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October 29, 2010

Round Up Post: Social Media

OK, it's time for another legal marketing round-up, where I update earlier posts with new information and developments.  First up, on the social media front, I came across a great case study at Marketing Profs describing how Florida-based law firm Roberts & Durkee used social media to spread the word about the problems with Chinese drywall. First, the firm quickly got out in front with minimal investment by purchasing a unique URL, chinesedrywallproblem.com. Next, the firm created a blog that provided a constant source of updates on new developments and cases. In turn, the site helped attract media and as traffic increased, so too did the site's SEO. Finally, the firm reinforced its presence by using Twitter and Facebook to disseminate links to the blog. End result? The firm now attracts half of its leads on Chinese drywall from its website and blog. It's a strategy that any firm can replicate.

If the experience of Roberts & Durkee has inspired you to move forward with social media, Top Rank Blog has a comprehensive checklist that will guide you through the process. These include:

Definine your objectives. What do you want to achieve with your social media plan? Is your goal to establish presence in a niche and attract clients like Roberts & Durkee? To improve service to existing clients? Your objectives will inform your social media strategy.

Understand your target audience. Do you want to reach consumers? Lawyer colleagues? Business CEOs? Your target audience will also determine which platforms you choose.

Set up the strategy. Roberts & Durkee had a defined strategy - the URL, the blog, the media and reinforcement through Twitter and Facebook. That's a formula that can work pretty well for any social media campaign, but there are dozens of other iterations as well. Take some time to plot a course that will work for your firm.

Define metrics for evaluating success. Though social media doesn't cost much, it still involves an investment of time. So you'll want to constantly re-evaluate to determine whether your social media plan is meeting your goals.

Are you ready to get started?
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)

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September 14, 2009

Legal Marketing: Social Media Trends

So, how many lawyers use online professional networking and social media tools and which ones do they favor?  Interesting questions to be sure, but you're probably wondering why you should care.  After all, as a lawyer you're probably more interested in where and how potential clients are using social media rather than what your colleagues are doing with it. 

However, turning a blind eye to how your colleagues are using social media is a mistake.  Because social media isn't just a static tool -- like a newspaper ad or a website -- for direct generation of clients.  Engaging social media is also a process that enables lawyers to build meaningful relationships with colleagues, which in turn will produce referrals.

A just released study by Leader Networks shows why social media is critical to generating business in the legal profession.  Of the 1474 lawyers surveyed as part of the study (764 private practice lawyers and 710 corporate counsel), 56 percent identified peer referrals or recommendations as the most effective method for finding business, followed by in person networking events (33 percent) and conferences and seminars (15 percent).  Only three percent believed that blogging, listservs or other social media tools helped to generate business.

But here's the rub.  Despite recognizing the importance of networking with peers to generate referrals, most lawyers said that they simply don't have the time to leverage opportunities to network with peers.  And that's where social media can fill the gap.  Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, the ABA's Legally Minded, Martindale Connected or Legal OnRamp, serve as a virtual water cooler, giving lawyers opportunities to exchange quick pleasantries, update colleagues on recent accomplishments ("speaking at national conference" or "just won SJ hearing") and share news of current events or developments in their respective practice areas.   As relationships evolve, you might find yourself consulting with a colleague on another matter or eventually passing on a case -- and vice versa. 

So not surprisingly, more lawyers are joining social networking sites.  According to the Leader Networks Study, 78 percent of lawyers polled reported membership in an online social network, up substantially from 59 percent in 2008.  And participation runs across all age groups, with 86 percent of lawyers aged 25-35 belonging to social networks, followed by 76 percent of those 36-45 and 66 percent of those in the 46-55+ category. 

Still, even though social networking can be less time consuming than traveling to a conference four hours away, it can easily become a time-sink unless lawyers are disciplined about participation.  So here are a few tips to engage social media tools efficiently so that you won't begrudge your participation if referrals don't come as quickly as you'd like.

1.  Choose your weapons

If this is your first foray into social media, you may want to proceed with some caution.  You are better off signing up for two sites and creating a robust presence rather than spreading yourself thin on eight or ten sites. 

