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8 Tips For Legal Marketing Plans in 2013

 8 Tips For Legal Marketing Plans in 2013

Sometimes, writing out a marketing plan is something that attorneys dread.  Many solo practitioners report that they do marketing on an ad hoc basis rather than implementing a specific step by step scheduled plan.  If you want to organize your firm's marketing ideas into a plan this year, this is the right article to read.  You'll get great tips about how to start your marketing plan and information that will help you make your law firm do well with social media.

#1: Integrate Online and Offline Marketing Ideas

Keep in mind that doing just online marketing isn't enough, even though it's 2013.  It's possible that in ten years, a completely online marketing strategy might work for a large number of law firms, but only a small number of firms can currently be successful with only an online presence.  You're much better off diversifying your marketing budget and making sure that you're putting resources and effort into your marketing and reputation both online and offline.

Your online marketing plan should integrate your online marketing with your offline activities.  This can sometimes be as simple as discussing your offline charitable work on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook feed.  At other times, you may want to use QR codes in your print advertisements.  Any time that you can link the offline and online worlds, your online marketing campaign will become more valuable to you.  It's also important to participate in the offline world from an online perspective because local participation tends to make it more likely that your frm will appear early in local search results for people in your area..

#2: Make Scheduling a Priority

While it may seem like a drag to schedule your social media out in advance, you'll probably find in the end that you're much less overwhelmed and more likely to make the updates you want when you conform to a steady schedule.  Keep your schedule a priority when you're working on your marketing plan.  You should have a schedule that includes when you will do social media on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis.

Keep in mind that your schedule doesn't have to be written in stone.  If other priority issues come up, you can always change your social media scheduling.  You may also find that one particular type of social media is more effective for you.  If this happens, that's fine—consider dedicating more time and effort to that social network rather than just continuing with your schedule for the sake of scheduling.

#3: Use Online Tools For Better Efficiency

Many attorneys are still posting to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from the websites of each social network.  If this describes your firm, stop!  One of the best things that you can do today to make it easier to run social media campaigns is getting a social networking dashboard.  These programs will help you to post on several different social networks quickly rather than getting bogged down in interface differences.

It's important that even if you're using a social media dashboard, you sometimes take a look at how your company's page displays on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites on several different operating systems and platforms.  You should make sure that mobile and app users of social networking sites are still seeing your good side, not pictures that resize awkwardly or generate errors.

#4: Find Your Company's Narrative

If you really want to captivate an audience, you're always better off giving your audience some kind of narrative to hold on to.  If you don't know what your law firm's narrative is, think of the story you tell people you know personally when you're trying to tell them what your firm does and why it's important.  That story can often be modified into a version that will make it easier for you to market your firm online.

Make sure that when you craft your narrative, you don't let the story conflict with the truth.  Misrepresentations always look bad, and you're better off sticking with narratives that make you look great and that are totally truthful.

#5: Understand and Target Your Ideal Client

You probably already know what kind of client you interact with best and would like to see walking through your door.  Imagine who you'd like to see, and then write your copy to them, anticipating their needs.  If you target your ideal clients,you'll be much more likely to actually get the kind of clients you're looking for.

#6: Give Your Social Media Presence Personality

You won't get very far on social media websites by having an impersonal company logo represent you. You should show someone as the face of your social media profile, and make sure that they are following through with representing you.  This may mean assigning someone specific to head your social media presence instead of letting people do it when they can, and that's good—your attorneys can still contribute on the firm page's wall and talk there but you need a main social media presence with a face who can be you for all intents and purposes on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

#7: Maintain Good Information Security

Too many good companies have been felled by this, and law firms are going to catch up as they begin to use the internet more and more.  If you don't maintain good information security standards at work, you risk having not only yourself but also your clients hacked.  Unless you want someone to be able to post on your social media accounts without your permission, you need to make sure that your password isn't anything they could guess.

#8: Respond To Current Events

Make sure that your social media presence sticks squarely in the real world.  That means referencing current events and making sure that your updates talk occasionally about legal news.  Keep yourself informed so that you can respond, showing that you care about more than life inside your law firm.

7 Pages Every Law Firm Website Should Have

7 Pages Every Law Firm Website Should Have

When you put together your law firm website, there are several pages that you should have no matter what other content you decide to include.  But what are the must have web pages for a law firm website?  Ideally, you want the pages you have on your site to be designed to draw in conversions, and to give enough information to clients for them to make an important decision to give your firm a call.  This guide will help you understand what the must-have basic web pages are for a basic law firm website while also discussing why these pages are so important.

#1: Attorney Biographies

The single most looked at page on attorney and law firm websites before a client calls the office is the attorney biography.  This means that if your attorney bio is just a list of awards and some very generic copy, you may be hurting your own bottom line in a big way.  Typically, clients won't just want to see your awards and honors, though they may want to see those, too, so make sure to include them—usually toward the bottom of the page.  Keep in mind that most people who want to see these honors will scroll through to see whether you have them.  Seeing them first can be intimidating for other clients, who may be more interested in seeing an attorney's personality than their list of proudest moments.

Your attorney biography should generally be conversational and informative.  It should feel personal without feeling like oversharing, and should stay free of legal jargon as much as possible.  Maintaining a tone that even a client who has never visited an attorney before can understand, without condescension, is the best way to generate conversions from your attorney biography.

#2: Firm News

Every law firm should have a news updates page, and this updates page should automatically create headlines on your home page.  This gives you a way to showcase new attorneys or staff changes, as well as to publicize your successes in and out of the courtroom.

