Social Media ROI Measurement for Law Firms, Part 1: A Starter Kit

The term “ROI”  is one of those acronyms marketers liberally use without reference to the source phrase — Return on Investment — because the underlying assumption is that anyone serious about business already knows what the abbreviation stands for. What it actually means, though, is like a Rorschach inkblot test — an ambiguous concept interpreted differently by different people based on their individual experiences, needs and mental framework.

The definition of ROI has been a trending topic in legal marketing blogs lately, with posts ranging from the insightful, to the sentimental, to the slapdash and gimmicky. What they all have in common is a recognition of the inchoate demand for more rigorous and productive tracking, measurement and analysis of law firm marketing programs, particularly social media participation.

To get this multi-post survey of ROI measurement for law firms rolling, it’s useful to start with a general framework for performance tracking and analytics.

Corey Eridon provides an excellent social media ROI measurement primer in a recent HubSpot post:

1.) Start to measure social media networks together and separately. Every social media network has its own set of strengths. For example, you may find that Twitter drives the most site traffic, Facebook generates the most leads, and LinkedIn generates less but more qualified leads. Yes, you should absolutely analyze your social media strategy as an aggregate of all social media networks so you can compare it to other campaigns, but then be prepared to break it down network by network. This will let you determine which networks are best helping you meet specific sales and marketing goals…and which aren’t making the cut.

2.) Track visit-to-lead conversion. Social media helps drive traffic to your site, but traffic doesn’t bring home the bacon. Track (network by network, and as an aggregate) how many of those visitors convert into leads. Knowing exactly how much of a role social media plays in lead generation will help you meet your monthly lead goal by giving you the historical data to set an educated goal based on how much social media brings in, and what that rate of growth looks like month over month.

3.) Track lead-to-customer conversion. The next logical step, right? Now that you know how many leads you get from each social media network and social media as a whole, make use of closed-loop analytics to see how many leads turned into customers. This insight will help you implement a mature lead scoring system so your sales team can focus time on the leads most likely to close. When you use closed-loop marketing on social media leads, you can also learn metrics like how much social media customers cost to acquire, and how much they spend with you compared to leads from other campaigns.

4.) Score leads and monitor the sales cycle. Score social media leads and monitor how much time it takes a social media lead to make it through the sales cycle. Not only does scoring leads help your sales team prioritize its time, but this insight will also help inform your lead nurturing program so you can shorten the sales cycle for social media leads. It also helps you understand how valuable a social media lead is, and where it ranks compared to leads from other campaigns.

5.) Watch site behaviors from your social media traffic. Understanding how to properly nurture social media leads will depend heavily on this step. By understanding where social media leads enter, leave, and spend their time on your site, you can see what type of content addresses their specific needs. So before entering them into a lead nurturing queue meant for, say, people in the middle of their buying cycle, you can provide content that addresses their specific problems.

Future posts in this series will cover topics including:

  • Matching the right metrics to you firm’s business objectives
  • Dead-end metrics
  • Measuring the unmeasurable
  • Tracking social media from tactic to revenue
How extensive are your social media ROI measurement processes? Have you had any “Aha!” moments along the way?

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 12.07.11

A digest of social media advice and tips for legal marketing.

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 12.02.11

A digest of social media advice and tips for legal marketing.

 

Google+ for Lawyers: Settle Down, People

I’m sorry, but the messianic fervor accompanying the launch of Google+ is quite out of hand, and it could cause a lot of folks afraid of being left behind in this social media rapture to waste focus, time, opportunity and money.

It’s absolutely too early for anyone but professional marketers and social media junkies to be seriously noodling with Google +, and it’s borderline reckless to advocate early adoption by lawyers in general. Until the platform is officially launched (remember, it’s currently in private beta) and a clear, real world experience-based Google + use case emerges, most lawyers will be far better served by optimizing their current social media and content marketing programs before betting the farm on a promising but still fluid platform.