However, with so many social media tools available, how can you pick the one that's right for you?  The decision depends largely on your intended targets.  If you're looking to build relationships with other lawyers, here's how various social media sites stack up according to the Leader Network report:

Linked-In - (used by 58% private counsel, 52% corporate counsel);

Martindale-Hubbell Connected, reading and commenting on blogs (42 % private counsel,
35 % corporate counsel);

Public social networks (Facebook, MySpace)  (37% private counsel, 25% corporate counsel);

Online Q&A and expert search services (e.g., WikiHow or Yahoo Answers) (13% private counsel, 19% corporate counsel);

Twitter (6% private counsel, 4% corporate counsel)

Other considerations in choosing a site include:

--Your personality.  If you tend to be shy or reserved, a site like Facebook, which is most interesting when colored by photos or light banter, may not be appropriate.  Instead, you may feel more comfortable at a more sites like Linked-In or Martindale Hubbell Connect, where the interactions are more focused on professional matters.

--Your schedule.  Some types of social media - such as blogging or regularly responding to online questions and answers may be too time consuming to fit into your schedule or to justify based on the resulting returns.  If you're busy, choose social media sites that don't require a large time investment.

--Your markets.  Are your competitors engaged in, or gaining stature at certain social media sites?  If so, you may want to dive in if only to keep an eye on them.  At the same time, don't avoid a social media site just because it's not populated with other lawyers from your practice area.  There's something to be said for gaining a first mover advantage.

2.  Recognize the process for building relationships

Because this post is focused primarily on use of social media as a way to build connections and generate referrals and business from other lawyers (as opposed to directly from clients), I'm going to assume that as your goal.  So how do you reach the point where you establish a relationship that encourages referrals?

In many ways, the stages of relationship building on social media parallel those in a traditional office environment.  For example, if you ever worked in an office, recall how you went about establishing relationships with colleagues.  During the first few weeks, you likely exchanged greetings and perhaps emailed each other about work related projects.  As you grew more comfortable, perhaps you went to lunch together or out for a cup of coffee and chatted about personal matters like your vacation plans or girlfriend or kids.  Finally, after more time, you may have gotten together outside of the office for a ball game or a tennis match.  Having established this level of camaraderie, you most likely tried to help your colleague professionally by referring him clients or making sure to sing his praises to management.

The same process takes place in the online world as well.  Initially, you may exchange greetings with a colleague whom you've "friended" on Facebook.  After a few weeks, you may comment on photos she's posted of family or offer some sympathy after she's posted about a bad day.  Finally, if you learn that your Facebook colleague will be visiting your city or speaking at a conference that you plan to attend, you might try to schedule an offline, in person meeting which will solidify the relationship.  Once you've grown comfortable with each other, your colleague will trust you enough to send contacts.  Plus, because you have a personal friendship, your colleague will make an effort to help you out, and vice versa.

3.  Don't dive in too quickly

You want social media relationships to evolve offline, but at the same time, you don't want to jump in too quickly.  Avoid friending 400 people whom you barely know all at once and then sharing 40 items with them daily.  Likewise, don't bombard Twitter with self-promotional posts or you'll just turn off followers.  You wouldn't like it if an office mate barged in to your conversation with a co-worker and began gabbing away, would you?  Turns out, social etiquette in social media isn't all that different.

4.  Set up a social media schedule

Some social media tools, particularly Facebook and Twitter can quickly become addictive.  If you spend too much time online, you won't get any work done - and worse, you'll create the impression that you're not very busy.  A realistic schedule might include (1) blocking off thirty minutes early  in the morning to log on to your social media accounts and return messages, send messages and tend to any updates and then (2) repeating the process sometime during the late afternoon or evening.   Or you might block out three to four 15 minute segments throughout the day to come online.  Of course, during really busy periods, you may not have any time for social media - so try to stick to the schedule when you can to establish a reasonably consistent presence.

5.  Do not outsource your social media! 

You don't need to read any further than my last post here to understand the dangers of outsourcing social media campaigns.

Conclusion:  Increasingly, lawyers are joining social media - but there's still time to get on board.   You just need to keep an open mind about the possibilities that social media holds to  build meaningful and lasting connections with colleagues that will provide both financial and personal rewards.

