Host Sean Harris talks with Mitch Jackson, an attorney from Orange County, California, about different ways law firms can use social media to build their brand as well as how to show their human side to gain more clients.

Sean: Hello and welcome to Civilly Speaking, OAJ’s monthly podcast on practical and timely legal issues, I’m your host Sean Harris. We’re pleased today to have Mitch Jackson from Orange County California as our guest today. Mitch is a trial lawyer. When he is not trying cases Mitch uses social media and technology to help lawyers in their online practice. So Mitch Jackson thanks very much for joining us here on Civilly Speaking.

Mitch: Sean thanks for having me on, it’s nice to meet you and it’s a pleasure to be with my fellow trial lawyers located in the beautiful state of Ohio. This is awesome.

Sean: So Mitch at a very basic level when we’re talking about lawyers and of course everybody has a web, at the very basic level a webpage, but all kinds of other social media today how should lawyers, plaintiff lawyers be using social media?

Mitch: I think attorneys and all professionals should be actively engaged on the social media platforms to show their human side. To show that we are just like the guy or gal that lives next door and to show people that we like to help that we want to make a difference, we want to make our communities a safer place to live and we want to hold wrongdoers accountable for wrongful or illegal acts and there’s no better way to do that than to share your voice in a transparent, in an open, in a easy to understand way on the social platforms and it’s just been, it’s been an amazing tool for us Sean and that’s why I wanted to come on today because I think it’s a great opportunity for trial lawyers to help others to reach out and make a difference and to do so in a very human fashion. It’s a lot of fun.

Sean: You know even that term social media can be fairly broad are there particular platforms or apps that you find yourself using more than others?

Mitch: Absolutely and what we do is we’re very active on the major platforms. For anyone listening if you want to build a digital footprint or maybe even a digital billboard on the social media platforms I’d encourage your listeners to get involved on and set up your Facebook platforms, LinkedIn’s another great platform, Snapchat and Instagram are amazing platforms to connect with millennials. Twitter has been an amazing platform that allows us to connect with people that are changing industries and disrupting businesses around the world, that’s been an excellent platform. My favorite, Sean, are the live streaming platforms, Periscope, which Twitter purchased and Facebook live are two live streaming platforms that allows you to go live from your mobile device, from wherever you are and communicate and share your message or your activity or your project with the world so those are the platforms that I would highly recommend your members take a look at and get involved in.

Sean: Well and tell us more about some of those live streaming, that’s not one that I’ve typically thought, frankly when I hear of those it’s usually some celebrity getting in trouble for something. How is that something that lawyers can use to their advantage?

Mitch: Well the biggest assets that we have today are time and attention. None of us have enough time, none of us have you know can get enough attention from our clients or perspective clients and our perspective clients feel the same way. They’re rushed, they’re pulled from multiple directions and so when you’re engaging online and showing your human side you have to take time and attention into consideration. The beautiful thing about live streaming or live video is that you can go live from your mobile device. You just click and you’re live, you’re broadcasting not just in the state of Ohio, but you’re broadcasting globally. What we like to do is we like to go out and I am very active in the rotary club. We like to go out and while I’m at a rotary event, whether is a food distribution, whether we’re raising money for the boys and girls club I like to go live and I like to interview people at the events to profile the good that they’re doing. When we’re down at the courthouse we like to go live and talk about while we are walking into the courthouse, we’re walking into a mandatory settlement conferences this is what’s going to be happening and we get to show our audience in a live fashion you know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. So it’s a great way to connect. There’s no better way to connect than sitting across from someone during lunch or breakfast or maybe dinner. You’re looking at each other in the eyes. With live streaming you are engaging and looking people in the digital eyeballs. They are able to know like and trust you much more quickly because of what they’re seeing. They key though Sean with lawyers live streaming is that you have to relax and be yourself. You know you want to be somebody that people can know, like and trust. You want to keep terminology simple, you want to go ahead and be helpful. You want to listen more than you speak. You want to engage in the real time comments on these platforms, both Periscope and Facebook live. Your audience is engaging with you in real time and they’re sharing real time comments and it’s really important when you’re live streaming not to lecture, not to teach, but instead to have a conversation so you have to adapt your communication approach with watching these comments come in, including the comments into what you’re saying. Welcoming Sean from Ohio and Sean asked a great question about what do trial lawyers to do to make our communities safer. Let me go ahead and just answer Sean’s question right now so you engage in real time and then focus back on the game plan that originally you know resulted in you going live in the first place. So it’s one of these things were it’s like having a conversation, answering questions, adding value without lecturing, without speaking or without instructing and that’s been an effective formula for us over the years.

Sean: That’s fascinating and one of the buzz words these days is metrics, right and so one of the questions that pops into my head is gosh, it may be neat to do this and maybe fun is there a way that we know whether, if it’s effective, do we know how many people were reaching do we, are we able to measure the result?

