It’s Time for Legal Marketers to Put Facebook Away

Facebook has had more than enough time and opportunity to make a difference in legal marketing. So where are the compelling case studies of Facebook for law firms? Where are the clear, replicable methods for acquiring new clients and deepening relationships with current ones?

As with any toy, there's a time to put Facebook awayFacebook is a hobby, a time=money-wasting diversion. It’s long past time for legal marketers to take a pragmatic, unsentimental and non-magical thinking look at their Facebook activities and make a tough decision on whether to continue the quixotic pursuit of the unicorn called Facebook marketing success.

And if you haven’t started trying to build your brand on Facebook, don’t. While there’s a lot of money to be made in Facebook for law firms, nearly all of it is by social media strategy consultants and content creators who are more than happy to enable the fantasy.

Reality check

  1. It’s a walled garden – Only people actively looking for you can find you. There is no “long tail” for your delightfully engaging content, no serendipity where prospective clients searching the interwebs happen upon your latest “wow” moment.
  2. For solos, your firm’s fans are already your personal friends – Facebook is great for nurturing real-world social relationships. Your followers already know you’re a lawyer; no need to beat them over the head with it.
  3. The best traffic-building strategy for Facebook is giving things away – Law firms typically don’t offer coupons or traffic in daily deals — and they shouldn’t. Granted, running a contest or a fundraising promotion can lead to “likes” — but who’s found the secret to turning those likes into leads?
  4. You can’t easily personalize communications or follow up with individuals – Asking Facebook fans to “Share Your Email Address” is tantamount to requesting “Let Us Pull a Hair Out of Your Nose.”
I know, I know. Lead generation is not the only marketing objective in Facebook for law firms. The long, elaborate dance can help cultivate goodwill over time. But how many small and solo firms can afford to invest that amount of time for the possibility of slightly elevated good feelings? Playing in the Facebook sandbox is a luxury, not a necessity.

If you have an example of sustained success in Facebook marketing for solo and small law firms, I would highly value learning about it. In fact, I’d welcome the opportunity to share it here.

 

Content Curation for Law Firms: One E-mail a Week Could Transform Your Social Media Training

Before you launched your firm’s social media platforms — blog, LinkedIn, Twitter — you made sure to conduct a training session for the attorneys and staff you’d being relying on to create content and engage in conversations. You might have even brought in an outside speaker to reinforce and expand on your guidance.

A few months later, the early enthusiasm has died off. Authors are struggling with ideas for their next blog post, LinkedIn profiles are complete but networking on the site is dormant, and Twitter just doesn’t make sense to anyone.

So what’s the next step? More training? And how much training will be required going forward?

Maintenance Mode

If reality TV weight loss programs have taught us nothing else, the gains achieved during a period of intensive training can quickly reverse without consistent ongoing support, encouragement and self-help resources. As a hedge against backsliding and “yo-yo” social media participation between training sessions, try a simple content curation technique that reminds, encourages and enables your team: a weekly digest of links to “how to” posts and videos.

  • DIY curation — A robust RSS feed is a curator’s best friend, providing a continual stream of fresh ideas from your favorite content creators. Its downside, of course, is continual vigilance. That RSS mailbox can fill up quickly, and it takes time to sift the wheat from the chaff.
  • Curating the curators — Why add to your workload when plenty of people are already curating the best “how to” tips for you — for free. Just subscribe to a few sites that regularly post lists of links to useful and interesting posts. “Fetching Friday” is a weekly feature on kikolani.com comprised of links to noteworthy posts from around the interwebs on blogging, business, SEO and social media . My own twice-weekly “Endeavor to Be Useful” feature takes a similar approach, but focuses more on law firm marketing. Also worth following is the LexisNexis Best Practices in Lawyer Blogs weekly e-newsletter.
What are your favorite sites for content curation and “how-to” tips?

 

 

 

Content Marketing for Law Firms: More, More, More

Blogging has moved from top billing in social media marketing to an ensemble role. A blog is still an important player in the markting ecosystem, but it now shares the stage with other major and minor players in a much bigger, more robust production called content marketing.

