Mar 17, 2010

Part II: Should Lawyers Advertise on Facebook? My Experience

In Part I of this series, I considered whether lawyers should advertise on Facebook?  Though Facebook's traffic numbers recently surpassed Google, making Facebook the most heavily trafficked site on the web, most of the commentary that I found related to Facebook ads suggested that they were rather ineffective.  In addition, I expressed concern that Facebook users, who are interested in socializing and escaping the stresses of daily life, might be put off  by lawyer ads which might come across as an undue intrusion into their personal life.  I concluded that if lawyers wanted to experiment with social media, they might do so by offering a class or an ebook on a lighter topic (e.g., copyrighting a blog rather than personal injury), but not by directing links to a law firm website.  Still, they shouldn't expect great results. [but see the update at the end of this post]

As it happens, I've experimented with Facebook myself for a similar reason:  to promote a program on Hanging a Part Time Shingle with my colleague, Julie Tower Pierce.  In this post, I'll share the my thought process in creating the ad and the results of the campaign.

1.  Background:

The part time shingle program is geared towards lawyers interested in starting a part time law practice.  Julie and I identified three demographics:
  • Lawyers with children who are currently home raising them, thinking about leaving a full time job to spend more time with family or who'd left the work force to raise a family and now seek gradual re-entry.  Though increasingly, it is common for men to work part time, we believed that even in the 21st century, women would continue to dominate this category. 
  • Lawyers interested in starting a firm but who could not afford to leave a "day job" or give up contract work.  While this category encompasses almost any lawyer, we assumed that younger lawyers and new graduates with large loans fit within this group.
  • Lawyers seeking to retire or who have retired but want to keep a foot in the law either for personal interests.
2.  Set Up: Choosing A Demographic

As I described in Part I, Facebook allows users to specify the demographics of their target groups.  After you select a particular demographic, Facebook will tell you how many users fall within that group and will recommend a price per click (CPC).   

Once you've selected a demographic and specified a CPC (and daily or total ad budget), Facebook will determine when to run your ad based on the following guidelines:  

 For any given ad unit, we select the best ad to run based on the ad's bid (CPC or CPM) and ad performance. Your ad's ability to win the auction will change based on its past performance and as the pool of available ads changes.

If you are not receiving as many clicks or impressions as you would like, we recommend increasing your maximum bid. You should also take a look at your ad's targeting to make sure you're reaching the most appropriate audience. Your ad is more likely to run successfully if you're targeting a highly relevant group of users with Facebook's detailed targeting options.

[Source:  Facebook website]

Based on this information, I chose to target users who are college graduates and over the age of 50 (to capture re-entry candidates as well as retired lawyers); college graduates over the age of 28 (to capture those with day jobs) and married female college graduates between the ages of 29 and 33 (to capture mom lawyers home with children).  I restricted the last group to a narrow demographic because the recommended CPC for all women users was more than I wanted to pay.

The results of my ad campaign, which lasted for approximately six days, are shown below, with the results ordered as just described (all college grads over the age of 28, college grads over 50 and women between 29 and 33):
Picture 30.png For the first two categories (28 and older; 50 and older), I used Facebook's recommended CPC.  That wasn't very effective for the 28 and older category, as it resulted in 33,037 impressions.  I had better luck with the 50 and older crowd, where I scored 203,151 impressions by paying the recommended CPC, presumably because the 50 and older demographic on Facebook is smaller and not as frequently targeted by advertisers.  For the 29-33 married female category, I exceeded the recommended CPC by .25 because I knew that I'd be facing still competition.  My decision paid off in that it yielded 148,908 impressions.

Of course, the more important metric than impressions is the click through rate - since that's the first step to converting to a sale.  As predicted, click through rates were not impressive  - just five from the 28 and older group, 58 from the 50 and older and 40 from the women ages 29 to 33.  On the plus side, I didn't pay much for the click throughs - an average of 68 cents.

Did any of those click throughs result in a sale?  The program cost $25, so three sales would have given me a positive ROI.  Unfortunately, I didn't track sales origination closely so I don't have that data.  But my guess, based on the pattern and timing of program registrations, is that all of the registrants learned about the program from list serves, blogs or Twitter rather than through Facebook ads.

My results don't tell the whole story because of other variables.  I ran the Facebook ads just a week before the program which was a live call - so it's possible that those who clicked through and were interested had scheduling conflicts.  In addition, since I'm not a professional marketer, my ads (I used different ones for each group) may have simply been ineffective.

Given the low cost, I might experiment with Facebook again for a similar type of program.  I'd try to narrow my demographic groups further and also provide more lead time before an event.  However, I don't really see Facebook as a valuable promotional tool just yet. 

Finally, I would not use Facebook to market my law practice -- I don't market to consumers and even if I did, I strongly favor educational based marketing over pure advertising. Plus, I think that lawyer ads on Facebook are intrusive.  Nevertheless, if the results of my efforts to market the Part Time Shingle program on Facebook are any indication, I don't think that lawyers who avoid Facebook ads to market their law firms are missing out on much.  At least right now.

Update #1 (3/17/10)  I've received several reactions to my posts.  Two providers who serve attorneys (a legal marketing professional and a CLE company) have used Facebook for ads, with far better success.  The CLE company reported 200,000 hits, 1300 click throughs for $25, while the marketing professional has generated several serious leads through Facebook and  found two clients, for well under $100  $300 per month (correction as of 3/20/2010).  I already pointed out why my campaign may have been less successful - it ran only a week and my ad copy may not have been compelling.  Though my experience was more aligned with those of others (discussed here who have used Facebook ads), apparently there are those who are experiencing success and it's important to portray both sides so that you can make an informed decision.

As for posting lawyer ads on Facebook (rather than an ad for an ebook or webinar), that's a matter of taste.  Personally, I am tired of lawyer ads littering every site that I frequent online. But that's just me -- and if you don't take issue with that approach, then Facebook advertising may be something worth considering.