Is Social Media Marketing for the Small Law Firm Worth It?
December 19, 2017
Three part series: Social Media for the Small Law Firm: WTF? | Social Media Marketing for the Small Law Firm: Hype vs. Reality | Is Social Media Marketing For The Small Law Firm Worth It?
Can you draw a straight line from your social media marketing to your bank account?
First: does anyone care?
According to the 2015 State of Digital and Content Marketing Survey, who surveyed 167 in-house respondents (GCs, Deputy GCs, etc.):
- 30 percent of in-house counsel said they don’t visit blogs at all
- Only 38 percent of respondents said they could envision a future in which a high-profile blog would influence them to hire a firm — down from 50 percent in 2014 and 55 percent in 2012
Credit: 2015 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey
When asked what types of law-firm-generated content they find most valuable
- 77% of in-house counsel lawyers said client alerts
- 76% said practice group newsletters
- Only 12% said social media
When asked how recently they used social media, 34% said they used LinkedIn in the past 24 hours and another 34% said they used LinkedIn in the past weeks (these were the highest percentages in comparison to other social media platforms). 41% said they never use Facebook and 58% never use Twitter. This indicates that lawyers mainly use social media for maintaining a professional network online.
These results are entirely in line with our experience and yet...there's still that nagging feeling that you must be missing something, isn't there?
So, is Social Media Marketing right for your Small Law Firm?
First, ask yourself this:
- Is my target another business? (B2B)
- Is my target a consumer? (B2C)
Then ask this:
- Am I trying to get new customers? (Lead Generation)
- Am I trying to establish credibility? (Online Reputation)
Then ask this:
- Do I want to use free tools and grow by word of mouth? (Organic - what most people are trying to leverage when they think about the potential of social)
- Do I want to pay for exposure and/or access to my target? (Paid - this is advertising on a social platform, which can be highly effective)
If you are B2C, lead generation through organic may work. The key is to do it consistently and "give to get." The more visual the message, the better. Showcasing your work can work well. Humor can work well. Outrageous can work well. Be ready for your 12 seconds of fame if something you make happens to go viral.
If you are B2B, lead generation through organic, "tweet and they will find me" is very likely a pipe dream. You can spend a lot of time and effort to do something that will never result in new business.
What Does Work?
- In many cases, you may be better off simply advertising on social media rather than trying to do content marketing on social media.
- With today's sophisticated tools, you can target the 3 people in outer Mongolia that might be interested in what you do, and target posts to them.
- Most major platforms allow you to advertise and control your budget easily.
- Post clever things that are of interest to you or what you do
- Post helpful things to someone who may want to use your services in the future
- Occasionally (1 in 5 posts) link to a helpful article (in topic) to your blog or website (those are not social, that's Content Marketing. See towards the end.)
- Be followed by interesting people
- Follow people you'd like to meet
- Cite people or organizations you admire
- Be followed by interesting people
- 'Friend' (connect with) people you met offline in order to stay in touch longer term
- Broadcast places you'll be with an invite to connect (try to move online relationships to offline ASAP)
- Post items that may be of interest to people you've already reached out to as a way to create another touch point when emailing or talking with them on the phone
- Post things that lead back to your website
- Post things that remind people you're still there
Beware of the social media "filter bubble"
What you don't want to do is think that you'll post something and it will be seen by lots of people who are not already aligned with your point of view. Social media is designed to show people things of interest. Their interest, not yours. How many times do you see posts on Facebook that are not aligned with your political point of view? Rather than being a meeting place where differences can be discussed, most social media has become a place where like-minded views are reinforced by whichever echo chambers you inhabit. People who like kayaking are not very often mixed with people who hate kayaking. So be mindful that social is not a broadcast medium. It is an interest-based medium.
This is a really informative video about how this works. It's from 2011, but is still salient.
Okay, while we're on the subject, let's talk about content marketing, such as blog posts or content on your website. Content marketing often gets lumped in with social media, but a blog or news items on your site is not inherently social and should be thought of as distinct. Content marketing, used properly, can be extremely powerful. We'll follow-up on this subject in another post.
