Social media compliance can strike fear into the hearts of law firms. Who can forget Baker Small’s series of triumph tweets that were deemed to be gloating at the parents of special needs children?
Yet law firms need employee advocates more than ever: a company’s technical experts (your fee earners) are the most trusted source online in 2019. Then there is the increasing competition to consider: Passle reports a 93% increase in law firms producing insights from 2014 to 2019.
So how do you ensure your social media policy protects your law firm’s brand - without killing engagement in the process? In our experience, these are the five must-have steps particularly relevant for legal organisations.
1. Consider All Potential Social Media Compliance Pitfalls
All employers need to consider image rights, copyright, GDPR legislation and other legal constraints that may restrict their social media usage. However, with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority’s Code of Conduct adding another dimension to considerations, it can be tricky to stay compliant.
Here are some key areas that law firms need to consider:
- Posts or comments that may be deemed offensive or insulting, even if not intended to be so i.e. they may come across as demeaning, elitist or offensive to certain demographics.
- Providing specific legal advice instead of general legal advice, thereby creating an implied client retainer.
- Confidentiality issues, such as:
- Social posts celebrating ‘wins’ that raise confidentiality or reputational issues (such as the Baker Small tweets);
- Online discussions where the details of the case inadvertently disclose the client; or
- Disclosing that you are acting for a client that doesn’t want this to be public by virtue of your LinkedIn connection or geo-tagging.
- Having sufficient systems and controls in place to ensure compliance with the Principles and Outcomes.
(For more on these issues, see the SRA’s Question of Ethics on social media.)
2. Make Your Social Media Policy Training Clear, Accessible And Real
Only 45% of employees have a clear understanding of what they should and should not do on social channels when it comes to company-related topics
Source: Weber Shandwick & KRK Research
If your social media policy is a ten-page text-heavy document, it’s unlikely that your employees will read or remember it . Try to keep it to no more than three pages and make it visually interesting (and therefore memorable).
Remind employees of why there is a need for a policy, along with some overarching principles and what it will do for their own development. And make it easy for them. Include a “Do and Don’t Do” list so employees know what is expected and make the social medial policy easily accessible on your learning management system or intranet.
In our experience, a lot of social media compliance problems in law firms don’t arise from the policy itself. They occur because employees don’t truly interact with the policy during training and think about exactly how they would respond to risks.
That’s why our online Social Practitioner Course uses realistic scenarios so that users can apply what they learn.
3. Regularly Update, Review And Advance Your Social Policy Training
It’s not enough to implement a social policy and roll-out training once. The policy should be reviewed and updated regularly as platforms and regulations change.
The same applies with training: ensure there are refresher courses (which also deal with any changes) and identify any additional training that may support employees on their journey.
For example, some employees may now have moved along the social media maturity model. Perhaps they’ve ready to move from a Broadcaster to a Thought Leader or a Connector to a Collaborator. Make sure you support them on their journey to employee advocacy mastery.
4. Empower Your Employees With Employee Advocacy Tools
We often recommend advocacy tools such as Smarp , Sociabble, Elevate to our legal clients (check out our full list of Employee Advocacy tools). They enable marketing teams to curate content that they deem relevant for their firm, whilst also enabling employees to submit their own content suggestions for approval. Any approved content can be shared, safe in the knowledge that it’s ‘on-brand’ and most importantly, presents no issues regarding compliance.
For firms with employee ambassadors not quite ready to blog but want to add more insights, then Passle encourages (and helps) users to find inspirational content - all in a few clicks, and with a moderator approval option and pre-populated hashtags and social tags to the author and anyone else who has engaged with the message.
5. Ensure Your Social Media Compliance Stands Up To Scrutiny
You could deliver a Ted-X worthy presentation or enrol your solicitors on a course worth 6 CPD hours, yet if even a few employees in your law firm don’t understand what they are supposed to do, it will leave your firm open to compliance risks.
If the SRA was to investigate a complaint, can you prove that your systems and control ensure compliance with Outcome 7.2 of the SRA Code? Have you provided evidence that everyone really understands your policy? A multiple-choice question may not suffice. Have you provided examples of best, okay and bad practices? Have you tested that understanding?