–Shayla Thiel Stern, Ph.D., Senior Digital Strategist, Fast Horse

When Steve Baird asked me to appear as part of an intellectual property law panel to discuss the use of social media as a vehicle for thought leadership, I have to admit that I was both intrigued and intimidated. After all, I know next to nothing about the law.

However, I’ve worked in digital media for 20 years and authored two books on the topic, so I know quite a bit about that. Truth is, I realized it didn’t matter what I knew about the law. My advice for a firm or individual who was thinking about launching social channels would be the same, regardless of their industry or occupation.

First, yes, if you want to draw attention to your leadership and expertise, social media is a fantastic way to connect to an audience and do so. You have to be thoughtful not only about what channels you use and what you say, but about what content you are driving your audience to visit. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.

  1. Establish where you are sending your audience

Do you have a law related blog? Then you already have a great source of content that deserves additional eyeballs. Use Twitter to grow the audience and draw attention to new entries, and post a link to all new entries on LinkedIn.

Don’t have a blog? That’s OK. Blogs aren’t for everyone. In fact, as my fellow panelists Ron Coleman and Seth Leventhal pointed out last week, you have to be incredibly passionate and committed to publishing regularly (daily, if possible), and those who do it see it as kind of a calling.

You might still want to publish the occasional essay – or manifesto or screed – and there are other platforms for you to use without going through the step of establishing your own WordPress and URL. Medium is a fantastic option for this, and you can see Medium as both a platform and social media. Most legal professionals and law offices have a presence on LinkedIn (even if it is used primarily as a means for job hunting and recruiting), and LinkedIn Pulse is a strong next step as a space to express thought leadership. While Medium is a general interest platform, essays posted in the LinkedIn newsfeed truly are intended to showcase thought leadership to communities who are interested in what you do.

  1. Be strategic about which social platforms you use and how you use them

I’m constantly surprised to learn professionals’ disdain for Twitter. I believe it stems from a lack of knowledge about how Twitter actually works and a lingering feeling that Twitter is just like Facebook (more on Facebook in a bit, by the way). Of all the social media options, Twitter – at least at this point in time – is the single most important space for a person to build their brand and establish thought leadership. Professionals across your field use Twitter to stay connected and up-to-date on issues that are relevant to their work; although I mentioned that I know little about law, I follow several law professors because they post links to articles (with a little context or opinion in their own words) that relate to media. In other words, you might even break out beyond your own echo bubble of legal professionals on Twitter and establish a broader audience.

A great thing about Twitter is that you don’t have to use it simply to draw readership to your own blog (in fact, you should not just do that or people will get tired of seeing the same old self-serving content every day). You can also use it to post links to other great articles along with your own opinion or contextual statement. In fact, post daily – or more than once a day – and keep it feeling authentic. Write posts yourself and write them in the same tone as your blog.

Grow this audience – and learn to enjoy Twitter yourself – by creating lists of people in your field who tweet about news and information that is useful to you. In addition to attorneys and legal professionals, law professors and other persons of interest, add some journalists who cover your area of law. Ultimately, they might follow you or add you to their own source list, and you may become a cited expert in an upcoming news story. Once you are an established expert source, you’re truly visible as a thought leader.

  1. A few words about Facebook

Facebook is a space that is increasingly for personal/familial connection. Unless you already happen to have a huge following on Facebook, it is difficult to grow and engage an audience and probably not worth spending time trying to do so. Facebook users don’t go to Facebook to learn about professional content, and Facebook’s algorithm makes it difficult to put professional content on your friends’ newsfeeds.

A note: If you do already have a good Facebook community, by all means, keep posting, but do consider looking at your Facebook analytics and paying to assure that posts get in front of the audiences who tend to engage with your Facebook content already or audiences whom you most wish to attract.

Ultimately, though, as a law professional on social media, your attention should be focused on Twitter, LinkedIn/LinkedIn Pulse, and if you are seeking a good platform for blog-style content, Medium.