How to Reach Rural Consumers in Michigan
Recently, I talked to Cathy Church, Church & Korhonen, who has a bankruptcy practice in Marquette. Her clients come from the Upper Peninsula, which is mostly rural. As we spoke, she mentioned that many of her clients come to her from Facebook.
This is not surprising since a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center (Mobile Messaging and Social Media), which compared several different demographics and how they use social media, showed that, while rural users use social media less than urban Internet users, Facebook is their most popular site. Sixty-seven percent of them sign on to Facebook.
Michigan covers 56,804 square miles, with a 2016 estimated population of 9,928,300 people – 1,796,678 living in rural Michigan (USDA-ERS). Thus 67% or 1,203,774 of Michigan’s rural users sign on to Facebook. And those folks, per the US Census, live in the northern half of the state, the thumb and the Upper Peninsula.
How do you reach rural Internet consumers?
· Facebook: If you want to separate your personal Facebook presence from your business, create a Facebook page which is a public profile specifically created for businesses, brands, celebrities, causes, and other organizations. Unlike personal profiles, pages do not gain "friends," but "fans" - which are people who choose to "like" a page.
· Your Website: A website builds trust and credibility, creates a good first impression and helps consumers make that call. Consumers are often anxious when calling a lawyer. However, those that visit a website, see your picture, read your profile, get to know you a little, feel emboldened and are more likely to call. And you can announce publication of new material to your website on Facebook.
· Your Blog: Two basic reasons for writing a blog are to keep your name top of mind for your current clients and to attract new clients. Your blog should provide interesting, informative and entertaining information in your area of practice that is useful to current and prospective clients. And you should announce the publication of your new blog on Facebook and your Website.
Connecting with the other 33%.
With rural consumers who aren’t Internet users, other marketing techniques must be included. Remember face to face networking to be sure that everyone you know or meet are aware that you’re a lawyer and the type of law you practice. Other techniques include running ads in the local papers, high school football program and weekly church bulletins.
Include a picture of yourself on your website, blog, billboards and ads in the local newspaper. Don’t be surprised if you’re recognized as you move about town. Be ready to talk about your practice and the services you offer. Be careful that your conversations don’t respond to individual legal scenarios, as you don’t want to create a prospective client-attorney relationship
Also, remember the ethics rules.
And, remember to keep the ethics rules in mind when posting, particularly MRPC 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3. Put together an ethics guide for your firm to follow, including the applicable rules and links to relevant ethics opinions available on the State Bar’s ethics webpage. Communication that you start with someone you don’t know and without invitation, e.g., online chats, is analogous to ethically prohibited direct solicitation. Don’t give legal advice—stick with news and informational posts in your area of practice to avoid the potential of creating client conflicts. When in doubt about the ethics of your Facebook, blog or website communication, call the SBM ethics helpline at (877) 558-4760 before you post.