Archives for May 2011

Facebook for Law Firms 4: ELPO Law Shares Lessons Learned

A few weeks ago I wrote a very popular (for this site) post on what I thought ELPO Law was doing right with its Facebook business page — it even garnered a mention on the Lawyerist blog. As frequently happens in social media, the curator of that site, Robyn Davis Sekula, sent me a friendly acknowledgement on Twitter, and in the course of our correspondence she generously agreed to share some of the firm’s Facebook strategies and experiences in a guest post.

You can build it – but they won’t necessarily come.

A great Facebook page is nothing at all like a baseball stadium. But if you’re going to do Facebook, do it right, so when clients, friends of the firm and your own attorneys do come, they’ve got something that creates a solid impression of your professional expertise.

I’ve learned a lot in creating and curating a Facebook page  for my client, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP, in Bowling Green, Ky. I thought I’d distill down the lessons I learned.

  • Make your page look great. We turned to Communicate & Grow to customize our page with photos of the firm, our logo and information that
    would give people a taste of who we are, but wouldn’t duplicate our website. For a minimal investment, we’ve made our page look just as good as our other marketing materials.
  • Get your own attorneys and staff members interested in the page and interacting with it. This has proven to be more difficult than I imagined it would be. Most of  our attorneys aren’t on Facebook, and honestly, they’re not all that interested in it. But the support staff found us, liked us and interacts with us – meaning their friends and families see their posts and now know more about us. It’s a  good start. Most partners are simply too busy. Don’t push too hard.
  • Find your clients on Facebook. I looked for the banks, hospitals, and other organizations that might have a corporate page and listed them as Favorites on our page. That also gives me a place to pull content. If our clients get an award, I can post about that too and congratulate them, as I did recently for Kindred Healthcare.

  • Look for community groups on Facebook. Our local chamber of commerce, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and lots of non-profits have Facebook pages, and we can interact with them and support them through our own Facebook postings. It builds goodwill, and it reminds people that we’re connected to the community, making us a great choice when they need a lawyer.
  • Post infrequently about your own cases. Every now and then I sneak in a message soliciting business, but I’m much more apt to look for news or information that relates to what we do than anything else. Make most of what you do about passing along good information. One recent example ties to a news story I heard on NPR that morning.

  • Use the Facebook questions feature. I posted a question in April about estate planning, asking if our fans had wills, estate plans, etc. My point was to prompt interaction and also prompt them to remember that we do that type of work. “Deed to a gravesite” was added as an option by someone. I should have turned off the button that allows people to add things to the list. It doesn’t really fit with this very well.

  • Hold a contest. This was the single biggest boost we had to our fans. Another law firm in our city, Crocker Law Offices , held a contest in which they offered to give $1 to charity for each new “like.” It was brilliant, and they’ve gained a ton of fans – they’re up to somewhere around 1,300. We held off for a few months and did the same, and boosted our fans by about 300. As I write this, we’re at 398 fans. Whether or not this brings us any new business, I don’t know, but it’s worth trying. I’ve noticed that Crocker has continued to hold contests, once giving away free tickets to a  high-end pet-related event to the person who posted a photo of their pet with the best pet story on their wall. Their wall was filled with pet stories. The attorneys at my firm say that type of interaction is great for Crocker – it suits the firm and its primary attorneys well. But ELPO’s business is more corporate, and if there are a bunch of pet photos on our Facebook wall, there’s no room to post messages about our expertise. I’d rather see the occasional fan posting/comment and not get into any type of contest such as the pet contest. But I have to give them a lot of props for creativity. And yes, I will concede that maybe I don’t want to do it because I didn’t think of it first!

The biggest thing to remember with Facebook, and all social media, is that a great Facebook page doesn’t replace anything. It’s offered in addition to other types of communication. You’ll reach a different audience through Facebook. After all, did you get rid of your phone when you bought a fax machine?

Also remember it takes time to build a presence on Facebook and a following on Twitter. Keep doing good work, and in time, they WILL come. We’re almost eight months into having a Facebook page, and still hoping to see more followers and more interest.

Writer Robyn Davis Sekula spends her days creating the perfect 140-character Tweet, the best sound bite, the right status update and succinct but savvy blog posts. She now counts among her clients English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley LLP, a law firm in Bowling Green, Ky., and the Asher Agency, a full-service marketing agency in Fort Wayne, Ind. She also works with Ivy Tech Community College Sellersburg on public relations strategies. Robyn’s website is www.robyndavissekula.comand you can find her on Twitter @itsRobynwithay, and on Facebook. Robyn holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. If you want to get her attention, show her a new gadget.

Talk About Your Clients

[Video by William J. Cole via YouTube]

I continue to be impressed with what ELPO Law is doing on Facebook.

Whenever a client (which ELPO is not) frets that they’ll run out of things to post on Twitter or Facebook, my immediate response is always “Talk about your clients. Celebrate their accomplishments.”

Today, the ELPO Facebook page features a message about Kindred Healthcare, which links to Kindred’s Facebook page:

“Our congratulations to Kindred Healthcare, our client, for this outstanding honor in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Well-earned for their continued compassion and care for their patients and their families.”

On May 17, ELPO gave a Facebook shout out to Kindred and two other clients honored by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce:

“Three of our clients were named Best Places to Work in Kentucky recently by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management. Congratulations to Kindred Healthcare, Independence Bank and the Simpson County Schools Board of Education.”

What ELPO is doing right:

  • While far too many law firms are still chasing the blog bandwagon, broadcasting “thought leadership” into the echo chamber, ELPO is engaging directly with current and potential clients on a personal level, and on a networking platform optimized for that kind of sharing.
  • By default or design, this strategy aligns with a cornerstone axiom of business development: Your current clients are your best clients. In-selling to current clients generates more revenue and costs less than trying to win new ones.  Further, that deeper level of connectedness with clients generates referrals and positive word of mouth for attracting new prospects.

