December 2009 Archives

December 22, 2009

Marketing a Law Firm On Facebook

Facebook isn't just for friends anymore.  Increasingly, businesses are using Facebook for marketing, the New York Times reported last month.  And why not?  With 300 million users, Facebook is likely to be home to a substantial portion of a business' prospective and existing customers.  For that reason, Facebook helps businesses find new customers, build online communities to retain and provide perks to existing customers and even to access demographic information. 

Just like businesses, lawyers can also realize marketing benefits through Facebook.  At Inside Facebook, Sara Ines Calderon offers ten tips for ways that lawyers can use Facebook to market a practice.  I'll discuss some of those tips below and throw in a few of my own:

1.  Goals and Target Audience Definition:  Just like there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's more than one way to market a law practice on Facebook.  To figure out which marketing approach (or approaches) are right for you, you need to define your goals and identify your target audience.  For example, if you market to consumer clients, you may want to attract them with direct ads or try to educate them with articles or links to blog posts on relevant topics.  As discussed below, creating a Fan Page would support these goals.  By contrast, if you're trying to attract more conservative corporate clients who don't spend much time on Facebook, direct advertisements wouldn't have much value.  However, you might locate these clients indirectly through referrals from colleagues whom you can get to know personally through a Facebook friends page.

2.  Set Up A Fan Page:    A Fan Page is a Facebook page for a business or corporate entity rather than for an individual.  As a lawyer,  a Fan Page is important because it provides a way that you can interact with clients without allowing them to become privy to personal information and photos that you might share with close friends.   You can use a Fan page for a variety of purposes - to respond to questions about legal matters (in a general way, of course, to avoid any perception that you're giving legal advice), to share links to recent blog posts or to engage "fans" of the site in conversation.  You can also use a Fan page to issue invitations to events or to make special offers available - for example,  free consultations or a discount on certain legal services.

3. Direct Advertising:  With so many users on Facebook, advertisements can potentially attract a large audience.  Moreover, you can very specifically target ads to various demographics, including, country, state and city, gender, age and workplace.  There's more information on Facebook ads available here.

4.  Building Relationships:   Personal referrals are the primary source of business for most lawyers.  And most people prefer to make referrals to lawyers whom they know on  a personal basis.  Facebook offers a way to get better acquainted with colleagues and build a relationship that goes beyond the office or the bar meeting room.  In addition, when you interact with colleagues more frequently, you'll be at the top of their mind if they're asked to refer a matter.

Have you thought about using Facebook to market your practice?  How are you using it? 
December 10, 2009

Update on Email and Newsletter Marketing

Eight months ago, I described the benefits of email and newsletter marketing here.  And even though since that time, the the benefits of social media for SEO have become more widely recognized, marketing via newsletters still remain a powerful tool.  For starters, bear in mind that many of your prospects may not participate in social media, so sending an email newsletter enables you to target a population that you might otherwise miss on social media alone.  As for existing clients, newsletters help you stay in touch long after the attorney-client relationship ends, thus laying the foundation for future referrals or other work.  The Law Gazette offers a couple of examples of how firms in the UK are using newsletters for everything from promoting seminars to simply keeping clients up to date on news.

Newsletters also carry SEO value, as discussed here.  The newsletter can drive readers to a law firm website, thus increasing traffic and online visibility.  And, you can repurpose that newsletter content too.  Many law firms upload newsletters to article archiving sites which can further bolster online visibility.

So if you're thinking about starting an email newsletter or improving the one you have, check out Small Business Trends which provides 30 email marketing applications, ranging from free to fee. 

December 7, 2009

A Portfolio Approach to Social Media

Social media can be overwhelming, with so many different platforms available.  Truth is, when you examine social media more closely, the platforms mirror many of the advertising and marketing tools traditionally available to lawyers - and those tools never intimidated lawyers.  Moreover, by assigning social media to categories relating to the function that the platform performs, it's much easier to sort through the tools and choose.

That's what I've done with the chart below: organized social media platforms into functional categories, given a brief description and the "old school" analogy.  All you need to do is pick a tool from at least two different categories, preferably more, and start moving forward with a social media strategy for 2010. (click on the chart for a better view)


December 3, 2009

Blog Early and Often

My blogging mantra has always been:

blog early and often.

Most commonly, it's the "often" component of this equation that generates the most discussion and debate.  For example, a recent Portfolio story on lawyer blogs pointed out that:

[...] many are finding that feeding the blog beast with fresh content is a legal challenge unto itself. Lawyers and blog specialists say the best legal blogs generate at least several posts per week.

While it's important to blog often, particularly when getting a blog off the ground, timing is equally, if not more important than frequency.  In other words, you don't need to blog often so much as you need to blog early.

First to press:  One component of blogging early involves reacting quickly to a big news story, getting a post up on breaking news or a recently issued decision before other bloggers come on the scene.  When you post about a new development early, you make your blog indispensable to readers; a go to source of up to date information.  In addition, an early post on a topic ensures that other bloggers or media sources will link to or comment on your blog, therefore giving you more exposure.  A couple of rules about posting early, however. 

First, if there's a hot news story or just-issued judicial decision, don't just throw out a link with a single line like "read this!" or "breaking news!"  To make your post valuable, you must offer some original insight or prediction, even if it's based on a quick first impression.  You can always update the post or write a follow up as events emerge.  Second, you don't need to be first to press with every single news item, or you run the risk of converting your blog into a news feed rather than a source of analysis and conversation.  If you enjoy providing rapid feed on new developments, share your blurbs on Twitter, which offers a  better platform for short form writing than a blog.

Early in the morning:   When I say that you should blog early, I also mean it literally, as in early in the morning.   Many heavy blog readers like newspaper reporters (who can give you more exposure) or other lawyers (who can generate referrals) tend to scroll through their news feeders first thing in the morning in search of fodder for their own blog posts and stories.  If you can get your posts up early in the morning, they're more likely to be read when fresh.  By contrast, if you post on a time-sensitive topic later in the day, by the time your post comes up on an aggregator, it may be yesterday's news.

Early in the week:  Posting early in the week is important for two reasons.  First, (and though the evidence is hardly scientific), based on my experience at several different blogs, readership is generally highest on Mondays or Tuesdays.  A  survey of various design blogs reached a similar conclusion, though Thursdays were a close second.  Tuesday is also the most popular activity day for Twitter, which can also be a source of traffic to your blog if you tweet links to your posts.   Statistics aside, there's a second reason to post early in the week: it will allow more time for conversation to brew throughout the week which will also generate more traffic.

Early adapter:  Finally, if you're just starting a blog, you gain a tremendous advantage if you can establish yourself as first to market on a particular topic.  Indeed, many of the earliest blogs, like Howard Bashman's appellate law blog,  How Appealing continue to dominate not just because of quality but also a strong first mover advantage that helps keep competitors at bay.  Even though blogging is more common than five years ago, there's still plenty of room for lawyers to establish a blog on a  topic that's not yet been covered and benefit from a first mover advantage from that  particular niche.

In short, I can't emphasize this point often enough:  blog early!

Here is another post on this topic (from last year) from Blog for Profit.