The following BlueGlass Interactive infographic illustrates the variety and range of content types and distribution models. BlueGlass executive Chris Winfield notes, “Instead of just investing in their blog and blogging strategies, [companies are] investing in content people will actually want to share. Even if it’s not directly related to selling something, it’s still branding.”

The top 20 content marketing tactics according to a recent Content Marketing Institute survey:

  1. Articles
  2. Social media
  3. Blogs
  4. eNewsletters
  5. Case studies
  6. In-person events
  7. Videos
  8. White papers
  9. Webinars/webcasts
  10. Microsites
  11. Print magazines
  12. Traditional media
  13. Research reports
  14. Branded content tools
  15. Print newsletter
  16. eBooks
  17. Podcasts
  18. Mobile content
  19. Digital magazines
  20. Virtual conferences
WARNING: This does not mean use ALL of these tactics. Rather, it suggests that your marketing program can benefit from thinking beyond the usual suspects: blog, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Greater depth, breadth, variety, ubiquity and frequency of content will generate more opportunities to be discovered.

 

Social Media for Law Firms: LinkedIn vs. Facebook Smackdown

Both LinkedIn and Facebook have momentum and partisans in legal marketing. As time and experience go on, we’re better able to move from faith to data as the foundation for our respective positions.

If you’re already dubious about Facebook for law firms, Sam Glover’s scorched earth take on Lawyerist offers support. However, the pro-Facebook for law firms faction will find some consolation in an interesting infographic from Bop Design, which is discussed today on SocialMouths.

Consider the arguments, factor in your own experience and let us know where you net out.

 

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 02.02.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

  • 11 tips for a better Facebook ad campaign | SEOptimise
  • 5 Steps To Bootstrapping Your PR Efforts | SEOmoz
  • 5 Essential Qualities of Growing Your Blog Quickly in a Crowded Niche | Kikolani
  • 47 Essential Social Media Tools for Content Marketers | Junta42
  • 5 Ways to Brand Your New YouTube Profile | Social Media Examiner 
  • 15 essential tasks to complete after installing WordPress | WordPress Hosting SEO
  • Keyword Research Mistakes to Avoid – Single Grain

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 01.06.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

The Girl’s Guide to Law School: An Interview with Alison Monahan

After I first encountered Alison Monahan on Twitter and spent time reading her blog, The Girl’s Guide to Law School, I knew immediately I had found a kindred spirit. Balancing gimlet-eyed candor with an encouraging and supportive tone, Alison’s insights and actionable advice are a welcome tonic.

Clearly, other people have had the same experience. Only a few months into her blog, Alison’s distinctive storytelling is already widely sought and shared.

Q: A clear POV is essential to effective blogging. I love your blog’s tagline because it succinctly and clearly communicates what the content is about: “Get In, Get Through, Stay You.” Is law school basically an ordeal to be endured? A survival exercise?

A: I’ll be honest – I enjoyed many parts of law school. I found it intellectually interesting, and I liked that I was gaining insight into things I’d been vaguely aware of, but had never thought much about. Now, when I read a newspaper article about a Supreme Court decision, I understand nuances that I would have completely missed before, and I generally know why the case came out the way it did. That’s pretty cool!

The actual day-to-day experience of law school, however, left a lot to be desired. I’d done a previous graduate degree (in architecture), so I had a point of comparison that a lot of law students don’t have. I knew what it was like to work really hard and learn something that was challenging, but I found law school much, much more unpleasant than I’d expected. Part of it was probably that I went to a fancy school in New York City, and I was coming from California, but I just didn’t think most people were very nice! That, more than anything, made it an ordeal to be endured.

 

Q: In addition to the keen insights and impeccable writing, in my mind what distinguishes your blog is its highly personal nature. In the “About” page of your blog you write: “Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight and lots of research, I understand more about why law school is so unpleasant, particularly for women. I started this website to share what I’ve learned, and I hope you use my knowledge to make your own law school experience more satisfying and less unpleasant.” Is the blog also therapeutic for you?