Mitch: So Sean you can and there are tools and platforms out there that will help you start to measure these results. Let me just share with you with respect to our firm that my wife and I started back in 1986 here in Orange County California by having an active online presence, starting with the website, rolled over to blogging and then within the last 7-8 years with social media the last 2-3 years with live streaming it’s allowed us to take our relatively well known southern California firm and amplify our brand to a global brand. Instead of referrals just coming from southern California we are now getting referrals on a weekly basis from around the world. We’re top of mind when it comes to referrals because of our digital presence. Now what’s the ROI of that? The numbers for us have been very significant and that’s one reason I am all in when it comes to building your digital footprint, but as far as measuring the traditional ROI, I mean I would have to ask you, you know what’s the ROI of your mother? What’s the ROI of your receptionist? What’s the ROI of your dog? I mean just because you can’t accurately and easily measure something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value right? Social media requires a new type of mindset. In today’s world, especially with lawyers, you’re just a tap or a swipe away from a potential client contacting your firm or maybe going someplace else and people like to do business with other human beings, with other people and so these platforms allow you to show your human side and you know Sean I will tell you there’s actually like nine things I think lawyers need to pay attention to when engaging online, whether its Twitter, Facebook or on the live streaming platforms. If they want to be effective and if they want to come across the right way and if you want we can go through those nine steps so that the trial lawyers in Ohio go about things the right way.

Sean: We need to know the nine steps, let’s start with number one.

Mitch: Well number one and it’s really challenging for many lawyers to wrap their mind around it, but you have to embrace and engage on social media with the idea that everything you do is about the client or the potential client. Everything you do has to be designed about helping the client or potential client. It’s not about you, it’s not about your awards, it’s not about where you went to school, it’s not about your last big victory in court, it’s about adding value and I tell lawyers what you want to do is write down the twenty to thirty most often-asked questions that you get each week or each month, put together a thirty to sixty to a hundred and twenty second response to those questions in a simple and easy to understand format and when you’re able to go onto the platforms and answer these questions maybe one a day, or two or three a week, depending on your schedule we’re all busy that’s the type of content that you want to share. You want to share your secret sauce, you want to answer the questions that the consumer has instead of talking about yourself, instead of talking about your accomplishments because frankly the consumer doesn’t care and if you want to effectively engage on social you have to approach it with that type of mind set. So number is you know make sure that it is all about the client or if you’re a professional maybe about the customer. Number two, you have to pay attention and focus on making a good first impression and this is where a lot of lawyers blow it, okay, when you go online especially with a live stream and these are things by the way Sean that I have stumbled on over the years, I’m speaking from experience, both good and bad and I am trying to save other lawyers you know I’m trying to help them avoid some of the mistakes that I made, but you want to make a good first impression so when you go online the attention span today of today’s consumers is so short. One hundred years ago the average attention span of the consumer was about twenty minutes, today it’s about eight or nine seconds the same attention span as a goldfish right? So you need to jump on it immediately and grab their attention so when you go live you need to start off with a provocative question or maybe an interesting quote or if you are good at telling a joke maybe an appropriate joke for the topic that you’re sharing. You need to start off and immediately grab the listeners attention so that they stick around and listen to what you have to say or read what you’re writing or listen to a podcast that you’re doing and then you take a step back, you can introduce yourself and then roll into the content of what you’re talking about, speaking about or live streaming about so the second thing is to make a good first initial impression. A lot of people will go on live Sean and they’ll stand there and they’ll look like a deer staring at headlights wondering if the videos working wondering what to say next and…

Sean: I feel like I’ve seen that video.

Mitch: You know and I have to and I will tell you a little secret, I’ve made a couple of those videos over the years and they don’t work very well and so you just want to kind of have your act together and when it’s time to rock n  roll you want to go live, capture their attention and then share valuable content and make a good first impression and that’s something that I’d like everyone to really focus on if you want to stand above all the noise on social media.

Sean: And I’m following along here on your list here, point number three says communicate your why. What does that mean?

