Hashtags have been around since 2007 and unless you are an active twitter user / follower, you likely haven’t noticed their importance. Now is a good time to take notice since Facebook has now adopted them and in effect, tripled the total share of social media users that can now utilize them.
You may recognize hastags when you see a word that starts with a “#” in front of it. Examples for attorneys would look like: #attorney, #mesoattorney, #probate, #regulan, #wrongfuldeath, #policebrutality, etc. By placing the “#” sign in front of words, it creates a metadata signal to services like twitter and now facebook to help categorize the message based on the keyword with the hastag in front of it.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO ATTORNEYS AND FACEBOOK USERS?
Facebook has around 170 million users in the United States – nearly twice as many as twitter. This equates to around 50% of ALL Americans! The average Facebook user spends 7.5 hours on Facebook each month compared to just 3.3 minutes on Google +. As the old saying goes: “fish were the fish are”… and the fish (your clients) are on Facebook.
One of the greatest advantages to Twitter users was that information on topics could be grouped together (through the use of hashtags) and searched without having to be connected to a user beforehand. In short, hastags allowed unconnected users to share information with anybody - something Facebook has lacked until now.
Facebook announced this week that hastags are now fully supported in their messages and can now be searched on in Facebook. You can now click on a keyword displayed with a hastag and/or search for messages containing the same. For example, here is a search for “#medicalmalpractice”: https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/medicalmalpractice - note that you can change the last portion of this address bar (in this case /medicalmalpractice) and replace it with any other words, just make sure to not include any spaces.
HOW ATTORNEYS CAN USE HASHTAGS TO THEIR ADVANTAGE
Most attorneys create an active content strategy to better stay in front of their current clients, referral partners and generate new clients and cases. Experts agree that you need to touch your clients 7-10 times a year for them to actively remember you when they need you. Why else would brands like Coke continue to spend millions reminding you about them? The same applies to your brand and image. Gone are the days of effective attorney email lists and newsletters and instead attorneys are turning to more effective means of marketing through blogs and social media.
When attorneys create effective active content strategies, they will commonly author to blogs and disseminate that content throughout their social media properties such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The challenge at that point is to build audience (or reach) so that your pages are being followed and people will be able to find and see you regularly. This is where most law firms fail – they create great content but fail in creating reach…thereby hosting nothing more than an expensive billboard in a cornfield.
Beyond the means in which to build audience and reach through actively publishing and promoting your social media properties OUTSIDE of these vehicles, hashtags now allow you to create better reach within them. Here is an example: Risperdal is a drug that was involved a lawsuit involving the drug companies downplaying of complications. When I search for “Risperdal Lawsuit” in Google, I see 66,700 results – many of which are news sites, attorney websites and blogs. When I search by the hastag #risperdal in Facebook, I see ZERO results – except for my own. Wow! Really? 170 Million users and no mention (in a hastag) for Risperdal? No facebook pages to follow on the subject? No blogs to keep me updated? No attorneys that want my business if I or somebody I know could be a client for this case?
This of course is merely one example but illustrates a point – hastags now allow you to open your practice up to search within Facebook and 170 million potential clients. Want to build reach as an attorney and improve your #attorneymarketing, this is a great way to get started!
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you have not already created an #activecontentstrategy for your law firm, get started now – it is the #1 driver of traffic to your website according to the most recent studies by SEOMoz. Once you have your strategy in place, make sure to incorporate hashtags within your content in the proper locations and with the proper density to have an impact. This includes in your subject lines, the beginning of your content, etc.
If you need more help on any of these subjects, contact a legal marketing consultant today to help you out…