Social media is an excellent way to help out your online marketing cause. Not only is it a great way to engage your audience and spread word of your law firm and your legal blog, but you can also use social media to build a healthy backlink portfolio that helps you on the search engine optimization (SEO) front.
However, social media – especially Twitter – is where law firms make numerous prominent mistakes in their marketing efforts. One of the most common is through the use of hashtags.
How Hashtags Work
The sudden popularity of Twitter in 2007 brought with it a new term – “hashtag.” The word spread so quickly that it was included in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary later that year and has been the punchline in numerous TV shows since. Music teachers now struggle to get their students to read # as “sharp.”
The popularity comes from how hashtags are used on Twitter. By adding one right before a word or a phrase – no spaces or punctuation allowed – it becomes a clickable link. Clicking on a hashtag brings you to identical hashtags posted on Twitter by other users, making hashtags an effective conversation marker.
Benefits of Hashtags
Using hashtags in your tweets makes them searchable. For example, if you include “#CarAccident” in your tweet promoting your latest blog post for your personal injury firm, anyone who searches Twitter for that term, or who clicks on an identical hashtag in someone else’s tweet, will be brought to a list of all of the tweets that use the “#CarAccident” hashtag, including your own.
In this way, using a hashtag in your tweet is a great way to get in front of more users on Twitter. This increases the number of times it is seen by unique accounts on Twitter, called an impression.
How Lawyers Screw This Up
The chain of thought that leads law firms to misuse Twitter’s hashtag feature is so simple you can almost watch it happen: If using a hashtag increases the impressions my tweet gets, if I use more than one, I’ll get even more out of social media marketing efforts!
This is incorrect, on two different levels. The first is that impressions are not a good gauge of success. The second is that more hashtags actually undermine how much engagement a tweet gets.
Success Is Not Just Measured By Impressions
Just because your law firm’s tweet is being seen by people on Twitter does not mean it’s getting results. It might be getting seen by the all the wrong people or being ignored by all the right ones. In the end, the size of your audience is irrelevant if no one in it reacts.
That’s where your tweet’s engagement rate comes in. Twitter users “engage” with one of your tweets whenever they interact with it, whether by retweeting it, liking it, replying to it, following your account through the tweet, or even just clicking somewhere on it. A high engagement rate means your audience is responding to what you’re saying. When your tweets have high engagement rates and also get lots of impressions – that’s when your social media efforts are paying off.
More Hashtags Mean Lower Engagement Rates
Unfortunately, studies have found that using more hashtags in your tweets, while they will increase the number of impressions they get, actually decrease their engagement rates. Many Twitter users understand that hashtags only serve to build a tweet’s reach, and don’t contribute to the overall value of the tweet, itself. When they see a tweet loaded with three or more hashtags, they see it as little more than a marketing tool begging for attention, and scroll right past it. Not only does this result in a missed opportunity, it also could be a blow to your law firm’s reputation, as well.
Hashtag Best Practices
Avoiding these pitfalls can help your law firm reach the right people on Twitter – the ones who are looking for attorneys like you and who need legal help. To break through to these potential clients on Twitter, using these 3 tips can help.
- Integrate your hashtags into your tweet, instead of piling them all in at the end. For example, “Thankfully, no one was hurt in this #CarAccident that slowed #Denver traffic down to a crawl this morning” instead of “Thankfully, no one was hurt in the crash that slowed down traffic this morning #CarAccident #Denver”. This makes your tweet look more reputable and lets you squeeze more content into your 140 characters.
- Use two hashtags, at most. More than that just makes your tweets look desperate, which alienates readers.
- Don’t jump on sensitive trending topics to score some impressions. Twitter’s trending topics are words, phrases, or hashtags that have been used a lot in the past hour or so. While you might be able to score some impressions for your law firm’s tweet by adding one of these hashtags, it’s been shown again and again that the negative publicity won’t be worth it.