Mitch: It’s really important to share with your audience and this is over time social media is like a diet or exercise. It’s something that you want to keep doing each and every day and get better at and as technology changes and as the platforms change then you’re approached to using these platforms change and with that in mind by communicating your why, why you are a trial lawyer, why you handle the types of cases that you handle why you want to help somebody that’s what connects us as human beings. Once people start picking up on your why and when I say communicating your why you can do that when your speaking you can do that by the videos that your sharing by the content or photographs of other people that you are sharing with your audience, all of these things come together to show your why and I think it’s when we show our why and people start understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing that’s where the real connections starts, that’s where the relationships begin and that’s where the long term success comes from social media so I’d like lawyers to really focus on you know sharing with your audience why you do what you do and be genuine and sincere about that why and speak from the heart and if you do that you’re going to separate yourself from all the other lawyers in town. Along those same lines Sean the fourth bullet point I have for engaging online is to engage, in other words it’s to listen seventy percent of the time, actively listen if you are reading something read between the lines if you are listening to a podcast you know listen carefully and actively as to what’s really being said. If you’re watching a live stream really watch what that persons doing what is their body language tell you. It’s like picking a jury right? It’s like listening to what perspective jurors have to say but also taking in all of the other communication and tips that they are sending you to really figure out what’s going on by engaging with your audience, by listening seventy percent of the time you’re able to then what I call deflect, reflect and select. You want to deflect what’s being said, what you’re watching, what you’re listening to. You want to reflect upon what type of response what type of comment what type of feedback is appropriate and then you select that appropriate feedback and share it on social so if you deflect, reflect and select that’s really a good way to engage you know on the social platforms. A lot of us became lawyers because we want to fix problems, we want to help people and we know exactly what needs to happen, but by simply stating on social on a comment or in a live stream listen Bob this is what you need to do next A, B and C it’s not going to be interpreted the way you want it to be interpreted and you’re going to come across like your lecturing so if you can engage your audience in a story type of fashion, through story telling through metaphors through analogies and things like that that’s how you connect with your audience and it’s all about engagement and the next bullet point that really complements engagement and we touched upon it is listening. You know it’s listening to what’s being said, it’s listening to what’s being written, it’s really just paying attention and being there for somebody to help them with their problems, to help them with their community efforts. Once of the things we love to do Sean is with our clients, we like to profile our clients on social media. We’ll go down to their company, down to their factory and we’ll live stream from the factory the construction process maybe our client might have with respect to an airplane wing or with respect to a widget that their putting together for an online gaming company and we’ll live stream and interview people and have people behind the scenes. We’ll pull the curtain back and show our audience what our clients are doing to put out these amazing products. Engaging and listening when we do this I think those are the things that really separate and can separate any of the law firms in Ohio who are using these techniques to build their brand, to show their community they want to help and want to be a positive impact in the community, it’s all from engaging and listening.

Sean: And I see here the next point, number six is personalize everything and I get the sense from what you’re telling us that to use social media effectively this is not something that lawyers can delegate?

Mitch: It is and it isn’t. I personally feel that if you want to build your brand on social, if you want to become top of mind then you need to be the person that puts time aside each day and engages in real time on the social platform. There are some things that you can have your staff do with respect to timed Twitter posts and things like this. When we share other peoples posts, we share other peoples content and we do that a lot and I see great content I like to share it, I don’t need to be the person that, I can have someone else in my office actually share the content and we use a program, a platform called Buffer, its it allows us to find great content, click a button and share it on our social platforms. When I talk about personalizing everything what I’m talking about is using people’s names on social media. Its taking the time, Sean, before commenting to a blog post you may have shared or something you may have placed on Facebook, before commenting, I might want to click and learn a little bit more about you and for example I may respond to a Facebook post or a Twitter feed, you know Sean that’s an interesting point I notice you practice in Ohio, I’m here in California let me share with you the three things that work for us in the California court system. So you are taking the time to learn about the other person, you’re personalizing your response and through those steps you’re building rapport and because of that you’re building long term relationships so it takes a little bit more time and a little bit more effort, but I think you get a bigger bang for your buck when you do that.

Sean: Be strategically transparent, what does that mean?

