As we continue our discussion of the various components of a law firm's marketing mix, we now review blogging and social media and their importance to an effective marketing strategy.
BloggingA blog is a basic dynamic content delivery tool. Some blogs inform and are worth reading. And some are not. While beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, specific best practices that work well and are easy enough to apply in practice. A word of caution about narcissistic pursuits: they may secure some like-minded followers but will likely not result in productive business relationships.
Sharing knowledge and advice are two tactics for demonstrating competence (cognitive factors) and creating interest (emotional factors) in a lawyer or a firm. Some blog pieces may seek to inform about issues important to a buying decision while others can include insights into a firm or lawyer’s approach to solving problems. Blogs are aimed at creating awareness, raising interest levels, and differentiating a lawyer or firm from competitors.
What to consider
At the outset, a law firm must decide the strategic purpose of a blog. Is the goal to promote a relationship with an individual (lawyer) or a firm (all or a group of lawyers in a firm)? Both approaches are valid, but the content for these blogs is written differently.
Additionally, it is important to consider a blog’s targeted audience and concentrate on developing content for that group. In our case, for example, PerformLaw's target audience is anyone interested in law firm performance improvement. Therefore, we develop useful content to attract members of this group. A more targeted blog might be written towards lawyers and law firm management professionals interested in only in marketing performance.
Deciding where a blog is hosted is also important. Should a blog be included on a firm’s website or on a separate site such as LexBlog? Some believe that hosting a blog on a private platform drives traffic from a firm’s website, while others contend that a separate blogging platform is more credible in the world of search engines.
While PerformLaw has hosted blogs using both approaches, we believe it comes down to content quality and website design.
How to do it
Similar to website development, blog content development requires an attorney’s focus and time , which is an Achilles heel for many. Some firms and lawyers resort to paying for content development. In our view, this is a weaker approach since it misses the chance to communicate what it is like to work with a lawyer or firm.
In certain lower level service areas, paid content might work because the sophistication level of the content is not high or is not necessary. When possible, we recommend original content development. To manage the development of content, an editorial calendar can be a helpful tool. Since allocating non-billable time to content marketing is usually the most difficult part of blogging, a posting schedule can promote more effective time management and help determine post frequency. A weekly posting schedule is optimal, although, difficult for any one person to maintain.
While content creation is a core component of running a quality blog, a support system that includes graphics expertise, editing, SEO coding, metadata tagging, application management, and social sharing is required. A firm can choose to develop in-house competence or outsource these functions.
Once a content development and management system are established and blog posts are created, it is important to consider author credit for SEO and branding purposes. When considering attribution credit, we recommend consideration of the strategic objectives of each post. In many law firms, this is a struggle. Firm management is rightly concerned with building a firm brand, but an individual needs a strong personal brand to attract work. We believe that there is ample room to promote the firm and the individual lawyers.
A well-written blog is kept current, uses search engine friendly words and language that potential clients can easily understand. The focus should be common client questions, interesting sharable casework, information or comments on recent legal developments, and important considerations for those faced with similar issues.
Over the last decade, social media has emerged as a powerful way to share information and virtually connect with other individuals and organizations. Businesses have realized that connecting with their customers through social media channels presents an effective marketing opportunity by sharing information, news and exchanging thoughts and opinions. Given the confidential nature of the legal relationship, it is sometimes a challenge to engage on social media, but when appropriate, social media are an effective tool.
Social media raises awareness, increases credibility and trust, and builds an online promoter network. Additionally, the platforms are relatively inexpensive to share content and communicate with a large audience.
There are numerous ways for potential clients to learn about a law firm, and the internet has been a great help to firms. Whether prospects use a search engine to find attorneys or law firms, see a law firm ad, meet an attorney at an event, or come from a referral source, it is more than likely, that they will review online profiles to inform themselves.
Social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, provide additional information in a more personal manner, which can increase the initial level of trust and positively impact a prospect’s attitude towards the attorney. Furthermore, an attorney can connect with prospects, clients and referral sources to increase the likelihood of continuous contact. E.g. if an attorney decides to consistently post or share articles from their blog, connections see that activity on their newsfeed and stay aware of the lawyer’s profile.
What to consider
Social media profiles that are transparent and consistent with the website and other online profiles build a certain level of trust and can significantly enrich an attorney’s online appearance. For example, a potential client meets an attorney at a conference and later becomes curious or wants to establish a connection. The obvious next step is to search for a profile online.
It is much more effective when prospective contacts can also find a LinkedIn profile in addition to a website bio; LinkedIn is a more personal profile that can provide additional information, and allows for an instant connection.
Besides creating a complete and informative profile on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, remaining relevant requires connecting with others and sharing content, to stay relevant. For that purpose, we recommend keeping to a posting schedule, keeping your profile up to date, and spending the time to connect with new contacts.
How to do it
Choosing a platform or platforms is step one. For lawyers and firms who mainly serve business clients, LinkedIn is highly recommended. The use of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others should be guided by the relevance to the practice area and the client type.
Corporate clients and other organizations in most cases have LinkedIn profiles, and so do their employees, which makes this platform most suitable for them. For consumer-oriented practice areas, the use of Facebook, Twitter and other sites (Pinterest, online garage site) can compliment your LinkedIn presence since clients put more emphasis on online research and are more active on these networks.
For differentiation purposes (most social media sites provide instructions for profile enhancement), complete and robust profiles work the best. Once a profile is created, it is important to continuously connect with contacts, especially in the case of LinkedIn. As a network of contacts and followers is built, posting consistently is necessary to stay present on the audience’s newsfeed and maintain awareness among your connections.
Typical posts include original blog articles, relevant articles by other authors, and news updates from the law firm, the attorney’s practice area or the target clients’ industry. Commenting enhances credibility among a target audience. By setting a posting schedule, for example, once per week, you can make sure you stay active in your social media channel(s)
If you do not have the in-house capability, we recommend seeking outside support.