There's also a search engine optimization reason to have a firm news page.  As long as you update the firm news section of your website relatively frequently, you will be updating your home page as well—and Google and Bing prefer websites that have frequently updated content.  If you're using the same stale content for months and months, you'll start to slip in search engine rankings in favor of firms that are updating more regularly.  Having a firm news page makes it easy for you to do small updates without having to just do busy work.

#3: Firm “About Us” Page

In addition to your attorney biographies, you should also have an overall firm “about us” section that explains how your firm was formed and the values that drive your partners and associates.  This page lets you express your brand voice clearly and succinctly.  Don't make this page too long, and try to make it contain more of the personal than the platitudinous.

#4: Specialty Practice Area Pages

Almost every law firm today is a firm made up of specialists, not generalists.  Your firm's specialty areas are the biggest way that you'll be found by people searching for law firms using Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  If you're not actively marketing these specialty areas with specific web pages or even microsites designed specifically for addressing the concerns of clients needing services in these legal areas, you're not doing everything you can to drive conversions.

If you're an attorney whose practice is consumer oriented, you may want to consider adding your price structure to the pages outlining your specialty areas.  One of the biggest questions today's consumers have about legal services is how much a lawyer is going to cost.  With the economy still limping, understanding costs can make it easier for people to contact a lawyer while feeling assured of their ability to successfully pay your fee.

#5: Consultation Information Page

You should also consider having a specific web page that details what a first consultation at your law firm is like.  By helping consumers understand what they're likely to encounter at the consultation, you're helping them to gain the confidence that they need to place what can be a very anxiety-provoking phone call.  This will also help you to avoid the problem of people calling for a consultation, then no-showing when it comes time for their actual appointment.  By alleviating fears, you make for more informed, more at ease clients.

Your consultation information page should stay jargon free and tell people what they should bring to their consultation, in addition to information about how you will decide whether to accept a case and how fees will be determined.

#6: Frequently Asked Questions

A Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQ, page contains questions that your law firm is asked on a routine basis.  Many people will actually look for a FAQ when they have a question about a business, so having one of these pages is crucial for drawing in this market segment and giving them all the information they need in one place.

Your FAQ page can and should link to other pages on your website when those pages are relevant and contain more detailed information than is appropriate for the FAQ.  Typically, FAQ answers should be no more than one or two paragraphs long.  This is also a good place to dispel any myths that people often come to your office believing—just a few lines on a FAQ may be able to help people understand your profession and the particulars of their case a little bit better.

#7: Contact Form

Of course, every law firm's website should have a contact form page.  If you don't have a contact form and only allow contact through the phone or an email address, you won't be able to track how new clients moved through your website before deciding to contact you, which means that you lose a significant amount of information about what is and isn't working to drive conversions. 

Don’t Ignore Your Blog: 8 Reasons to Keep Blogging

Don't Ignore Your Blog: 8 Reasons to Keep Blogging

While over half of attorneys today are maintaining at least one blog for marketing or search engine optimization purposes, not everyone sees the virtues in continuing to blog.  After you've maintained a blog for a year or more, you may be struggling to develop new content and you may be unsure of whether you're still getting value from continuing to blog.  However, the best parts of blogging actually come from maintaining your blog over the long term.  In this guide we'll look at several different reasons to keep your blog going beyond the first twelve months.

#1: Making Connections With Other Bloggers

One of the best reasons to maintain your blog is that you can develop real business relationships with other people who run similar blogs.  In some situations, you may find that other attorneys in other geographic areas with similar practices to yours can become good allies in the online world.  Making these kinds of connections gives you content to read, think about, and discuss in your own practice.

What's more, when you make these kinds of connections, you can often get guest blogging spots.  These are the kinds of opportunities that often only come if you maintain a legal blog for some time—long enough for people to understand that you're actually committed to quality content, not just search engine optimization and straight up marketing.  

#2: Providing a Steady Stream of New Website Content

One of the best things that blogging can do is give you new website content relatively quickly.  If your website updates along with your blog and you keep your blog content appropriate for linking from your main site, this can make it so that the front page of your site is always changing and always relevant.

If you're going to put your blog content onto your website as a main updating feature, try to make sure that your content is in some way very fresh and new.  Talk about legal events in the news or other things that have happened very recently, and include a dateline in your content updates.

#3: Making Content to Cross-Promote on Social Networks

One of the best things that you can do with a new blog entry is figure out which of your social networks is most likely to be interested in the way you talk about the topic discussed in your blog entry.  If you're looking at a very consumer oriented blog entry, posting about it on Facebook will probably give you the widest possible reach.  On the other hand, if your blog entry is very technical, LinkedIn might be a better home for it.  If you suspect that it's something that could get viral traction beyond just your blog followers and social network connections, consider posting it on Twitter as well.

#4: Blogs Can Be a Great Recruitment Tool, Too

If you're looking to recruit new people into your law firm, you should consider using your blog as a way to do some of your recruitment.  Posting entries about what it's like to work at your firm, including from guest bloggers who are working for their first year at your law firm, can help you to get new recruits more easily.  Putting some of the responsibility into the hands of guest bloggers is a good idea—they'll be better able to see exactly what kinds of questions will be most important to the people who you're trying to recruit.

#5: Blogging For Referral Traffic

One of the best ways that your blog can help you is by drawing in referrals to your website.  If other attorneys see that you are an expert in your field who is capable of turning complex topics into readable blog entries, they'll realize that you're an excellent choice to send referrals to in your field.

