This is the third in a three-part series where I’m sharing my views as a lawyer and as the CEO of a legal marketing technology company about the present reality and future prospects of small law firm owners and solos when it comes to online marketing.
In this first post we looked at legal marketing agencies, and in the second post we looked at online legal directories. If you haven’t read those yet, I suggest reading them before reading this final post in the series because they provide a foundation for this post. In this post we’ll look at Social Media Marketing for lawyers.
It is important for attorneys to understand social media because attorneys are about to get bombarded with solicitations for social media management and social media advertising from marketing agencies.
Why a social media marketing intensive strategy is usually a bad investment for law firms.
For most practice areas and jurisdictions, social media is not a big needle-mover in terms of generating new business for law firms. This is because, for a potential client to convert into revenue for a law firm, the client must have the following:
1. An articulable and addressable legal matter; and
2. The intent to hire private counsel.
The reason organic (free) search engine traffic converts prolifically is that potential clients arrive at a law firm’s website after they specifically typed or dictated a search query about their matter. This is a strong indication of intent.
Social media is not targeted and not driven by intent. People see your posts and ads for a number of reasons. But none of those reasons are because they specifically asked to see them.
Just because somebody sees a law firm’s social media post or ad does not mean that they have the need or intent to hire a lawyer. And your law firm’s social media posts and ads will be mostly ignored except by people who already know you and would likely hire you anyway if they had the need and intent. Why is this?
As lawyers, we are many wonderful things. We have the opportunity to have a profound impact on society and peoples’ lives. But sexy social media fodder most of us are not. Most practicing lawyers (as opposed to media personalities with law degrees) simply don’t have fans and will never be famous. We’re simply not cool enough to pay attention to until we’re needed, and, when we are needed our coolness has a short shelf-life. And that’s okay, because most lawyers are not in it to be famous.
Why social media will soon become the thing that marketing agencies push on attorneys.
As I write this, Facebook is thriving as a company. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and with another 2.4 million unemployed this week alone, Facebook is flirting with a $700 billion market cap.
But despite the proliferation of social media, it’s an improbable bet for most law firms. While social media marketing can be very effective for selling goods and entertainment, it doesn’t work the same way for lawyers. Social media simply isn’t optimal for law firms who want to get a return on their marketing investments.
Efficacy aside, marketing agencies recognize the opportunity to profit from selling social media marketing to attorneys. Why?
• Marketing agencies often use non-lawyers in their 20s as their social media managers (or offshore it). The combination of low-wage workers and premium prices for lawyers equates to big profits.
• There is little chance that the marketing agency can be held accountable for the outcome.
• Lawyers don’t understand what should be done and therefore tend to blindly delegate and write checks.
But for lawyers, delegating social media marketing is hazardous and wasteful.
• As a lawyer, you are responsible for the posts, replies, likes, Tweets, re-Tweets, memes, links, and musings posted by the agency’s 20-something non-lawyer who handles your firm’s social media. So when something compromising is posted by “you” on your account, your clients, your peers, and the bar may be less than impressed with your explanation of “I didn’t do it, I paid somebody to do it for me.”
• Social media campaigns that are sold to lawyers typically lack specific and measurable outcomes. If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never get there (but you will continue to burn money along the way).
• The money and energy burned on social media (beyond the basics explained below) is a diversion from investing in legal marketing assets that your firm will derive a benefit from. This unwisely deployed money or foolish use of time gives your law firm’s competitors that are not making the same mistake a serious advantage over the medium and long-term.
• Social media is temporary in that posts are only seen briefly and then they are replaced with other posts. And paid social media ads, like pay-per-click search ads, require constant feeding with cash.
• Law firms have trouble building brands that people think about when they don’t have legal problems. Those that do manage to create a brand often do so by creating a spectacle of themselves. So unless you’re willing to really commit to your brand like Avenatti or become the social media version of Better Call Saul, it’s unlikely that social media viewers of your ads will remember seeing your estate planning or personal injury ad on social media months or years later when they have a problem. Therefore, you’ll have to keep dumping money into social media or you’re just gambling that somebody who has an immediate legal issue you can help them with sees your ad. And when you finally walk away from the gambling table, you’ll do so knowing the house won.
For most lawyers, paid social media marketing is a “spray and pray” method, and it’s much less reliable and efficient than simply adding relevant and useful content to your firm’s website which enables clients to find you proactively. And I have trouble seeing how any intelligent, knowledgeable, and honest marketing agency could believe otherwise.
But the efficiency of the law firm’s dollars and the best interests of the law firm have long been a subordinate to the desire for some marketing agencies to make money. For years many marketing agencies played a game of swap the patsy with illusory SEO services, with so-called custom web design (which was almost always a modified WordPress template), and paid directory listings. But they all said the same things, and said them loudly. So lawyers would move from one agency to another, paying for the same things and expecting different results. This is changing rapidly, and some agencies are likely in distress as a result.
The COVID-19 crisis has given many lawyers the mandate to pause and look more critically at what they are getting from their marketing spend. At the same time, many legal directories have lost significant traction with Google as Google rewards law firm websites that have abided by its rules and leaned into creating quality content. And law firms that purchased expensive “custom” website and so-called SEO services are also being bested by those same attorneys whose content-driven websites are beating the legal directories. Unable to adequately defend the potential value of their traditional services, and with the collective mindset of attorneys shifting rapidly towards becoming empowered by technology, they are rapidly running out of willing buyers.
This is a serious problem for agencies. They can’t begin to truly empower lawyers now because lawyers who are empowered in their marketing spend significantly less money to produce the same or better results. Therefore, as the old sales playbooks for selling SEO, “custom” website design, and directory listings fail to separate attorneys from their money, the marketing agencies that have profited from selling those things will likely be forced to turn to novel and similarly profitable service to sell to lawyers. By the process of elimination, that will be social media.
How to effectively use social media marketing to promote your law firm without falling into a marketing agency’s trap.
You can use social media efficiently, without paying an agency, by keeping the following in mind:
• Social media should be used to drive people to your website, and never the other way around.
• Minimize the time you spend on social media marketing.
• Announce new blog posts to social media to drive readers to those posts (the LawLytics platform makes it easy to do this with a click).
• Make sure any comments you make on social media, or anything that you post, is done in your voice and with full awareness of the reputation and ethics implications.
If you are a LawLytics customer and would like guidance about social media, or help connecting your accounts so you can leverage the best of social media without having to pay a marketing agency or make announcements manually, please let us know.
If you are not yet a LawLytics customer and would like to explore how LawLytics will help your firm grow (and compete and win against legal directories), I invite you to see it in action by doing a free interactive demo.