances and colleagues. If you only want to maintain one account, it is vital you make use of your privacy settings. Vacation photos, for example, are personal. Posts that involve your area of expertise are professional. Always keep in mind who has access to your content and limit it accordingly.

2) Keep your tweets on topic
Twitter accounts are public, so anyone who checks your page can see your tweets. For this reason, it's best to keep the subject matter professional and relevant to your brand. Hashtag popular names and terms so your feed comes up in searches (For example: #thelawsays). Remember the importance of the hashtag, it can help you rise to the top in discussions and get found in search results. The more you tweet and hashtag, the faster you'll cultivate an audience and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

3) Use photos sparingly
It's important to note that the format of each social media outlet is different. Facebook allows for longer posts, while Twitter limits them to 140 characters. Both give you the option to attach photos to your posts, however I advise only doing so if warranted. After all, this is the Internet. Don't share anything you wouldn't be comfortable with the whole world viewing.

4) Keep your tone professional
If you're posting about a potentially sensitive subject or exchanging comments with colleagues in a thread, be prepared for responses that might not always agree with your viewpoint. It's important not to engage with hostile commenters or get emotional with your replies. Avoid shorthand whenever possible; typing things out properly exudes more professionalism. Keep responses thoughtful and diplomatic.

5) Gain intelligence
Now that you're active on social media, you can assess the competition on a daily basis. Use it to gain intelligence about your competitors. It's also a great tool for finding people who are authorities on a particular subject, prospective employees, clients or colleagues worth getting to know.

6) Pace Yourself
A successful social media user is an active one yet it's wise to pace yourself. If you don't, you'll get little else done. Post a few times a week or once per day if you are able. Check your social media pages three times per day, morning, midday and night. Except if it's necessary, avoid getting too deep in the weeds on comment threads. This allows you to remain active on social media without letting it take over your day.