This kind of referral traffic is a great way to generate new clients indirectly.  However, it requires maintaining your blog for a long time—a few brief blog entries, no matter how great they are, aren't going to give you the kind of web presence that would make other attorneys want to refer clients to your practice.

#6: Blogging Forms Long Term Relationships

If you stop blogging after just working on your blog for a few months to a year, you neglect the possibility of gaining long term readers and eventually a following.  Those kinds of long term relationships give you real brand ambassadors who will discuss your blog and your name or firm name with other people both on and offline.

The longer term relationships formed by blogging are often the ones with the highest overall return.  Consider blogging a very long term investment, rather than just a way to generate short term search engine optimization.

#7: Dead Blogs Look Like They're From Dead Firms

If you think that blogging is something you can set up and forget, forget it—that's exactly the wrong kind of web presence to build.  If people see a blog that hasn't been updated for a couple of years, they're not going to see how great your content is.  They're going to see a blog that's out of date and may come from a firm that isn't in business any more.  That's not the image that you want to convey.  Keep your website updated, and keep your blog content fresh or risk having web viewers worry for the health of your firm.

#8: Search Engine Optimization and Keywords

One thing that many firms overlook is that as you continue to blog, your blog entries will come up in more searches.  You should keep track of these kinds of searches with Google Analytics or some other web analytics utility.  Search engine optimization can happen for new keywords if you notice that certain combinations of keywords or questions keep bringing people to your website.

If you only keep a blog with a few entries and stop blogging after a year, you'll never see the real potential of monitoring the search engine optimization of your law firm blog.  Analytics take time to work, because you'll want to find keywords based on real empirical research with enough data to be meaningful.

6 Branding Mistakes Your Law Firm Should Avoid

6 Branding Mistakes Your Law Firm Should Avoid

Whenever a law firm tries to create or define its brand online, there are some risks involved.  Over 30 percent of law firm marketing professionals say that they are dedicating energy to re-branding efforts for their law firm this year.  If you're one of them, you need to know which pitfalls are most likely to make your branding efforts fail.  This guide will give you information about eight different ways that law firms have a tendency to get off-base about branding.  If you can avoid these big eight mistakes, you'll be well on your way to rebranding initiatives for your law firm that work to attract new clients without hurting your reputation in any way.

#1: Branding Differently on Every Website

If different people at your law firm are put in charge of each social media site and your company's website, you're going to end up with content that looks disjointed and erratic.  While every website is certainly a bit different and will have different community norms, there's no reason to make your presence completely different on each website that you use.

Make sure that even when your messages are significantly different or edited quite heavily, you're still generally projecting the same type of image.  It's one thing to use different language on a business oriented blog than you'd use on your Facebook feed.  It's another to project a very fun, hip image on one and a staid, conservative image on another.  Don't change the things that are core to your brand just because you think they'll help you fit in better on a particular website.

#2: Using the Same Messages Everywhere

At the same time, while consistency is important, you shouldn't just repost the same content on every single social media website you have an account with.  If you're using the exact same messages in every place, you're basically telling people that they should only bother following one of your social media accounts at most—indeed, you're telling them that they'll just see repetition and get bored if they try connecting with you over multiple websites.

This means that every time you're producing new content for your social media presence or for your company website, you should give serious thought to how and where to cross-promote it.  You should usually do some cross promotion, but you should mix it up, so that no one thinks your Facebook and Twitter feeds are always duplicates or near-duplicates.  Making sure people have an incentive to connect to you through several different media is key to getting the kind of brand saturation and recognition you want among your potential brand ambassadors.

#3: Becoming an Exclusively Online Brand

There are so many ways to initiate marketing campaigns online today that some law firms are tempted to take all of their marketing efforts into the online sphere.  However, if your marketing exists solely online, you're going to have a much tougher time than people who incorporated both online and offline strategies into their overall marketing plan.

When you exist solely online, instead of participating in your community in offline events, you will actually hurt your search engine optimization.  Some of the best search results you can get today will come from local searches, in which businesses with a prominent profile locally in news and community websites will get top billing in searches over firms without a community presence.  Missing out on these searches is already bad, and in the future, it may become crippling.  Don't make the mistake of putting all your eggs in the online basket—keep in mind that even participation in events in the offline world can have a positive effect on that online reputation and search ranking.

#4: Copying Competitors

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but you don't want to flatter your competitors—you want to get clients to come to you instead.  You need to make sure that your brand is differentiated from what your competitors have to offer.  Often, you'll find that your local competition has website content that suffers from being more puffery than real information.  Give people real information about the exact specialty area you want your clients to come from, including single-page printable info sheets.  You might consider, for instance, a single printable sheet for people to keep in a glove box about what their rights are in case they are pulled over under suspicion of driving drunk in your state.

Giving people real, tangible resources is the best way to be an attorney that people think of and go to when they need help.  Being accessible and informative is the best way to make sure that you're getting the most from your online presence.

#5: Trying To Be Everything To Everybody

If you're trying to be a generalist, you're years behind the times.  The best way to succeed with online marketing is to make sure you're specialized and that you have microsites dealing with specialty legal areas.  It's much better to have several microsites today than to try to be all things to all clients.  Generalists have a harder, more expensive time with advertisements online, and you'll find that it's substantially more efficient to advertise and target clients when you have the exact client you're looking for in mind.