Let’s consider a couple of inconvenient truths:

  • It’s not “winning” — Just a month after Google mobilized every social media power user they could muster for the Google + launch, traffic is falling off.
  • Buzz is picking up, but not the good kind — Commentary from the technorati is bordering on brutal. Any other social startup would be DOA after being on the receiving end of that type and level of shade.
  • Even the most prominent social media practitioners are advising observation and limited experimentation. Gini Dietrich put it best:

“Pay attention to Google+. Get in there and try out some things (I’ll send you an invite, if you don’t have one). But it’s waaaaaay too early to say what it’s going to do. And it’s certainly too early to be paying experts to tell you how to use it.

Save your money. The time will come (or not) when you need to learn how to use it for business. If you spend a little time in it now, say an hour or two a week, you won’t have to pay anyone to teach you how to use it.

It’s a tool. Just like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogging, and 8Tracks. Wait until it’s been around long enough to understand how it fits a business strategy.”

My addendum to that for lawyers and legal marketers would be to follow insightful and measured user stories from early adopters like Nancy Myrland and Samantha Collier as barometers of if/when it’s the right time to join. And it’s worthwhile noting that being a “fast follower” has a long and illustrious pedigree.

Social Media for Lawyers: Child Labor? Really?

In yesterday’s post about the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, I mentioned one presenter’s narrow and idiosyncratic understanding and use of social media marketing. To be more specific, he characterized social media marketing as so simple and second-nature to digital natives that solo and small firms should hire only high school or college interns — or even family members as young as 14 — to manage their firm’s social media activities.

That’s not much of a surprise, though. He also volunteered that the only reason he got into social media marketing in the first place was because his career coach badgered him into it, and even then he agreed to try it only on the condition that “it had to be free.”

I’m not making this up.

Giving credit where credit is due, that approach — plus a sweet FCPA niche — has served this particular lawyer well. But is it replicable, and can it scale? No.

Recently on the excellent Spin Sucks blog, guest blogger Andrew Hanelly discussed “Five Reasons the Intern Shouldn’t Run Social Media“:

  • Interns don’t live and breathe your brand
  • Interns aren’t forever
  • Interns stick too closely to the script
  • Interns aren’t always aware of the faux pas minefield
  • Interns aren’t compensated well enough for the pressure

I would add one more to that list: If you rely on interns to run your social media marketing, you’ll never be better than an intern at social media marketing. And that’s…OK.

Just remember, you get what you pay for.

My State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

Last week I had the great good fortune to participate in the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, and live blogged on Twitter — hashtag #sbot11 — a goodly amount of interesting comments and insights from the sessions I attended . It was topically diverse, engaging, well-curated and well-run, with a lot of strong, actionable content.

Since my interest is marketing and business development, I spent my day Thursday in a series of sessions called “The Adaptable Lawyer Legal Innovation/Computer and Technology Track,” and Friday in the Law Practice Management track. While it wasn’t billed or consciously framed as such, the content of those sessions aligned with one or more of four basic subject areas:

  • Mobile computing
  • Social media platforms
  • Content marketing
  • Niche marketing

Mobile Computing

The standing-room-only crowd for the “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” session made it clear. From iPads and productivity apps to cloud-based research tools and practice management systems, mobile computing is transforming the way that lawyers work. While the iPad was still something of a novelty for “geeks” at last year’s annual meeting, it has quickly evolved into an essential operational hub. As Tom Mighell pointed out in his fast-paced and useful presentation, the depth and breadth of applications specifically for lawyers has made the iPad the de facto mobile computing platform for lawyers.

Social Media Platforms

Facebook was clearly the shiny object this year, with Twitter and LinkedIn tied for a distant second. Last year’s belle of the ball — blogging — was hardly discussed. That probably sounds snarky, but it derives from disappointment about missed opportunities. The presenters who discussed the various social platforms could have framed them in an integrated context, drilling down further into one or more and offering actionable guidance and specific counsel about how use cases can differ by social platform, firm size and practice area. Instead, the overall impression was “here are all the social media sites you need to join.”

Content Marketing

As mentioned above, legal marketing tends to focus on the channel rather than the product. In other words, the social media platforms themselves rather than a merchandising strategy for content. While no one discussed content marketing directly, several presenters showed an inchoate sense of the “create once, publish everywhere” axiom of social media marketing. A simple example of this would be to write a blog post, tease it on you Twitter and LinkedIn feeds, cross-post it on LinkedIn groups and link to it on Facebook.