Mitch: It means be real, be real on social media, be yourself. If we were doing a live stream right now you’d see me in a dark blue golf shirt and a pair of, I call them surfer trucks, but golf shorts because I’m pushing paper today and I’m getting ready for a big hearing tomorrow. You don’t want to be fake on social media. People’s bullshit radar is very very high on social media and it should be so I want you to be real, I want you to use language that you’re comfortable with using, I want you to dress as you normally would dress. There’s some strategy to that though. If you’re a financial planner and you’ve just finished your third bankruptcy I don’t want you to be so transparent that you’re bragging about your third bankruptcy on the social media platforms. That’s not going to work. Nobody’s going to be connecting with you; nobody’s going to hire you to be there financial planner right? So you want to be strategically transparent and for example Sean some of the best engagement I’ve had is if I do a beach run from my home down to the water it’s about a mile and a half from the trail that I run I’ll stop every once and awhile and I’ll go live and if it’s Saturday morning early you know I haven’t shaved, I’m in my running gear, I’ve got a nice sweat worked up and I’ll talk about something that I thought of while running. Maybe it’s how to approach an opening statement or how to give a more effective closing argument and I’ll just do a short two to three minute video. I’ll either do it live or I’ll upload it to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook whatever the platform may be one of our blog posts and it’s real it’s raw, I’m out of breathe, I’ve got a sweat going on, I’ll tell you something  those are the types of social media posts that get the most engagement for me. It’s real this is what I do and I think people start connecting with not only are you a trial lawyer, but you’re somebody who enjoys getting outside, someone who enjoys coaching kids on the soccer sidelines, you’re somebody that’s active in rotary. By being real and by being transparent that’s what connects us as human beings and it really does turn us over to the next bullet point, which is practice likability, be likable on the social media platforms. You know you definitely want to leave your lawyer brief case over on the side of your desk and be that human being that you are that caring, kind and likeable human being when you engage on social media especially live streaming. Some good ways of doing that and are very easy to do it’s kind of like us standing up, picking a jury or getting ready to give our opening statements, you want to be likeable in the court room and what I found is on social media, whether its blog posts, podcasts, live streaming whatever it might be when I shift the spotlight to other people that really makes a difference it’s all about the other person it’s not about you. When you listen more than you talk you’re letting the other person know that you’re interested in what he or she is saying and because of the likability flows. I think if you’re genuinely thoughtful and you’re genuinely kind, you speak from the heart I think that shows on social media and that’s what connects people, that’s what gets referrals over to your law firm. If you give the other person your full attention. If your live streaming and the other persons speaking look that person right in the digital eye balls, look at your web cam, don’t look down at your phone, don’t go over to the side when someone else is talking look at your web cam it might make eye contact with that other person, it lets them know that you’re interested in what they have to say. I think with lawyers when you give and give and then give some more without asking anything in return that’s where the magic happens.. I think one of the biggest mistakes that attorneys make on social media is that they include a call to action with everything they do. If you’ve been involved in a large truck accident call our 800 number we can help you. You don’t want to do that on social media. What you want to do is share three to four things consumers should know about in large truck accident cases in the state of Ohio and leave it at that. Okay, you’re adding value, you’re answering questions, you’re not looking for cases and when you do that that’s where the magic happens and that’s where the connection happens. A couple of other things is when you’re on social media don’t gossip about other people keep your comments positive, keep moving forward you know stand up stand tall and be a leader in the conversation. If you see a conversation going sideways get out of it don’t become a part of it and I think my last suggestion Sean and I am just going to be blunt, is when you’re on social media don’t be an asshole, okay and it’s easier said than done sometimes, but I think I am trying to make a point and that is go on social and let your goodness and likability shine and good things will happen.

Sean: Yeah, some people might even suggest that rule may apply beyond social media.

Mitch: And it does by the way. It’s always been my secret to try to be the most likable guy in court, in a board room meeting, at a negotiation or out on the soccer sidelines and I think all of that applies to social media too.

Sean: Well Mitch Jackson this has been fascinating and it really is new world for lawyers out there on social media.

Mitch: It really is a new world, but it is the world. In other words, when I speak around the Country Sean I’ll ask my audience small or large, raise your hand if you’ve got a smart phone in your hand right now and about seventy percent of the hands go up. Keep your hands up, everyone else whose got a smart phone in front of you in your pocket, in your purse or in your brief case raise your hand and inevitably almost everyone’s hand is up in the air and this is the way people are communicating in today’s world especially today’s digital world. I don’t know if you know this, but more people have access to a mobile device with an internet connection around the world today than they do drinking water, drinkable water, working toilets or tooth brushes. This is a reality, it’s something that can’t be ignored so what I’d love to see happen because I love being a trial lawyer is for lawyers to embrace this technology and use it in a way to show their human side to build connection, to build better rapport with the local communities and because of that there law firms will be more successful. They’ll be held in a different you know they will be looked upon by the general public under a different light because most people Sean will reach out and say Mitch I had no idea you enjoyed racing motocross right no idea that you enjoyed you know paddle boarding down at the harbor, I do that too let’s get together and paddle board and these are how the connections are made and I just want more and more lawyers to start embracing these platforms you know to amplify their message, to build new relationships and frankly to make a difference in the world.

Sean: If folks want to get in touch with you or find out more how should they do that?

Mitch: Well thanks for asking Sean. The easiest way would be to follow me on most of the social platforms it’s Mitch Jackson, @MitchJackson on Twitter, but I’ve got a blog set up it’s not our primary website but it’s and if you go to that is where I share most of my social media posts, most of my livestreams, updates to help other lawyers their efforts we also have that’s my mastermind group and what we try to do is we show lawyers how to use the digital platforms the way we’ve been using these platforms to do everything we talked about over the last you know thirty minutes or so. So all of those methods are available if anybody wants to reach out, it’s always a pleasure and I’m always here to help my fellow trial lawyers in the state of Ohio.

Sean: We appreciate it. It’s been a real pleasure Mitch Jackson thanks very much for joining us here on Civilly Speaking.

Mitch: Thanks Sean I really appreciate it.