#6: Wishful Thinking

Many firms end up falling victim to the fatal trap of wishful thinking.  You may wish that your brand had certain strengths that your firm just doesn't have.  Not all firms have longevity working in their favor.  Not all attorneys have a great sense of humor that can make their website both informative and funny.  Make sure that when you decide on a branding strategy, it's based on your firm's actual strengths and not the strengths that you wish that you had.

In order to make sure that you're catering to your real strengths, it's a good idea to know someone who will act as an unbiased critic and editor of your content.  Don't just run your copy by people who will tell you how good it is—you want to identify problems before you commit a faux pas.

Extended Networking: Making Friends And Influencing People Online

 Extended Networking: Making Friends And Influencing People Online

As an attorney, one of your best marketing tools is something you may not yet think of as a tool: your address book.  Now that over 80 percent of American internet users use at least one social media website, your contact list has just become more valuable than ever.  Making use of your online contacts to extend your networks and get new clients is the way things are done in the 21st century—if you're not doing it yet, you're missing out on one of the best new places to find clients in the online world.  In this guide, we'll give you seven tips that will make it easier for you to expand your network and make yourself more appealing to people two or three degrees of separation away from you.

Tip #1: Blog, Guest Blog, and Get Guest Bloggers

If you're not already blogging, you're missing out on one of the best possible opportunities to do networking in your field.  Blogging, if you're doing it right, can be an exciting way to actually talk to people online that you wouldn't normally be able to get an “in” with in the offline world.  It's worth noting that the only blogs that will do for this tip are the kind you're actually writing in house.  If you're outsourcing blog content, it may be something that can get you ahead in search engine rankings, but it's not going to be easy to get guest blogging spots or to connect with other legal bloggers.

Once you've got a blog that's running fairly well, you can start connecting with people and asking them to guest blog.  Maybe they'll have a topic in mind already that would work with the topic of your blog, or maybe you'll have a topic that you'd like a specific connection to blog about.  Either way, guest posting lets people see fresh content on your blog more often while giving your audience a wider range of opinions and analysis.

You can also participate as a guest blogger on other legal blogs.  This is often a good way to get new visitors to your blog.  If you can make your guest post sincerely interesting to the audience on the blog, you may find that you've attracted dozens or even hundreds of new readers.

Tip #2: Keep In Contact With Friends on Facebook

Don't let your friends on Facebook and other social media platforms fall by the wayside.  You never know when your social media contact list might become incredibly valuable for building a new customer base.  Friends on Facebook can be some of the best sources for finding new clients when you put out a call to your connections.

At the same time, this doesn't mean that you should just friend anyone on Facebook who asks.  Make sure that you aren't including trolls or people who are just spambots on your Facebook friends.  All these so-called “friends” will do is wreck your feed with irrelevant or offensive content.  Make sure that all of your Facebook friends are real people with real profiles.

Tip #3: Start Tweeting and Don't Stop

If you haven't started using Twitter yet, it's time.  Studies have shown that Twitter conversion rates for attorneys may actually be as much as 10 times higher as conversion rates for Facebook or LinkedIn.  This extraordinary difference means that law firms need to get into Twitter and start using it according to community norms.

You may not notice your new Twitter strategy working right away when you first begin to implement it.  However, if you keep tweeting, as time goes by it is likely you will first gain more followers to your Twitter account, followed by account followers and friends on other social media accounts connected to your Twitter name.

Tip #4: Keep Your Website Looking Great

If you want people in your network to be able to show other people your website, you need to make sure that it works well, loads quickly, and doesn't look like something pulled out of 1999.  If you're not taking care to redesign your website periodically to keep up with the changing web, you may not be putting your best foot forward in front of potential clients.

It's often best to have professional web design teams help with this portion of your online marketing efforts.  Trying to do the technical details of a website yourself can get very complicated very quickly, and there's nothing wrong with outsourcing this labor so that your website can be the best that it can be.

Tip #5: Give Things Away Online

People online are used to a culture of getting information for free.  One of the best things you can do to make your content go viral is to give useful, understandable information away in an easy to understand format.  Infographics, short videos, and even top ten lists can all be easy ways to arrange your content so that it's easier for your users to understand.  When you give things away online, people are more likely to pass your content on, getting your message out to people several degrees of separation removed from you and your firm.

Tip #6: Don't Be Afraid of Technology

New technological developments can be challenging for some law firms to accept.  However, these new developments will happen whether you want them to or not.  The only thing you can control is whether you're prepared for them.  Make sure that you've got a good understanding of best practices for online marketing using all the newest technology—this will help you focus your targeted ad campaigns instead of spending more money to get a similar number of clients.

Tip #7: Listen to Feedback and Improve Constantly

If you're going to have viral content, you have to be responsive to your audience.  Listening to feedback is critical to having a great online presence today.  When you hear feedback, even if it's negative, try not to get defensive.  Instead, consider it a chance to get better—it's much better to hear about your problems than to have people simply walk away without telling you what went wrong.

Community Based Online Marketing For Lawyers: 7 Tips

Community Based Online Marketing For Lawyers: 7 Tips

Too many attorneys try to make their online marketing strategy without really considering whether it ties into their already established community marketing efforts.  Over 80 percent of attorneys in the United States get most of their clients from within a 10 mile radius of their office.  That means that your internet marketing plan for your law firm should focus on getting clients from your local area—and today's search engines make that possible.  In this guide, we'll look at ways to maximize the number of local potential clients who see your online marketing campaign.

