Social media strategy is an essential tool in any marketing plan. In addition to its powerful reach, creating accounts and posting content is completely free to do. Unlike other marketing tactics, like putting your firm’s ad in the newspaper, or putting up a billboard along the highway, social media is a way to get in front of your audience for free, and in a way that is 2-way (they can talk back) versus 1-way (them just seeing it).

As of last year, 72% of adults in the U.S. were using at least one social media platform, meaning that it’s highly likely you can reach your target audience with the right strategy.

Using the tools here, you can create a social media strategy for your law firm that will help grow your business, audience and brand.

1. Define your law firm’s social media marketing goals.

As you might do with any new endeavor, it is important to establish at the beginning of this process what your goals are. Think: What do you want to get out of your social media strategy? Awareness? New cases? A better understanding of your current audience? How will you know if your work has paid off? Defining your goals will help you set up your strategy for success and provide a specific target for you to work toward.

2. Develop your brand.

Branding is essential for any company looking to gain exposure from their online presence. Start by asking yourself: Who are you? What do you offer? The answers to these questions should be clear, concise and consistent across all platforms.

You’ll want to claim usernames and handles on your accounts that align with your company name. For example, Brick Media Group can be found on Instagram @brick_media.

When it comes to the creative pieces, picking a logo, brand colors and a tone to use in your writing are important basics to start with. Using the logo, colors and a steady tone on all your accounts will keep your appearance professional. Using professional photos or high-quality stock images make for great content on any platform. Creating easy graphics with interesting statistics that inform and engage your following is a great idea, too.

It’s also important when developing a brand to consider what the audience wants to see, and what will bring them value. If your firm is constantly pushing a Free Consultation or a Case Evaluation, you will appear more like a commercial than a show. On social media, giving tips, ideas, and value will position you as more of a “show” than an advertisement.

3. Create a plan.

Once you’ve established a brand, it’s time to make a plan that will allow you to reach the goals you’ve set. Start by choosing your platforms; where are people talking about topics relevant to your firm?

Some surefire platforms to start with are LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. It can be helpful to look at similar firms to see what is working for them. You could potentially adopt some of their practices, if it fits your goals. There is nothing wrong with taking an existing idea and putting your own spin on it.

Planning content for each platform will make your life much easier. Write down your ideas, make a calendar, and have a routine for posting regularly or use a platform to schedule posts in advance. Remember that posting frequently will keep your brand top-of-mind. In the legal industry, this is important because situations (like car accidents) happen out of the blue, and people will likely contact a brand they’re used to seeing regularly.

Instead of going to Google and typing in “Tampa car accident law firms” wouldn’t it be nice if they looked up YOUR brand name directly instead?

4. Be approachable.

While social media is a useful business tool, at the end of the day you are human- and so are the people you’re interacting with online. Create posts that are inviting, ask questions in your captions. Respond to comments, reviews and DMs thoughtfully. Engaging with your audience is a huge part of converting followers to clients.

With law firms, “tough” and “aggressive” are some of the immediate characteristics that may come to mind. However, remember that users may just want somebody they can relate to. For that reason, don’t be afraid to smile, be positive, and share your own interests on your firm’s account. Have an opinion on the local sports team, or a thought on something unrelated to law? Post that too. Sometimes the things that set you apart are the things that will make somebody hire you versus a competitor.

The best thing your social media accounts can offer to users is value. Posts that contain beneficial and insightful information are an assured way to gain an interactive following that you can eventually turn into business.

5. Generate leads and build relationships.

Now that you have a strong brand presence, a plan to meet your goals and a following online, it’s time to leverage your platform to generate leads and build relationships. Showing your expertise online while engaging with followers and being accessible will allow you to become a trusted source. Becoming a leader online with these tools is a great way to build relationships.

But followers won’t turn into clients without a little work. Truly engage with your audience by talking to them. Ask them questions. Really get to know them. Be consistent. Once they know that they can trust you, you’ll be their first call when they need your expertise.

Law firms need to realize every time they post on social media, it is getting in front of individuals that may hire them directly or refer them business. It’s a digital, scalable way of walking into a room in real life. Take advantage of the opportunity!