For more detailed information on how lawyers can use social media, take a look at my ebook on Social Media for Lawyers.  

June 5, 2009

Legal Marketing Round-Up

Once again, it's time for a round-up post, updating information that I covered in earlier posts.

1. Lawyer-Bloggers All A-Twitter About the Value of Twitter 

Back in February 2009, I considered whether lawyers should be using Twitter, ultimately concluding that at the very least, they ought to give it a try.  Last month, however, lawyer marketing expert Larry Bodine stirred up a controversy with this piece contending that Twitter isn't a very effective tool for lawyer marketing.  Bodine highlighted Twitter's high churn rate, with 60 percent of users dropping off after just a few months' use and pointed out that other tools such as email promotions and blogs were more effective ways to drive traffic to a website.  Most significantly, Bodine argued that Twitter was a time sink -- a distraction from getting real marketing work done that didn't lead to serious business.

Bodine's post earned him lots of criticism in the blogosphere, which David Barrett exhaustively summarizes at Linked In Lawyer.  Most of the commentary emphasizes that Twitter isn't an end in itself, but a supplement to other marketing tools, such as creating an introduction to warm up a cold call or other personal connection, or helping lawyers reinforce their personal brand.

2.  Are Listservs Obsolete?

Back in December, I made the point that the new generation of social media still hadn't rendered listservs obsolete.  Fast forward six months... and is that still the case?  Via the Legal History Blog, I came across this interesting article, Where Do Legal Listservs Fit in A Social Media World? by law librarian Greg Lambert.  Lambert notes that while listservs still remain a great way to build relationships, network, and discover new resources, at the same time, they have drawbacks such as "lazy research" (obvious questions sent out to 2500 members) and a tendency to generate flame wars if left unmoderated.  Lambert favors Ning (which I'll post about on Monday) as his tool of choice for combining the ease of use and spontaneity of listservs without the drawbacks.  I checked out the Law Librarian Ning that Lambert referenced -- and while it's a nice looking site, it lacks the fluid interaction of a listserv.  At the same time, the participants have all filled out bios, which can facilitate connections and networking.
May 14, 2009

Update Round-Up

Here's the latest round-up on some of the topics covered in earlier posts to be sure that you have up-to-the-minute information on the latest and greatest in lawyer marketing:

1.  Add More Value to Videos By Power Using YouTube.

Back in January, I posted on why lawyers should consider making video part of their marketing portfolio.  In addition to the reasons that I described, Travis Campell, the Marketing Professor offers some ideas for building community and online presence through YouTube -- which means that you'll get more bang for the buck out of any videos you produce.  So what benefits does You Tube offer?  For starters, you can get statistics on viewer demographics and feedback on your video through commenters.  Posting video on YouTube can also help drive traffic to your site and enhance your search engine visibility.

2.  Should You Hire An SEO Expert?

My first post for this blog described some do-it-yourself SEO tips.  But if the DIY approach doesn't get you the results that you need, should you consider hiring an expert?  I've posted, more generally, on issues to consider when hiring a marketing consultant and now, lawyer marketing expert Larry Bodine shares advice on hiring an SEO expert.  My favorite tip of the post? 

Type the vendor's own targeted search terms into Google and see how well they do for themselves. Type in "law firm web consultant" or "law firm SEO consultant" or "law web marketing consultant" into Google. If they can't get good rankings for themselves, move on.

3.  Social Media and SEO.

Six months ago, when I posted about do-it-yourself SEO, I didn't focus extensively on social media, largely because its impact on SEO wasn't fully recognized or acknowledged at the time.  That's since shifted, as Duct Tape Marketing writes, noting, "It has become extremely difficult to achieve any measure of success for important keyword phrases without the use of social media."  As a result, any business attempting to optimize a site should add a blog and podcast, participate in Twitter and optimize profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn at the very minimum.
March 2, 2009

Marketing Through Testimonials: Giving and Receiving

Most of us lawyers know that inside a courtroom, there's nothing quite as compelling as testimony, a personal narrative of events from witnesses with personal knowledge of the facts of the case.  So it's surprising, then, that few lawyers recognize the value of a related marketing concept -- the testimonial -- wherein a lawyer's clients or colleagues endorse or recommend a lawyer's service or qualifications based on personal impressions formed during their professional relationship.