#1: Get Involved In Person, Not Just Online

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can just use search engine optimization for your law firm without any other marketing tactics.  You need to have some kind of on the ground presence if you want to draw in clients from your local area.  Wherever you are, there will be local organizations that will actively want attorneys to volunteer their time.  Get involved with local non-profits and with clubs and organizations.  For example, you may want to become active in your local Chamber of Commerce, which often gives you multiple online mentions and links back to your website that will help your local search ranking results.

#2: Cross Promote Your Offline Activities on Facebook

When you participate in events in the offline world for charitable organizations, make sure that you mention it on your Facebook feed.  Sometimes, attorneys worry that talking about themselves would be distasteful or that people won't be interested—but it all depends on where you're posting.  On Facebook, personal narratives are expected and welcomed by the vast majority of followers, as long as they're sincere and authentic.

The biggest mistake you can make is to look like you're only helping out for exposure.  Don't oversell yourself—talk more about the organization you're involved with than you talk about your own involvement.

#3: Talk About Local Issues

If there's a local case that everybody's talking about, it's great to weigh in on your blog and social media feeds.  People expect and want to see analysis of local legal issues from attorneys in their local area.  This helps potential clients understand how you look at cases, which can in turn help them decide whether or not your firm would be a good fit for their legal needs.  Make sure that when you discuss local cases, you're keeping your language jargon-free.  The more legal terms you use, the more easy to understand definitions you need to provide—or you'll risk losing the vast majority of your audience.

Keep in mind the average education level of your local clients when writing your content about local issues.  If you're focused on clients who have high income levels and have advanced degrees, you can certainly use much more complex analysis.  If the majority of your clients are high school graduates but never graduated from college, you'll want to explain legal arguments in more detail and with easy to understand analogies.

#4: Stay Authentic—And Never Lie

This is one of the biggest things that attorneys need to keep in mind when they create online marketing materials for their law firm.  Remember that your online presence isn't completely separated from your offline presence.  This means that there's no use in trying to make yourself sound much more impressive than you really are, and you should instead play up your real strengths.

If you try to use puffery and make your offices and attorneys sound significantly more impressive than they are, people won't be fooled for long.  Instead, you'll lose your chance at a good reputation in your community.  Unless your law firm has the freedom to simply pick up stakes and move to a new location, you need to be good to the people near you.  That means trusting in yourself enough to know that you can put on your most authentic face.

#5: Show Yourself As a Positive Influence

By volunteering with local groups for walk-a-thons and fundraising events as well as helping out with your legal expertise, you show yourself to be a real person who is interested in doing things for his or her community.  When you become a positive influence in your area, your firm can start becoming a household name.  This kind of name recognition will serve you well—when people do web searches, if your website is anywhere in the first page, people will be more likely to visit you because of your name recognition.

Too many attorneys today neglect these kinds of very basic community relations efforts, but the truth is, these kinds of efforts will also get you onto websites for local organizations and media.  This will make your firm climb higher than other local firms in Google results for people searching for lawyers in your local area.

#6: Make New Friends—But Keep The Old

Make sure that when you're making new connections in your community, you don't lose the connections you've already built.  Talk to people in your immediate family, if they live nearby, as well as your social connections locally to help you build on your networks and create new business relationships.

Make sure that you're consistently remembering your past clients, as well, by following up via email and occasional mailing updates.  If you forget about the people you've worked with in the past in favor of getting new clients, you're missing out on some of the best and most consistent business your firm could be doing.

#7: Keep Your Community In Mind

Make sure that you're keeping community standards in mind when you create your website.  If you're in a town that tends toward being more traditional and old-fashioned, you should probably keep your website on the more conservative and traditional end.  However, if you're in a vibrant and progressive downtown area and are trying to attract a younger clientele, you may want to have a website that has a little more fun.

New Florida Regulations on Attorney Advertising

New Florida Regulations on Attorney Advertising

While some states have relatively clear laws regarding attorney marketing and advertising, Florida is known for having some of the murkiest.  Attorneys often have a difficult time understanding the Florida laws, including whether certain types of advertisements are considered ethical.  On January 31, 2013, the Florida Supreme Court released its new rules on law firm advertising and marketing in the state of Florida.  Several of these changes are very important to any attorneys who are participating in online advertising, and several of the changes are still relatively confusing.  This guide will help you to understand the new regulations so that you can make sure your advertising and marketing are in compliance with state guidelines.

The Biggest Change: Websites Now Subject to Rules

For any attorneys interested in online marketing, there's no question what the biggest change from the Florida Supreme Court is.  In the past, Florida's attorney advertising regulations applied to television, print, and radio advertising, but for all intents and purposes, the internet was the Wild West—no regulations from the Florida Bar covered attorney websites and social media presences.  This policy was obviously developed prior to the development and success of the world wide web, but managed to persist until the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling.

According to new rules, websites and other online marketing tools are now subject to the same restrictions on content as other types of advertising.  For example, if you are going to include testimonials on your website or make claims regarding the quality of legal services you provide, the Florida Supreme Court's ruling requires that these claims be objectively verifiable.  Subjective claims, even on websites and other online marketing and promotional materials, are considered by the Florida Supreme Court to constitute misleading advertisements for attorneys.  Make sure that any content you include meets the new guidelines if you're already using testimonials or any opinions about your law firm.

Whither Social Media?

One place that many were hoping the Florida Supreme Court would provide better guidance is in the area of social media.  With so many people using social media platforms (over 1 billion on Facebook alone), understanding the rules and ethical problems that can come up with social media is critical for attorneys using the newest marketing techniques.  While some state bar associations have already released guidelines on the ethical and responsible use of social media in attorney marketing, Florida's ruling has stayed conspicuously silent on the subject.