I was excited to hear several speakers mention JD Supra, an online content distribution service for legal topics (articles, white papers, presentations) that is woefully underutilized and deserves serious consideration as an organic search/social signal amplifier.

As a practical matter, law firms are likelier to see quicker, more direct results from JD Supra as a content marketing platform than from Facebook — and with  a lot less effort.

Niche Marketing

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there were several good niche marketing case studies, but you had to really dig for them under generic social media palaver. For example, instead of discussing how focusing on a niche expertise — the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act — led to a thriving international business practice, one panelist spent his time extolling his narrow and idiosyncratic understanding and use of social media.

Since the number of solo and small firms chasing after a declining pool of general business and family law opportunities is increasing, next year’s program would benefit from a session with practical instruction on how to leverage specific interests and expertise into unique value propositions that attract clients.

Summary

I’ll give the last word to Kevin O’Keefe, who tweeted, “Is there a better State Bar Annual Meeting than Texas? Great people, presenters, and connections.”

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

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtgWu5ysh-Y&w=480&h=390]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.

The Least One Can Do: LinkedIn for Lawyers

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHrsYZlLqTE&w=640&h=390]

A few weeks ago I was brainstorming with some law firm clients about an upcoming presentation to energize associates about participating in social media, and someone jokingly remarked, “Right now they’re more interested in what’s the LEAST they can do.”

I said, “That’s it!’

There is, in fact, a very easy, basic, minimal activity that absolutely puts you on the social media map: a LinkedIn profile.

Google yourself and your colleagues, and after you quit giggling about “googling,” you’ll notice that LinkedIn and profiles are at or near the top of the page. Since LinkedIn is the current platform of choice for professional networking, no fancy SEO tricks or “thought leadership” blogging is required.

The Minimum

  • Set up your account
  • Complete your profile (your resume or your firm’s website bio will do just fine)
  • Import your current contacts
  • Search for and join obvious affinity groups (undergraduate school, law school,
    bar organizations, volunteer groups, kids’ schools)

Why LinkedIn?

  • So you can be found with a simple Google search
  • Serves as your default professional home page
  • Offers the ability to harness the best features of social media with the least amount of hassle

Easy Activities

  • Search – Find people, companies — even job leads
  • Groups and sub-groups – discussion threads on topics of interest to you (or the people you’re hoping to connect with)
  • Questions and answers – Self-help and thought leadership opportunities
  • Announcements – New jobs/titles/clients
  • Events – Promote your upcoming CLE brown bag
  • Messages – Contact people in your network even if you don’t have their e-mail address
  • Autofeeds from other platforms – Plug-ins import your Twitter and blog feeds right into your profile home page

CYA

  • Check your state bar association’s rules on advertising as it pertains to social media
  • Include a disclaimer on your profile regarding the attorney/client relationship and the provision of legal advice
  • Include a notice that “this LinkedIn profile might be considered attorney advertising,” and make sure all information is true and complete

Bottom Line

  • Once you’ve created an account and entered the basic information, you’re in business. LinkedIn’s own SEO magic ensures that you’ll be found there if someone’s using a search engine to find you.

What’s your experience with LinkedIn been like? What are your favorite tips for beginners?

Social Media’s Reality Distortion Field

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96x_FiQIB6E&w=480&h=390]

With special thanks to Arment Dietrich. A version of this post appeared on the Spin Sucks blog Feb. 21, 2011.

The discussion thread on last month’s “Why Brogan’s Bigger Ear Marketing Is Wrong” Spin Sucks post got me wondering whether the social media industry operates within a self-generated reality distortion field.

As Gini wrote in that post, Brogan “extols wisdom about using Twitter and Foursquare searches to find people who are in bookstores. When found, he suggests tweeting those people to see if they can find your book in the store. And hence, a conversation is born.”

Brogan framed his experiment as an orthodox social media “listening” exercise, but how was it materially different from unsolicited, cold-call telemarketing – or the virtual version of a department store perfume spritzer? To me it seemed like garden variety marketing without the social. Yet many of the comments were deferential and affirming.