In the meantime, here are some high-level tips:
- Create a niche blog (broad topic blogs are typically ineffective)
- Create news items, events, and publications on your website to demonstrate activity and expertise (they can be short or long form depending on your style - be you)
- Client alerts (notifications of changes or trends within the law or within an industry)
Blog vs. Website?
There's not much difference. Here are key points:
If you're part of a large firm, blogs are good ways to focus on a single topic in order to pull out that topic from the bulk of the other topics mixed in with your other news, events, and publications. They can also help drive traffic to the main website and they can showcase a few individuals who are willing to put in the work. If you get a good domain that's very specific to your topic, you can own the space (though good domains are harder to come by these days).
- Must be a singular point of view or topic
- Must be updated regularly
- Must be on point
- Must provide value
If you're part of a smaller firm or are a solo practitioner, posting the same content that you would on a blog on your website is fine. You may want to call it something like "Insights" or brand it with a name that's memorable and on-topic. This will save you time and money and keep all your content on one platform. Then you can promote one site instead of two or three and better focus your energy.
We've had several clients that started with a website and blog or two, and then migrated the blog back onto their website because it wasn't driving traffic or calls.
So that's it. I know, it's a lot to take in, but the bottom line can be boiled down to a saying my wife likes a lot:
"Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It's a whole lot of effort that doesn't get you anywhere."
Except I'd replace worrying with "Social Media." Unless you're worrying about social media, in which case the original saying stands.
Ultimately, social media can work for you, but:
- Don't fall for the hype
- Know your audience and write on topics they might be interested in
- Recognize the different approaches needed for B2C vs. B2B marketing
- Be focused and have a voice (a point of view)
- Know that what works on one platform might not work on another
- Consider removing your comment feature (you'll thank us later)
- "Give to get" (actually be helpful and it will come back to you in spades)
- On a periodic basis, prove that what you're doing is actually helping your bottom line
- If it is, keep doing it. If not, modify
Have additional questions? Contact us. No pressure - we’re happy to help!
-Todd & the AttyHub Team
- Part 1: Social Media for the Small Law Firm: WTF?
- Part 2: Social Media Marketing for the Small Law Firm: Hype vs. Reality
- Part 3: Is Social Media Marketing For The Small Law Firm Worth It?
Want to explore further?
How In-House Counsel Use Social Media - The article takes a positive view on in-house counsel use of social media, but it does point out that "74% percent of in-house attorneys are deemed “invisible users”: they use social media in listen-only mode" and "in-house counsel increasingly read and value blog articles." In other words, SM is good for paying attention to industry trends and news, but otherwise, in-house counsel lawyers aren't really using SM for self-promotion.
State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey 2015 - Quoted several times in this series.
Every Social Media Consultant is Lying to You - "Legal is not a social issue." The author points that there are issues of privacy when it comes to lawyers being on social media, as well as the fact that it is extremely unlikely that people are using social media to find specific lawyers. [P.S. We love these guys. They're smart.]
Why lawyers don’t always need social media - This post states that social media and blogging can often be too general, especially when you're trying to reach out to specific potential clients. Social media could be a waste of time since a more direct approach can yield better results.
Why social media engagement is overrated - While this LinkedIn article is more specifically about social media engagement, it emphasizes that engagement on social media in itself is not a strategy, nor is it an indicator of success. Engagement also requires time and resources that could be used towards an effective strategy, considering that engagement may not always lead to the results that we want.
Fans, Follower, and Connections: Social Media ROI for Law Firms: this is a white paper with some really useful stats and charts
There's still a substantial amount of lawyers (54%, according to this report) that believe social media marketing is all "hype" and isn't very useful for lawyers, even though some statistics show otherwise.
And a few on the Pro side for a little balance
This blog post brings up why lawyers should have a social media presence: clients and potential clients expect lawyers to be on social media, social profiles give clients an opportunity to brag about their lawyers, and social media can build brand awareness.
How Can Lawyers Use Social Media to Their Advantage? Uses for social media: marketing your law practice, helping your firm set goals, networking/building authority, using social media as courtroom evidence
"54% of consumers [e.g., B2C lawyers] say they would be likely to hire an attorney who is active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and SnapChat."