In order to keep in the clear with your social media presence, it's good to make sure that it adheres generally to the quality standards required by a website.  If someone writes a very subjective testimonial on your Facebook wall, for example, you may want to delete the testimonial, writing the person who complimented you a nice note that lets them know you appreciate the sentiment but cannot include subjective assessments of law firm quality as part of your web presence.

Beware of Solicitation in Florida

Email solicitation is now also subject to the same kinds of rules as written communication with potential clients.  Both opt-in email lists as well as unsolicited direct email marketing are now subjected to the rules.  According to the Florida Supreme Court, the word “advertisement” must appear on every page in order to let consumers know that they are looking at attorney advertising rather than an objective report on a law firm.

Direct solicitation of clients in person is generally forbidden by Florida state ethics guidelines.  The Florida Supreme Court did not change this prohibition on direct in person solicitation in the new overhaul of the advertising ethics rules.

Solicitation through referral services must also be done in a transparent fashion. Any attorney referral services must state that attorneys using the service to take referrals are paying for their membership to the referral service.

Committees Decide Whose Ads Air

According to the new regulations, while websites do not need to be submitted to the bar for approval, all other types of attorney advertising, including print ads as well as radio and television commercials, must be submitted to the Florida State Bar at least 20 days before the ad is set to air.  This time allows the bar association to analyze the advertisement and make sure that it is in full compliance with regulations on attorneys.

While television, radio, and print advertising regulations have not been changed too much—so if you weren't having trouble with your ads before, they should still be fine with the bar association now—the bar association also recognizes that changes to website regulations may leave some law firms in need of guidance to make sure their online marketing campaigns follow ethics rules.  While firms cannot submit entire websites to the bar association, they are allowed to ask for guidance regarding specific aspects of their website—for instance, if there's a photograph, specific testimonial, or article you are worried may be a violation of current rules, you can submit it for the bar association's analysis and approval.

It costs $150 to have ads reviewed by the bar association if they are sent more than 20 days before publication, and $250 if they are late filed.

Non-Complying Websites

It's possible that with the new guidelines for websites for Florida attorneys, your firm could find itself in a state of noncompliance with the law.  If this happens to your firm, you will be sent a letter from the Florida Bar detailing the ways in which your website's advertising has failed to comply with ethics regulations.

Currently, the Florida Bar offers what is called a “take down period” for the 15 days after attorneys are notified that they are not in compliance with advertising regulations.  If you take down the offending portion of your website within 15 days of being notified by the bar association, you will not be subjected to any penalties from the bar.  However, you could be subject to fines or other disciplinary action for continuing to leave up content that the bar believes is not sufficiently objective or that may be regarded as misleading to consumers of legal services.

7 Signs Your Social Media Approach Isn’t Working

7 Signs Your Social Media Approach Isn't Working


You went to the meetings, you brainstormed, you came up with great strategies for your social media plan in 2013.  The problem is, now that you're implementing the strategies you developed, they don't seem to be working the way you'd hoped.  While huge majorities of law firms are now using social media to some extent, only a very small fraction are getting the most out of their social networking endeavors.  Here are some signs that you may need to trash your current social media plan and start over from scratch.

#1: You Can't Get New Social Networking Connections

You've been trying for months, but the only people who will friend your solo practice on Facebook are your Aunt Emma and your college roommate from freshman year.  What gives?  Odds are, if you can't build initial social networking connections, it's for one of two reasons.

The first of these reasons is that your content just isn't good enough for people to start following you.  If you're never posting anything interesting, why would people choose to read your posts?  Start trying to actually inform and entertain with your posts, rather than just advertising your business.  Who wants to read a feed full of ads?  No one, that's who—stick to content that actually helps your audience.

The second reason that you may have a hard time building new social networking connections is that you're not putting sufficient time into talking to others.  You can't just ask people to listen to you without also being willing to listen to them.  By interacting with and befriending others on social networking sites, you make it much more likely that you'll be able to get the kinds of connections you hoped for when you were initially creating your social media strategy.

#2: You Can't Maintain Your Connections

Other firms have a different problem.  They have no issue initially getting social networking connections, but they notice a strange pattern: after someone is connected with them on a social network for a few weeks or months, they tend to disappear again.

This will always happen with some percentage of your followers—perhaps some of them only wanted to follow your firm for a brief time while deciding on who to hire for legal representation, for instance—but if you notice that it's happening more than usual, you may have an issue with posting too much or posting irrelevant content.  Social network users don't want their feeds to be full of your posts—odds are, they'd prefer for your posts to be somewhat infrequent, while reading more posts from their friends and family members.  Keep your posting numbers down and you'll see that people tend to stick with your feed longer.

#3: You Treat Social Media Like Traditional Advertising

If you've traditionally advertised with non-social media channels, you may be used to a very particular form of expressing yourself.  Usually, traditional advertising has as its goal expressing the biggest strengths of your law firm to people who are unfamiliar with it.

However, social networking has significantly different aims and goals, which means that you can't use the same techniques and expect the same results.  Social media doesn't want to hear you talk on and on about why your law firm is the best.  Instead, you should show why you're the best—responding to questions, helping people get more information about topics relating to your practice area, and so on.  This kind of activity will go much further toward establishing your credibility in social media spheres than any amount of advertising content.

