If you’re like most attorneys, social media is a complex area to navigate. You understand just how crucial social media is for reaching and engaging with your audience, yet harnessing its power remains a mystery. How do you stay within legal and ethical frameworks while still promoting your services?

Learning which social networks to use and how to leverage them to increase your caseload while adhering to ethical guidelines is no easy feat. But those legal and ethical rules aren’t the only things to keep in mind when you’re writing your next tweet.

The Internet is full of horror stories of law firms who’ve sent an ill-advised tweet. Whether it’s attaching a questionable image, misusing a hashtag, or other faux-pas, it’s all too easy to make a damaging mistake.

So, the next time you’re tweeting on behalf of your law firm, here are a few things to keep in mind.

How Do You Say It?

Let’s start at the beginning of the Twitter creation process: the words. When composing a tweet, there’s a good chance that you spend so much time thinking about what to say and how to stay ethical that grammar and syntax get lost in the shuffle.

Consider the following:

Social Media Pitfalls Law Firms Should Avoid Tweet

Here’s probably how it went down: The person crafting this tweet wanted to reach people who have been charged with DUI and offer their firm’s services. But there’s one “small” grammatical error that has an outsized impact on the meaning of this tweet.

See what I did there? Those quotation marks don’t seem like a big deal, but they add a layer of sarcasm that probably isn’t what these “defense attorneys” intended. If I called myself a “social media strategist,” would you feel inclined to follow my advice on improving your social media presence? Exactly.

Consider The Hashtag

Take a look at this tweet, and tell me what you see. Overall, this message is fine — it describes the firm’s services, provides contact information, and doesn’t have an offensive image. But one element of this tweet isn’t quite like the rest.

Social Media Pitfalls Law Firms Should Avoid Hashtag

If the person writing this did some hashtag research, they would’ve seen that #FridayFeeling is usually used as a goofy and lighthearted way to celebrate the start of the weekend. If you look at this hashtag on social media, you’re likely to find GIFs of people dancing, cute animals, and other tomfoolery. Because it’s Twitter, you’ll also find a lot of partisan political bickering, which is probably another danger zone for your law firm.

Here’s how it probably went down: The person running this social media account saw that #FridayFeeling hashtag in the “trending” column and thought including it would get a few extra retweets. The strategy is typically a good one, but the execution leaves something to be desired. A few minutes of hashtag research would’ve done a world of difference.

While this hashtag misuse is more clueless than damaging (see DiGiorno and #WhyIStayed), you’ll never go wrong by double-checking your hashtag.

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Paint The Proper Picture

Before sending that tweet, you’ve triple-checked your wording and hashtags. But have you given that same care to the image you’ve selected?

If you want more people to see your tweets, adding an image is a great strategy. Adding a photo to your tweet can boost the number of retweets by 150%. But, as US Airways learned in 2014, including the wrong image is a perfect way to create a public relations nightmare.

While these images aren’t vulgar like that infamous tweet, they still serve as reminders to choose your images with the same care you use to choose your words.

Take this tweet, for example:

Social Media Pitfalls Law Firms Should Avoid Images

Like the hashtag example, the text is fine. It’s clear, tells people what to expect, and directs them to join the conversation. But those over-the-top stock photos play into lawyer stereotypes and create an “ambulance chaser” tone. The inexplicable double text doesn’t do anything to build credibility, either.

A better choice would be to create a custom graphic that abstractly illustrates the concept of personal injury and incorporates text to address the specific areas.

The next time you’re creating social media posts, take a few moments to double-check your words, images, and hashtags. Spending a few moments reviewing these elements could save you hours dealing with a social media disaster.

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