A: Interesting question! I think I got most of my law school angst out with my actual therapist, who was really fantastic and helped me reframe the challenges of law school as something I could chose, or not chose, to flip out about. She was absolutely life-changing, and I encourage anyone who’s struggling with law school stress, or any other aspect of your life, to take advantage of the student health services at your school. You almost certainly get free therapy sessions, and it’s a great thing to take advantage of. You’ll learn all kinds of useful coping skills, which you’ll be able to employ throughout your life as a lawyer (trust me, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice). Even if it’s scary to call and make that first appointment, you’ll be glad you did.

As for the blog, there are a few posts that were somewhat therapeutic, I suppose. The post I was most reluctant to publish, and held on to for weeks before I put it out there, was about getting a cold offer from a law firm. Some variant of this story happens all the time at law firms, but it’s something no one ever talks about. Ultimately, I published it for a few reasons. One, just to let people know that this does happen, and that it could happen to them, even if they’ve got great credentials, and worked hard, and have always been successful. Two, to show that, if this sort of thing does happen to you, it’s not the end of the world. Your life will go on, your career will go on, and you’re not a total failure just because one particular law firm doesn’t want to hire you. And, finally, I published it because I could. In the end, it was cathartic to realize that I could tell this story, which is customarily shrouded in secrecy, and nothing bad would happen. At that point, the experience lost any power over me. I think I was holding on, at least a little bit, to the idea that this was somehow my fault, and that I should be ashamed of it, but, after publishing the post, I don’t feel that way at all!

 

Q: When you launched the blog in September 2011 there were already several prominent blogs and Twitter chats addressing current and aspiring law students, and legal education is a frequent topic across the legal blawgosphere. What do you see as your unique contributions to that discourse?

A: I try, above all, to be helpful. That sounds simple, but it’s not. There’s a ton of information out there for prospective, and actual, law students, and some of it is very good. But a lot of it misses the mark, in my opinion, because it’s not particularly action oriented.

For example, I read a law school guide, which said something along the lines of “It’s important to make an outline in law school, and there are various ways to do this. Try several and see what works best for you.” This is true, as far as it goes, but it’s not very helpful. If I’m a new law student reading this, I have no idea how to make a law school outline. Telling me there are various options doesn’t help – it just confuses me even more.

What I try to do instead is to get down to the nitty-gritty: Why do you need to make an outline, and what are some ways you might do it? Hopefully, after reading these posts, a new law student would have a clear idea what the goal of outlining is (which might enable them to come up with a unique way of getting to the goal), and they’d have some practical options to try.

 

Q: Judging from site analytics and comments, what topics/individual posts have resonated most strongly with your readers?

A: My most popular post ever was Why Every Law Student Should Be on Twitter, which got picked up by Above the Law. Beyond that (which was kind of a one-off), the most popular content is the posts debunking myths about law school and the legal profession.

 

Q: While some blogs embrace the frustration and bitterness endemic to law school and the legal profession, your content by contrast seems preternaturally calm and pragmatic. Is that your nature, or is it a byproduct of your experience in the crucible?

A: Probably a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. It’s definitely easier to be calm and collected about the law school/law firm experience when you’re not in the middle of it! If you’d caught me during law school exam time, I most definitely would NOT have been calm! More like completely crazy. But I think it’s good for people who are in the middle of these stress-inducing situations to know that it won’t always be like this – they too can come out on the other side and live a nice life, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility at the moment.

 

Q: Your bio on the site is a bit cryptic, with a whiff of mystery: “I’m a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School. I was a member of the Columbia Law Review, I clerked for a federal judge, and I did a stint in BigLaw. In short, I did what lots of people think they want to do when they apply to law school. Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Be careful what you wish for.” Are you still a practicing attorney?

A: Right now I’m only doing pro bono work. A couple of times since I left BigLaw, I’ve explored starting a small practice with friends. For various reasons, the stars haven’t aligned yet on that, but it’s a possibility going forward. I don’t think I’d work for another firm, since I have a more entrepreneurial mindset, but I’m not completely opposed to practicing law again at some point in the future. My California bar membership is active, but I’ve officially “retired” in Massachusetts.