#4: You Post Dozens of Times a Day

If you're posting all the time, it's probably going to start turning people off from your feed (see #2).  However, this kind of super-frequent posting is also an indicator that something isn't quite right with your social media strategy.  It suggests a certain degree of aimlessness in figuring out what topics you want to cover.  It may also suggest that you're taking a shotgun approach, unsure of what kinds of topics will interest your readers.  This “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” tactic is more likely to alienate your readers than to find you new ones.

#5: You Post Once a Week

After you've had your social media accounts for some time, it's easy to find yourself bored with them and unsure of what to post.  One post a day becomes a post every other day, which soon becomes two posts a week, then one.  Keep going that way and soon you won't have any social networking connections left—they'll think that you've abandoned the site and that you have no more interest in interacting with other users there.  If you're getting bored with your social media, mix it up!  Figure out a new platform to use or new things to talk about.  Consider joining groups and making comments—anything to get your posting frequency back up and you more excited about the possibilities of social networking for your law firm.

#6: You Spend All Your Time on Social Media

Sometimes social networking websites can start to feel like an incredible timesink.  If you find that you're putting way too much time into social media as compared to your other tasks, you may need to figure out ways to make your strategies more efficient.

Consider using tools including social media dashboards that can help you use your time more efficiently.  You should also consider keeping track of exactly what you're spending time on, so you can see where it is that you're losing productivity and efficiency.

#7: You're Using Strategies From Last Year

It's unfortunate, but your social networking strategies from even a year or two ago might not work today—even if they worked really well back then.  The ways that people use social networks are changing, as are the networks themselves.

Keep up to date about the latest ways to use social media websites, and you'll have strategies that work today, not ones that worked six months ago.  When you search for social media ideas on Google or other search engines, consider limiting your search for tips to just the last month or two.  These tips will be fresher and more helpful than older ones.

Going Above and Beyond With Social Media: 7 Tips

Going Above and Beyond With Social Media: 7 Tips


A few years ago, when less than a quarter of law firms were using any social media platforms at all, just being part of social media sites was an indicator that your law firm understood the technological landscape better than most.  Today, though, 9 in 10 law firms are using social media in some way, and 7 in 10 have specific social media plans for 2013.  If you're looking to go above and beyond in your approach today, you can't just sign up for accounts.  You need better, smarter ideas that will help you get ahead of the competition.  Here are seven ways that you can push your social media in 2013 beyond what you've done in the past.

#1: Get a Social Media Dashboard

If you're still actually logging into each social media website to make your updates and comments, stop!  While logging into individual websites is fine for individual users, law firms and other businesses need a more efficient way to handle their social media posting.  The easiest way to make sure that you're posting efficiently is to download a social media dashboard.

There are many of these dashboard programs, each allowing a different array of social media sites.  The programs are at a huge range of price points, from free to those that cost both an upfront purchase price and a monthly service fee.  Your law firm's needs and social media budget will determine which of these services is best.

When you use social media dashboard tools, you'll be able to monitor what people are saying about your brand on social networking sites.  You'll also be able to easily and seamlessly reply, ensuring that you always have a certain amount of control over the buzz surrounding your firm.

#2: Cross-Promote Blogs and Request Comments

When you write a blog—and most lawyers have one, today—you probably want to make sure as many people can read it as possible.  However, you may be promoting your blog on social media sites in a way that's likely to leave some people turned off.  A brief summary of a blog entry and a link won't get most people there.

Instead, try asking a question about your link.  Ask for comments, or stories, or anything—the main component of this strategy is to ask not just for a read, but for a response.  This keeps people reading actively and framing the issue in the way that you want.

#3: Start Conversations—Even Silly Ones!

Too many law firms think of social networking as a one way, outbound communication medium.  However, considering it a two-way communication medium will serve you much better.  Listen to the kinds of discussions and conversations your followers seem most likely to start.

Consider using laughter as part of your marketing arsenal.  Even if the conversation you're starting is a silly one—for instance, “name something you don't want to hear at your meeting with a personal injury lawyer,” with a few funny responses to get the ball rolling—this gets people to feel like they have a seat at your table and are honestly interacting with you.  This kind of genuine interaction is worth far more than yet another staid, professional post about your firm that gets no traction on anyone's social media feeds.

#4: Monitor Your Competition and Interact With Them

In the social media world, you can sometimes consider your competitors to be among your best friends.  Monitoring competitors to see how they're interacting with social media lets you see experiments performed—without you being the one to take the risk.  If you see something that your competition does that's successful, you can consider the best way to use similar strategies for your firm.  Don't copy too closely, but instead take a look at the underlying reasons that a competitor's strategy worked to gain new followers or spark a great discussion.

You should also consider actually talking to your competitors using social media.  There's no reason not to, and you can keep your interactions professional and aboveboard.

#5: Use Social Media Knowledge When Interacting

Before you start posting on any social networking site, you should make sure that you have a handle on the community norms and expectations.  One of the ways that law firms can truly go above and beyond in social media is making sure that they understand social networks well enough to look like regular users of the site, not just people there to make a quick marketing buck.  Consider having a personal account totally unattached to your real name, just so that you can start to learn the ways that people interact on each website.  This surveillance gives you a huge leg up on competitors who only know sites as marketing tools.

#6: Answer Questions With a Quick Turnaround

When someone asks a question on your Facebook wall or other social media feeds, how long does it usually take you to respond?  For most businesses, this turnaround time is anywhere from 12 to 48 hours on average, during business days. However, businesses that go above and beyond can do better.  Consider using your social media dashboard tools to make sure that you're answering all questions to the best of your ability within just a few hours.  This kind of fast turnaround will set you apart from your competition in a way almost nothing else can—people like when their attorneys are quick and responsive to their needs.

