As of mid-March, YouTube ranked No. 4 among the top U.S. Web sites according to Alexa.com. YouTube is described as “the leader in online video, and the premier destination to watch and share original videos worldwide through a Web experience.” The site says it “allows people to easily upload and share video clips on www.YouTube.com and across the Internet through Web sites, mobile devices, blogs, and e-mail.” YouTube hosts more than 150 million videos.
Do lawyers really use YouTube?
Absolutely. When I searched YouTube using the term “lawyers,” I came up with 45,500 videos. When I typed in “Philadelphia lawyer,” I got 861 results; “Pennsylvania lawyer” gave me 3,180; “corporate lawyer” gave me 1,840; “personal injury lawyer” gave me 6,380; “criminal defense attorney” gave me 5,360; “divorce lawyer” gave me 3,080, and “employment lawyer” gave me 1,930.
Gerry Oginski, a personal injury attorney in Great Neck, N.Y., says, “Not only should lawyers use YouTube, but they should take every advantage of the free platform to get their educational message out [to their target audiences].” He said, “The problem with all lawyer advertising is that the message is truncated. There is no space to explain anything to a potential client.” Here are links to two articles by Oginski published on Law.com: Video Marketing Tips for Lawyers: No. 1 and Attorney Video Tips: Cameras
What are the pros and cons for lawyers using YouTube?
As someone who is very big on practicing what I preach, I have been reaching out to my social media contacts to get their perspectives as they relate to this series of “To Friend or Not To Friend” blogs. As a result, I asked four different groups on Linkedin: Should lawyers use YouTube? What do you think?
“Yes, I think lawyers should use YouTube -- especially if seen as part of an overall strategy of ‘planting a flag’ in multiple social media platforms, thus making yourself and your expertise available to different audiences out there.
There are pros and cons to using YouTube, but I think, if you have the time for it, that the pros win:
- A video hosted on YouTube (and findable by users there) can also be embedded on your own Web site or blog.
- A short video by a lawyer gives prospective clients who might not have met you a chance to see the person behind the name.
- We live at a time when this type of media is so much part of the mainstream it can be a good way to augment your other content strategies. (Favorable decision in a case? Frame it quickly in a two-minute video -- and then post the legal documents that won the day.)
- A video on YouTube can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. The sharing is registered in viewers' activity streams -- so whenever your audience interacts with your work, other people notice.
The opportunities for good, brief videos are as limitless as your imagination. (They should be brief.)
- Quality: People do not expect YouTube videos to be professional and slick, but if your video is too grainy, or the production quality is poor, it could become a liability. At a bare minimum, pay attention to light and sound.
- Time: If you launch a YouTube channel of videos, you're basically signing up for an entirely new editorial endeavor. You might have thought through the first video and what you wanted to say – but what about the next five? It is best to have a series of videos (people can subscribe to your channel) than to have just one posted last year and nothing since.
- Not writing. Whether you are blogging or posting legal docs to JD Supra, or both, that writing by its own nature and quality is a measure of your expertise. The words -- the text -- also happen to make their way into Google. This is all good. As a result, the video title might be picked up by Google, but not the content.”
Another con is the loss of message control because of third party comments. There are far fewer controls for the user on YouTube than there are on Linkedin and Facebook.”
Larsen concluded that he would use YouTube and would specifically use it as part of a larger strategy in which he engaged his audience, and fed content, across multiple platforms. Then he would set about to connect the dots between those platforms.
Should lawyers use YouTube?
As a public relations practitioner and lawyer, I do not believe all attorneys should spend time posting videos on YouTube. It is certainly a useful tool and an excellent way to build your reputation, demonstrate your talents, comment on legal issues and trends, share media coverage of you and your firm with copyright permissions and increase your Web presence.
On the other hand, as is the case with all forms of social media, your videos are up for public scrutiny. If you are not going to do it right and take the time to prepare quality videos, I would suggest that you do not do it at all. I am going to be so bold as to say please do not embarrass the profession by posting self-serving, promotional, “look-at-me-I’m-the-greatest-lawyer-in-the-world” videos either. I actually use them in CLE and social media training seminars as examples of what not to do.
And don’t forget your state’s rules of professional conduct. If your practice is multi-jurisdictional, you may have to refer to several states’ rules. I detail the ethical issues of legal marketing in my book, Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers. In summary, you must be careful not to provide legal advice. You cannot directly solicit business. You cannot be false or misleading. You cannot omit necessary facts. You cannot compare one lawyer to another. And you cannot make subjective claims or create unjustified expectations.
And as I’ve suggested throughout the “To Friend or Not to Friend” series, all law firms should be adopting social media strategies for these very reasons and to protect their firm brands.
In Part 6 of “To friend or Not to Friend – Social Media for Lawyers,” I will talk about the blogging for lawyers. Stay tuned to The Legal Intelligencer’s Lawyers and the Media blog.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.