 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your legal blogging journey so far?

A: This sounds like a cliché, but it’s the people I’ve met. Lawyers get a bad rap, but many of them are interesting, intelligent people who want to make a difference in the world. Having a legal blog is a great way to reach out to people, since I can ask them to share their experiences and advice. Most people are happy to help, and have really useful info to share with aspiring lawyers.

 

Q: Can you share any “ah ha” moments – good or bad?

A: Sure, I had two very early on, in the first week or so after I launched The Girl’s Guide. In all honesty, I didn’t expect anyone to find or read the site for awhile. I’d told all of my friends about it, of course, and I reached out to some old law school professors (shamelessly, I admit), but the idea that a random person on the internet might find it, and read it, seemed a bit farfetched.

So, I launched it and went on about my life. Within a few days, one of my posts on scheduling clerkship interviews was a top Google result, and someone had found me on Twitter and asked me to guest post regularly on their site. I was shocked, on both accounts.

The “ah ha” moment was twofold. One, search engine optimization and social media really work and can help you spread ideas very efficiently. Two, people might actually want to read this stuff!

 

Q: How’s Twitter working out for you? Do you actively participate on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn discussion groups)?

A: Twitter’s the best! I was reluctant to join (and only did so because my web designer added a “Follow me on Twitter” button to the site), but it’s turned out to be awesome. I love how there’s such a community vibe to the whole thing, where everyone’s trying to post useful content that other people will appreciate. And it’s amazing how easily people can connect. I’ve got a bunch of “Twitter friends” now, that I’d never have met otherwise.

I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I think those have their place, even if they’re less active (at least for me). LinkedIn groups for law students and such are useful, because you can spread content and build a reputation as someone who knows what they’re talking about and is trying to help. My own LinkedIn group is pretty small, and I generally forget to update it. Facebook’s getting more active as I make more connections, but Twitter’s the clear winner for me!

 

Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Actually, yes, there are a couple of exciting things I’m working on. I’d like to start doing some podcasts, so I’m talking with Ann Levine about possible topics for her Blog Talk Radio show. I’m also working with Lee Faller Burgess, of Amicus Tutoring, on a course to demystify the law school experience, which we hope will be really helpful, and make law school less of an ordeal. Stay tuned!

 

Q: What do you say to prospective law students who ask “Is it worth it?”

A: I guess I’d ask what they mean by that. My question in return would be, “What do you want to get out of it?” If a prospective law student can answer that question with a decent level of detail, then we can start evaluating whether law school can meet their expectations.

I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

Don’t let this be you! Make sure you know what you’re getting into, before you commit to a legal career. Only later will you know if it was worth it.

Thanks a lot for having me on Shatterbox!

 

Alison Monahan started The Girl’s Guide to Law School to help aspiring lawyers have a better law school experience. She’s a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review. After graduation, she clerked for a (totally awesome) federal judge for a year, then worked as a patent litigator in a San Francisco BigLaw firm.

If you’d like, feel free to follow The Girl’s Guide to Law School on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS, join our Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or sign up for our highly-coveted weekly newsletter.  

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 12.28.11

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

 

News from the LexisNexis Social Media Survey That Didn’t Make Headlines

The recent LexisNexis/Vizibility survey of social media for law firms deservedly generated a lot of headlines, buzz and discussion in the blawgosphere. While many legal bloggers identified a pending deluge of new legal blogs as the key takeaway, some of the most interesting information in the study has been overlooked.