#7: Keep In Touch With Brand Ambassadors

If you know that one of your former clients or a social media connection is particularly good about evangelizing for your firm, that's a person that you need to stay in contact with.  Making sure that your brand ambassadors are informed about firm happenings is a great idea.  You can also ask brand ambassadors to help you by posting some of your best links.

An ideal brand ambassador is one who is connected to your firm voluntarily, rather than through bonds of employment or family.  Finding even a few former clients who can brag about your legal services is a great way to boost the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.

Think Mobile: 8 Reasons Mobile Marketing Is Here to Stay

Think Mobile: 8 Reasons Mobile Marketing Is Here to Stay


When you give your phone number out to someone today, do you give your home landline number, or a mobile number?  For an increasing number of Americans, cell phones are an important part of life—in fact, over a third of Americans report that they no longer even have a landline phone.  As mobile phones get smarter and more common, law firms should start thinking about mobile marketing.  Having a mobile-friendly version of your website was once just a novelty.  In today's mobile-based world, it's a necessity.  Here are eight reasons that the legal marketing landscape is changing in a way that is favorable to lawyers who get on the mobile bandwagon.

#1: Smartphones Are Getting Cheaper And More Widespread

When smartphones came out, in the form of the Blackberry and other similar devices, they were regarded as gadgets best suited for high-powered businesspeople and tech geeks.  Today, the situation on the ground has changed dramatically: Over half of Americans now own a smartphone.

Smartphones, in addition to allowing basic telephony features, also let people connect to the internet, watch videos, use maps and global positioning satellite systems, and even play games or use apps.  The huge market share of smartphones has come as the result of steep price drops, including many which are now free with plan purchases.  The ubiquity of smartphone technology means that attorneys can no longer simply assume that their target market doesn't use smartphones—while younger demographics are certainly more likely to have a new iPhone or Android device than older people, all demographics are buying smartphones at an unprecedented rate.

#2: Better 3G and 4G Coverage

The first smartphones had data connections that were extremely slow compared to the speeds available for desktop web browsing at the time.  Typically, the first generation of data connections for smartphones only allowed a connection speed that was about the same as a dial-up modem.

Today, that's all changed.  Third and fourth generation data systems (abbreviated to 3G and 4G) allow for faster transmission and exchange of data than ever before through smartphones.  Today, 4G coverage, which is as fast or faster than many home broadband connections, is rolling out or already exists in hundreds of cities in the United States, while 3G connections can be found even in smaller towns and along major United States highways.  This better data coverage means that people are able to use their smartphones to get online more often and with less frustration—a great thing for marketers.

#3: Less Expensive Data

While some carriers have discontinued unlimited data plans, other cell phone service providers have stepped up to the plate to provide unlimited, flat rate data services.  When the data rate (the amount of internet downloading/uploading you're doing) is lower, people are more willing to do web searches on their cell phones.

#4: Conversion Ready Customers

It's hard to think of a type of client that's better to get than someone who's looking at their cell phone when they see your website.  After all, if they like what they see, it couldn't be easier: all they need to do is simply press the phone number on your website and the smartphone will dial it automatically.  Smartphones and mobile internet make it easier than ever for potential clients to get in touch with you right away, without the kinds of hesitations and second guessing that can make it significantly more difficult to convert new clients.

#5: More Tablet PCs

Smartphones aren't the only game in town when it comes to mobile computing.  With its introduction of the iPad, Apple began the rise of the tablet PC.  While tablet computing had been tried before, the iPad was the first device to become truly commercially successful using a touchscreen tablet interface.

Much like smartphones, tablet PCs often use mobile internet, including 3G and 4G.  These devices are considered mobile platforms for the purposes of marketing, because tablet viewers will see your mobile website, not your main site, first.  Mobile marketing to tablet users looks identical to mobile marketing to smartphone users, because the two types of devices actually use many of the same apps and graphics features.

#6: Social/Mobile Marketing Combinations

Sometimes, two great marketing tastes go great together.  If social media is peanut butter, then mobile marketing is definitely chocolate.  When you get your social media into your mobile marketing, you'll start seeing definite signs of success.  Why?  Because people like to use their social media accounts when on their smartphones.

Smartphone users are more likely to be users of various social websites, like Facebook and Twitter.  This means that whenever you do social media marketing, you should make sure that all your links are viewable by anyone who is using a mobile device.  Try checking on several devices with different operating systems (iOS, Android) before confirming that a web page is necessarily mobile friendly.

#7: The Rise of the Planet of the Apps

One of the other ways people interact with their mobile phones is through the use of “apps.”  Apps are a great way for attorneys to interact with potential clients.  Keep in mind that not everyone uses an internet browser and search functions any more.  Consider having an app that relates to your practice area.  For example, criminal defense attorneys may want to create apps that will help people understand how to interact during a routine traffic stop or a request to search a vehicle.

#8: Decrease in Desktop PC Market Share

It's been about 35 years since desktop PCs for the home market began to see initial sales.  However, the sales of desktop PCs have slowed.  Many specifications for desktop PCs haven't changed appreciably in several years, while significantly more innovation has occurred in the mobile realm.

It's unlikely that we'll see the desktop PC going away any time soon.  However, the ease with which clients can contact you after seeing your firm's mobile website means that you can't just rely on your desktop site forever.