If you’re serious about learning how to make Facebook work for your firm, watch pages like ELPO Law.

The Say:Do Ratio in Legal Marketing

During my tenure with GE I had the great good fortune to work with the legendary Lloyd Trotter, the former corporate vice chairman, president and chief executive officer of GE Industrial Systems, and driving force behind GE’s operational prowess. One of the most enduring lessons I learned from Lloyd and his executive team was a simple performance metric: the “say:do” ratio, a measurement of commitments met.

Attorneys cannot guarantee a specific outcome, but they can commit to attaining high levels of client service.  Particularly for small and solo practices, a reputation for a strong say:do ratio in client engagement can be a powerful differentiator, helping firms win new clients, retain existing ones and support higher billing rates.

A few simple “starter” actions:

  • Make reasonable commitments on the timing of deliverables so you can always meet them.
  • Return messages promptly, even if you don’t have an answer. Respond, if for no other reason, to acknowledge receipt of the original message and communicate when you’ll have the requested information.
  • Don’t be late for meetings. Clients are paying for your time, be respectful of theirs.

What’s your “secret sauce” for maintaining a strong “say:do” ratio?

I’m Not a Lawyer, But I Play One on the Web

There’s a lot of discussion and debate in legal marketing circles about how well state bar disciplinary rules address Web-based advertising and social media. Admittedly, new media and their accompanying usage models require new lawyer advertising rules and the evolution of existing ones. But what about relatively straightforward and seemingly settled standards like the prohibition on actors portraying attorneys? Do current rules apply to online informational videos? Is such content considered commentary or advertising? Should it be disclosed if the speaker is not an attorney?

Today I came across the website for a company called LawInfo, which offers law firms area code-based sponsorship opportunities for Web-based video content on legal topics.

One Los Angeles-based LawInfo client uses some of these third-party videos to describe the firm’s practice areas, and offers others as “informational videos.” Do the lawyer-looking narrators work for the firm? Are they even attorneys? If they’re not, should that be disclosed? Does that matter in California?

Given that advertising rules are changing, and vary state by state, it seems like this type of content marketing needs to be approached carefully and advisedly.

So, gentle readers, I need your help. Has anyone checked whether, in what state(s), and under what conditions generic third-party video on legal topics has been cleared by your state bar for use on law firm websites?

[On an unrelated topic, what’s up with the typo in the caption?]


Bad Advice of the Day

Sometimes you encounter pronouncements on Twitter about legal marketing that are so wrong-headed and misleading that they have to be called out before they do harm. I recently came across a series of tweets among several legal marketers concerning — for lack of a better term — the “dress code” for marketing videos by lawyers. A succession of messages from one participant read:

“Your brand the way you’re perceived. People expect to see a lawyer in a suit. No suit = brand damage.”

“There is no excuse to see lawyer tieless in rumpled shirt in a video.”

“Yes! It’s entirely about perceptions and expectations. You must deliver at every touch-point & attire of [sic] one of them.”

That’s just jaw-droppingly obtuse; ridiculous on its face.

Do doctors in videos have to wear a lab coat or scrubs, and have a stethoscope draped around their neck?

Do British barristers have to wear their wigs and robes to discuss construction law?

Effective professional branding in videos derives more from suitability to the overall purpose than from conformity to stereotypes. Some content lends itself to more formal presentation, where formal attire adds to the overall effect. But a video on family law topics might benefit from a more relaxed but still professional image.

Worry about the content and delivery first, then dress in a way that’s authentically yourself and suitable for your intended audience. That might be a suit and tie, but it doesn’t have to be.

6 Ways Social Media Marketing for Law Firms Is Like Joining a Gym

[youtube]As I’ve chronicled before, there seems to be one basic blog post about how to succeed in social media marketing, and most bloggers are content to warm up the same basic recipe over and over again, repackaged and passed along like the proverbial Christmas fruitcake. So I thought I’d try my hand at a different approach, more attuned to the national mania for diet and fitness fads.

  1. Before you start, decide on your goals. Your fitness goals — weight loss, strength, conditioning, body shaping — determine the exercises, equipment, settings, frequency and effort levels that are best for achieving them. Similarly, your marketing objectives — direct leads, website and blog traffic, Twitter followship, LinkedIn connections, speaking opportunities — determine the best social media platforms, content distribution models and networking tactics to utilize.
  2. Joining a fancy gym doesn’t help if you don’t go. Once the contract is signed, you’ve been shown how to operate the equipment, and the recurring monthly charges kick in, blog hosting companies — like fitness clubs — generally don’t care whether you show up regularly or not. Which leads to my next point…
  3. If you have trouble with motivation, consider hiring a trainer. Neither fitness trainers nor marketing and communications consultants do the work for you. Their value derives from planning your workouts, keeping you engaged and motivated, coaching you on form and technique, tracking your progress, and adjusting your routine for continual improvement.
  4. You generally get better results with high reps (frequent posts) at lower weights (shorter posts). 
  5. Maintain a sensible, balanced routine. It can’t be all blogging or all Twitter. Mix it up; work different social muscles.
  6. If you’re not seeing results or you’re skipping the gym for long periods, quit, and rejoin when you’re motivated to recommit. Odd thing is, we usually don’t. We just let that “low” monthly recurring charge ride because we believe that we’ll get back into the routine soon. And if you do decide to quit — or to set up a home gym (WordPress) — don’t let the membership director (blog host account executive) prey on your low self-esteem, either.