Worth Considering More Closely

  • Video – Despite being an even more nettlesome and expensive enterprise than blogging, nearly half of respondents indicated they plan to incorporate video into their marketing mix — a percentage more or less consistent across firms of all sizes.
  • QR Codes – To be honest, I don’t think Vizibility was a good partner for this survey because QR is a mobile technology for accessing online content through physical media. Despite Vizibility’s pitch, QR is not a social media networking or marketing platform. But the bigger issue is that even if you consider mobile applications to be social media marketing, there is no compelling data to indicate QR technology has staying power, let alone growth potential. The infographic distributed with the survey results announcement misleadingly correlates QR code growth with smartphone market growth, when its future is more directly tied to advertiser choices. While QR code-based gaming and discounting applications were popular with consumer product marketers over the past year, smartphone users themselves have not enthusiastically embraced their use, and the future of QR is uncertain.  Notwithstanding, the survey suggests that 80 percent of law firms will have QR codes in their marketing mix by the end of 2012, predominantly for mobile access to online marketing materials and business card data. So are legal marketers riding the tail end of a gimmick?

Notable for Their Absence

  • Budget and Resourcing Plans – A single five-minute branding video can cost as much or more than the out-of-pocket expenses for an entire year of blogging. Even low-budget productions can cost several thousand dollars apiece. Combined with aggressive movement into blogging and social networking engagement, does that mean marketing budgets will be increasing, or will it be funded through cuts to other marketing tactics? Which ones? Will there be new marketing hires, or a greater reliance on outside contractors?
  • Non-Blog Content Marketing – Content distribution and SEO optimization platforms like JD Supra and SlideShare are bona fide forces in content marketing for law firms. However, the survey did not mention them by name, nor include content marketing as a category.

Worthy of Its Own Category

  • The infographics accompanying the survey results press release literally and figuratively animated the narrative, and elevated the overall impact of the announcement. It would be great to see adoption and utilization of infographics in law firm marketing explored in a future survey.

What did you think of the survey results? Anything surprising? What kinds of questions would you have asked?

Social Media for Law Firms: Maybe the Geezers “Get It” Better Than the Magpies

Apparently Wall Street Journal legal affairs writer Jennifer Smith was in a hurry to start her Christmas vacation last week when she slapped together a couple of headlines from other publications and called it a legal marketing trend for 2012. The thesis for the post was based on the comments of a professional speaker who derives his livelihood from pushing social media for law firms, and that big trend for 2012 is — wait for it — social media.

The link-baiting headline  for Smith’s story tellingly framed the issue in terms of trending topics, not the soundness of the underlying premise: “2012: The Year Law Firms Ditch Geezer Image And Get Tweeting.”

The case for law firms and individual lawyers to engage in social media is compelling — but so is the case against it. So instead of representing some sort of woolly-headed risk aversion, the decision not to push foursquare into social media — particularly the briar patch called blogging — is just as likely to be a well-considered strategic decision based on a clear understanding of the firm’s capabilities, and of client needs, behaviors and expectations.

As with most endeavors, you’re usually better off not following a course of action that you don’t fully support than you are proceeding without conviction. In the age of social media ubiquity, untended and orphaned blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are more detrimental to your brand and marketing efforts than having none at all.

In a recent Social Media Today post headlined “Not Tweeting, and Not Feeling Guilty About It,” Liz Wainger noted:

“If enterprises don’t have the resources (time and energy) to engage on social media, or are unwilling to fully embrace social media, it is better to use other means to communicate until you do.  And for goodness sake, stop feeling guilty about it, and think positively about the ways you are engaging your stakeholders.”

So what are some telltale signs that shouldn’t (or aren’t ready to) launch or expand your social media activities — or that you should consider quitting:

  • Lack of an intuitive personal connection to the potential of social media – If you’re not “feeling it” even a little bit at the outset, you’re highly unlikely to work hard enough at it or be patient enough to give it a fighting chance of success. It’s not an acquired taste.
  • Lack of an intuitive connection to the potential of social media by your employees and peers – If you can’t accomplish what you need to without the participation of colleagues, you should not proceed if you have reservations about their buy-in and level of participation. You know that you’re in trouble when you’re told “All they need is some training.”
  • A pattern of starting and stopping – If it dawns on you that you’re going days at a time between tweets and weeks at a time between blog posts, it’s time to either recommit or cut your losses and shut it down.

It’s OK, really. Trust your gut and take on social media when it feels right. It’ll still be there.