As I thought about it further, I began looking back at some of the foundational manifestos of the social media movement. The dust jacket copy for Joseph Jaffe’s 2007 Join the Conversation declared, “Today, every person sees thousands of advertisements a day – and totally ignores the vast majority of them. Yet, companies still spend billions of dollars each year yelling at customers who don’t want to hear it.”

Replace the word “advertisements” with “social media messages” and you’d have the preface for an updated 2011 edition. Except now Jaffe advises companies to “flip” the traditional sales funnel, effectively converting social media into a megaphone for a small group of influential current customers to yell at potential customers.

Citing startling findings in the new “Social Break-Up” research from ExactTarget and CoTweet, Jay Baer recently observed that “Regardless of platform, receiving too many messages from too many marketers is a very likely cause of subsequent break-ups, throwing dead weight over the side of the social and email ship until it floats again.”

User-generated or big brand-driven, yelling is yelling. Has marketing simply evolved from an impersonal, relentless, ubiquitous loudmouth into a well-intentioned, relentless, ubiquitous loudmouth with better people skills?Consider how fundamental social media doctrines like “conversation,” “community,” “listening” and “engagement” — once so fresh and empowering – are currently practiced:

  • Conversation = Automated feedback requests, and corporate blogs and Facebook pages that read like press releases
  • Community = Affinity groups of deal seekers and sweepstakes enthusiasts
  • Listening = Market research
  • Engagement = Recruiting and rewarding key influencers as brand claques

Reality Check

Thought leaders and practitioners genuinely believe they’re upholding the original underpinnings of social media marketing – human, trust-based, relational. Yet current practice is also forthrightly commercial – operationalized, ROI-driven, transactional. That inherent tension is not the problem, though. Complacency is the real threat: the belief that gimlet-eyed self-interest will not take root with consumers, and they will continue to contribute their insights, recommendations, credibility and loyalty to companies for free.I can imagine a tipping point where customers stop participating in surveys and ratings, and start asking marketers, “If my opinion is truly valuable to you, what’s it worth? And it better be more than a sweepstakes entry.”

That might never happen. But will we be prepared if it does? 

Notable Posts of the Week 2/27/11: No Bad News

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB9nm-Vjv-4&w=480&h=390]

In the same way that real estate agents and home builders vehemently and derisively denied that anything was wrong in the housing marketing  before the recent — and ongoing — collapse, companies in the business of designing, hosting and merchandising blogs will not abide any suggestion that the tastes of social media consumers are changing.

This week the New York Times ran a thought-provoking piece on recent research that shows a drop-off in the popularity of blogging among young people. Instead, a “mixed use” model is emerging where more of the content generation is taking place on”short-form” platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. In other words, early adopters and “digital natives” are figuring out that blogging isn’t a necessary part of online social networking. They can reach and engage with their intended audiences without blogging.

Right on cue, defensive blog floggers like Kevin O’Keefe parried that thrust by belittling and dismissing the predictive value of the demographic that literally built social networking  (“So kids and young people don’t have the attention span and motivation to publish”). However, apparently the article’s most insidious offense is that it might plant the false notion in lawyers’ heads that they can create an effective social media marketing strategy without paying his firm to design and host a blog for them.

“When I first saw the New York Times story yesterday that blogs are waning as the young drift to other social media, I thought here we go again.

Everyone’s going to start talking about blogs being passe now that you can Tweet in 5 seconds and share a quip on Facebook in 20. It’s a story that’s been told multiple times before and one that never proves to have legs.

Nonetheless, lawyers will start buying it and think they can skip over blogging as a means of publishing to enhance their reputations and build relationships and go straight to Twitter and other short form social media.”

And I say “Bravo!” Good for them! In fact, lawyers absolutely can — and in many cases should — skip over blogging if:

  1. They are not resourced to do it well or
  2. There are other platforms with which they’re more comfortable, or where they are more likely to find and engage with current and prospective clients and influencers.

Over on Bazaarblog, writer Tara DeMarco took a similar knee jerk diss approach in her misreading of the Times article, but at least finished with a sound conclusion:

“Blogging may not be the right investment of time and resource for all businesses. And yes, many company blogs fail. But they are absolutely the right medium for the right messages, and businesses will keep on blogging….”