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.

 

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 11/26/2010

A very abbreviated Thanksgiving weekend edition of “My Picks.” This week I was intrigued and encouraged by individuals and organizations taking action about what they dislike about the current state of social media. In one case publicly scaling back, and in another, launching an alternative vision.

Ari Herzog’s “Why I Deleted My Foursquare Account” generated a 550 percent one-day spike in his blog traffic. Earlier this month A year ago he posted an account of his decision to drop half of his Facebook friends.

A ragtag group of young developers radicalized by Facebook’s seeming disregard for end-user privacy and control over their own content launched Diaspora. Funded through Kickstarter by $200,000 in donations from nearly 6,500 backers contributing as little as $5, the quixotic enterprise seeks to — if not upend — at least foster a credible crowdsourced open source alternative to Facebook.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how people can share in a private way, and still do all the things people love to do on social networks. We hope you’ll find it fun to use and a great way to keep in touch with all the people in your life.

“You decide what you’d like to share, and with whom. You retain full ownership of all your information, including friend lists, messages, photos, and profile details.

“Diaspora lets you create ‘aspects,’ which are personal lists that let you group people according to the roles they play in your life. We think that aspects are a simple, straightforward, lightweight way to make it really clear who is receiving your posts and who you are receiving posts from. It isn’t perfect, but the best way to improve is to get it into your hands and listen closely to your response.”

Think it can’t happen? Consider that the open source movement begat Linux, which begat Android. That took a while, but it demonstrates that a community of techno-geeks passionate about an ideal can be formidable competitors.

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 10/29/10

As any of my profiles (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) will tell you, at my personal and professional core I am a storyteller. As such, I look for ideas and inspiration in a lot of places. This week I found it in Judith Newman’s New York Times account of her experience with a juice-based “cleanse” diet. Informative and hilarious, it struck me as a metaphor for legal social media marketing:

  1. A simple premise for achieving important, difficult objectives.
  2. Low barriers to entry.
  3. Celebrity adherents and preternaturally cheery partisans (who also happen to sell the simple stuff required).
  4. Options to spend as much or as little as you choose, uncorrelated with probability of success.
  5. More effort, discomfort and discomfiture than anticipated.
  6. Combines sound, verifiable claims with outlandish, wishful ones.

Music business and technology blog Hypebot discussed the findings of a new report that found a brand’s Twitter followers were twice as likely as Facebookers who “liked” them to say they might make a purchase. In other words, you might have fewer Twitter followers than Facebook friends, but your tweeps could be more valuable.

Finally, today while researching a future post on the anatomy of successful niche practices — in this case, biking law — I came across an item about a 4-year-old-girl being sued for negligence in the death of an 87-year-old woman the child ran into with a bike. Several questions came to mind:

  1. Is there any way to sue a child without appearing despicable?
  2. How does one find a firm that will take such a suit?
  3. What do such cases do for the  personal/professional brand of the plaintiff attorney/firm?

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 10/22/10

It’s hard to pinpoint the tipping point between awareness and trust. My sense, though, is that 1:1 connections accelerate the process. As I’ve blogged in the past,  lawyers were the original kings (and queens) of networking and referrals — what we today call word-of-mouth marketing. It’s in your professional DNA — cultivating connections through clubs, civic organizations, alumni groups, local/state/national bar associations. So moving those practices and skills into online communities and networking sites is not much of a stretch.

A short meditation by Chris Fritsch on the power of referrals (“the gift that keeps on giving”) reminded me of a recent tweet by Texas appellate lawyer D. Todd Smith, who noted that he had just referred a case to a Twitter connection in another state who referred one to him earlier this year.

As I’ve discussed before, Facebook is problematic for professional firms on several fronts, and a Wall Street Journal article this week noted that small business-to-business marketers are finding the path to Facebook fandom slower and more challenging than it is for their consumer-oriented counterparts.

However, that same WSJ article noted that many professionals prefer LinkedIn to Facebook, because the former was purpose-built for professional networking. To me it’s a no-brainer. It’s a one-stop search shop, identifying potential connections based on schools, jobs and organizations listed in you online profile. Once connected, you can cultivate those connections through automated updates and group conversations.

If you’re having troubled figuring out how to make LinkedIn networking pay dividends for you, Neal Schaffer of Windmills Marketing takes on “5 Common LinkedIn Fallacies and Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them” on Social Media Today.

Back to Basics 2.0: Online Networking Brings Law Firm Marketing Back to Its Roots

Lawyers were the original kings (and queens) of networking and referrals — what we today call word-of-mouth marketing. It’s in your professional DNA — cultivating connections through clubs, civic organizations, alumni groups, local/state/national bar associations. Those membership organizations knew that their fortunes relied on their talent for enabling professionals to connect and network. That’s why so much of the innovation in law firm social media is being driven by entrepreneurs who are re-creating that model online.

Lawyers are still not entirely sold on the cost/benefits of blogging, Facebook is problematic on several fronts, and Twitter — well, that’s still a bridge too far for most. But LinkedIn? That’s a no-brainer. It’s a one-stop search shop, identifying potential connections based on schools, jobs and organizations listed in you online profile. Once connected, you can cultivate those connections through automated updates and group conversations.

Avvo and Justia help individuals connect with lawyers and legal information — the love child of classified ads and self-help books, on steroids.

Membership directories are traditional, familiar and intuitive — and even easier to use and more valuable now because of advanced search functionality. That’s why we can expect to see law schools, alumni associations and bar associations coming on strong with networking, educational and referral tools.