Like testimony in court, testimonials are compelling because they're personalized.  In contrast to the cookie-cutter jargon that most lawyers include in brochures and websites about being compassionate or caring or responsive or aggressive advocates, the best testimonials convey those same concepts through examples drawn from an individual's personal experience.  In addition, testimonials frequently focus on points that matter to potential clients, but that a lawyer might not recognize as important.  For example, some testimonials I've seen compliment lawyers on their staff's friendliness -- a significant benefit for harried or stressed clients, but not necessarily a feature that most lawyers would think to highlight in their marketing materials. 

On the other hand, just like the witness whose testimony goes south in the courtroom, a poorly executed testimonial can do far more harm than good.  Testimonials from fellow lawyers that simply state "nice guy, great lawyer" aren't worth the bandwidth they require, while testimonials that are clearly reciprocal -- i.e., where one lawyer endorses a colleague and the colleague returns the favor without any useful information -- can damage a lawyer's credibility.  In addition, testimonials that aren't truthful or that violate client confidentiality rules can put lawyers in trouble with the bar.  In fact, as discussed below, lawyers should consult their respective bar rules prior to seeking testimonials from clients -- or even other lawyers -- because some bars do prohibit the practice.

Below are some how-tos for getting effective and compelling testimonials from clients and lawyers and using them in marketing materials.  But when it comes to testimonials, many lawyers find that giving is just as important as receiving -- and I'll also detail some ways to offer testimonials to colleagues and service providers to generate ancillary benefits for yourself.

A.  Getting Testimonials

1.  What Is Appropriate for a Testimonial?

Testimonials are appropriate for virtually any type of service that you provide.  If you are marketing a divorce or bankruptcy or criminal practice, then testimonials from clients on everything from their satisfaction with your work or your personality and demeanor are appropriate.  On the other hand, if you're trying to generate more referral-based work from other lawyers, then testimonials from lawyers who've worked with you and are familiar with your skills and reliability make the most sense.

But you're not limited to testimonials about your work.  If you write a great blog or produced an e-book, why not ask for endorsements from other readers?  A testimonial about your online materials can help them stand out from the avalanche of information available on the Internet.

2.  How Do I Use Testimonials?

You can incorporate testimonials into your marketing materials in a variety of ways.  For example, you can include testimonials in written brochures and at your website.  As noted, many online lawyer listing services like Avvo or LinkedIn allow users to post testimonials as well.  Finally, some lawyers choose not to publicize testimonials and make them available to prospects on request instead.

3.  Consult the Bar Rules

Before you go to the trouble of seeking testimonials, consult your respective bar's ethics rules.  The ABA maintains an online list of state bar rules on advertising, including those states that prohibit or restrict testimonials.  On the other hand, don't go overboard and assume that because restrictions apply that you can't obtain testimonials at all.  Some bars, for example, prohibit client testimonials but do not limit testimonials from colleagues and/or other lawyers.  Other bars maintain general proscriptions against testimonials that include information that cannot be verified (e.g., "Joe Jones was the best lawyer ever!").  However, this type of restriction would not prohibit testimonials with verifiable, factual information, such as, "Joe Jones timely filed all my pleadings" or "Jane Doe returned my phone calls".  And in fact, if you think about it, it's this kind of specific detail that makes testimonials far more compelling than one that consists of conclusory statements -- just as in a court room.

Bear in mind that bar rules on confidentiality may also prohibit you from disclosing the identity of clients.  Therefore, be sure to obtain appropriate authorization to use a client's name in connection with their testimonials.  Where a client declines to be identified, you may still post the testimonial but indicate that the client's name has been withheld to preserve confidentiality.  In no circumstances should you post a testimonial with a fake name -- that would undermine its credibility.   

4.  Gathering Testimonials

Continue reading "Marketing Through Testimonials: Giving and Receiving" »