Oh, THAT Box…

Blogging and online networking are by far the current “out of the box” darlings of legal marketing, but the discipline remains inside an even bigger box. It’s an ongoing puzzle to me why lawyers look almost exclusively to other lawyers for marketing insights, ideas and inspiration. Survey leading marketers in consumer packaged goods, manufacturing — even other professional services — and you will find that in addition to competitors and leaders in adjacent markets, they look to other industries and geographies for best practices, then innovate for their own products, services and customer/client segments.

My sense is that some of it is rooted in a sense of exceptionalism — i.e. “Lawyers are different, we do things our own way.” Yes, like every other law firm. Everyone uses the same blogging platform, everyone belongs to the same LinkedIn groups, everyone angles for speaking spots at bar association meetings…you get my drift.

If you want to really stand out and break through, then borrow a page from the Apple playbook and “Think different.”

A couple of examples:

  • Like the legal profession, advertising by financial services providers is highly regulated and scrutinized. If you’re struggling with how to make a splash with a Facebook campaign while staying in bounds with bar association rules, check out Genworth Celebrates and Genworth Celebrates Parents for inspiration.
  • The Social Media Business Council’s Business Blogging Blog is an invaluable conduit for case studies and online content with great ideas applicable in law firm marketing from companies like Pfizer, GE and Nokia.

What companies and organizations outside the legal profession inform and inspire your marketing?

Blogs on the Back Burner

There’s a very interesting article this week on the Wisconsin Law Journal site exploring why some longtime legal bloggers are posting less frequently — sometimes going weeks or months between posts.

Are they lazy? Lousy? Quitters? Or worst of all, apostates?

To me they seem like smart marketers attuned with the best channels for their time and financial resources.

There are several very sound reasons to cut back or otherwise shift gears on your blogging output:

  • The blog has plateaued or hit a point of diminishing returns for business development purposes.
  • Business development objectives have been met and can be leveraged through other means/platforms with less effort.
  • Subscriptions, pageview stats and other performance metrics can be sustained with fewer posts.
  • The blogger has more than one blog to maintain.
  • It’s not performing optimally and needs retooling/reconcepting.
  • It’s become a vampire, draining precious time and money.
  • Other social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook groups) are more productive/interesting/engaging.
  • It’s not fun anymore.

The net takeaway here is that the tapering off of post output by people who’ve been at it a long time, some with notable success, does not mean that blogging as a business development tactic is in trouble or that the bloggers themselves have lost their mojo. By design or default, their social media habits/mix have evolved.

And that’s…OK 🙂

The “One Fruitcake” Theory of Social Media Marketing Blog Posts

Even accomplished chefs are always on the lookout for new and exciting dishes. New techniques and novel applications of classics. Interesting ingredients and unexpected combinations. All in the service of surprising and delighting customers, and advancing the profession.


Sadly, social marketing bloggers seem content to warm up the same basic dish over and over again, just seasoned and garnished a bit differently.

It is said that Johnny Carson first posited that there is actually only one fruitcake in the world; it’s just passed around a lot. You see where I’m going with this…

The basic recipe for a blog post on how to be successful in social marketing:

Ingredients

  1. Generalized invocation of social marketing’s importance
  2. Quote by social media and/or marketing “guru” (preferably Chris Brogan or Seth Godin)
  3. Statistics on blog readership and the number of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn subscribers
  4. Authenticity bullet point
  5. Listening bullet point
  6. “Join the conversation” bullet point
  7. “Content is King” bullet point
  8. Thought leadership bullet point
  9. SEO bullet point
  10. ROI bullet point
  11. Reference to parties who “get it” (i.e. enlightened heroes) and/or “don’t get it” (i.e. willfully ignorant objects of pity and derision who need your help and mentorship)
  12. Warning about the perils of not embracing social marketing
  13. Local seasoning (e.g. reference to the intended audience’s specific challenges/opportunities)

Cooking instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients
  2. Whip into a froth
  3. Serve — over and over again.

Come on “Top Social Media Chef” wannabes, here’s a “quickfire” challenge for you: Reinterpret this bland staple of social marketing blog posts and make a signature dish.

Curb Your Appetite: Social Media Will Devour Your Time Only if You Let It

To paraphrase Mame from the eponymous musical, “Social media is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” But with a bounty of social networking and media platforms that we can feast on for law firm marketing, we also need to keep our appetites in check. Lawyers already have a lot on their plate, so how do we keep from overloading with social media?

As with any buffet, survey the whole spread before you start filling your plate, pace yourself and don’t fill up on bread.

Randall Ryder on Lawyerist.com observed that the siren’s song of social media and e-mail will disrupt your workflow unless you make behavioral changes to close yourself off to the chatter, or organize your schedule to harmonize your existing work habits. And I noticed that Lawyer coach Debra Bruce, a keen observer of technology’s role in productivity and effectiveness, recently provided time management tips to the Law Practice Management Section of the Houston Bar Association

Extending my dietary metaphor, following are some simple tips for managing your social media diet:

  • Portion control: Consciously budget and monitor the total amount of time you spend on social networking/marketing. Assign an amount of time and time of day to each activity — blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook — based on inherent requirements (e.g. drafting blog posts needs larger blocks of time than tweeting).
  • Cut out empty calories: Don’t waste time trying to bulk up on Twitter followers quickly.
  • Limit snacks: Foursquare , Gowalla and Farmville are “sometime foods.”
  • Find a support group: Tap into your network to learn about best practices from friends and colleagues. The LegalBlogging Group on LinkedIn is active and interesting.
  • Boost your metabolism: Scheduling tools like SocialOomph can increase your social media productivity.