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Tweet To Be Heard: 7 Reasons For Using Twitter

 Tweet To Be Heard: 7 Reasons For Using Twitter
When Twitter first came out, many attorneys thought that the microblogging service would be a blip on the marketing radar—here today, gone tomorrow.  However, in 2013, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Twitter is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  If you’re one of the nearly half of attorneys who still doesn’t have an account on Twitter, here are seven reasons that you need to get on board this year.

#1: Twitter Is Growing—Fast

Over 60 million people have joined Twitter in just the last year.  The rate of growth that Twitter has experienced since getting off the ground in 2008 is incredible.  What’s more, the activity levels of users on Twitter swell during big events.  In other words, you can use Twitter to get into the conversation right when people are paying the most attention.

The continued growth of Twitter may be slowing down slightly due to how many people are already active users of the service.  Currently, Twitter claims to have over 200 million total active users—as many as the adult population of the United States.  What’s more, the user population of Twitter tends toward slightly younger people who have a lot of influence in their social circles.  These are exactly the kind of brand ambassadors that can be most effective in bringing your firm’s message to other users on Twitter and people off the internet.

#2: Twitter Conversion Rates Are Through the Roof

When surveys have been done of which social media sites are most likely to generate client conversions, Twitter almost always comes out on top—often by a lot.  Some surveys have shown that Twitter is up to nine times as likely to create conversions than any other social networking site available.

Those numbers are too big to ignore for any law firm today.  If you’re not participating actively in Twitter, keep in mind that you won’t experience these same conversion rates.  Conversions come not from just having a Twitter account, but by creating unique tweets, participating in conversations with other Twitter users, and understanding how to use the site’s hashtags and other features.

#3: It Doesn’t Take As Long As Other Networks

Because tweets are character limited, it’s substantially easier to maintain a Twitter account than almost any other kind of social media account.  Given the fact that tweets can travel fast, there’s a great return on your time investment.  Twitter can be a way to give your thoughts or see what other people have to say.  You can use Twitter for a few minutes to jumpstart your creativity.  The quick nature of tweets means you can read many in just minutes.

#4: Ease of Connection

Tweets travel better than any update on LinkedIn or status update on Facebook.  Tweets can get picked up by people who have national or even global influence and reach, all within a few degrees of even a small law firm.  A good idea travels fast.  If your firm wants to connect, it’s going to need great ideas and content that is concise, intelligent, and without pretense.  Don’t try to be something that you’re not, but don’t sell your own ideas short, either.

#5: Business to Business Twitter Contacts

Keep in mind that Twitter isn’t like Facebook—primarily a way to keep in contact with consumers.  It’s also a very good business to business network if you build the right contacts and retweet the right people.  Keep in mind that business to business contacts are cultivated by slow building of relationships.  You’re not usually going to see immediate dividends in terms of new clients when you start your Twitter account or for the first several months that you have it.  That’s fine—the biggest rewards from having a Twitter account that stays active will come from having a long-term account that has invested in relationships with other people on the social networking site.

If you’re going to maintain good quality business to business contacts, make sure that your tweets sound businesslike and professional.  Don’t make the mistake of using too much jargon or too many internet acronyms.  These kinds of uses can make you seem like you’re trying too hard.  Use hashtags, but use them relatively sparingly, rather than using four or five in every tweet.

#6: Search Engine Optimization

Google weights tweets highly when it comes to its searches.  This means that if you’re ignoring your Twitter account, you’re also ignoring one of the best ways to make sure that your firm’s name is visible when people search using the most commonly used search engine in the world.

An active Twitter account is great search engine optimization for your firm and can ensure that you are visible to people who search for your firm either by name or by specialty area.  If you’re clever about making sure that your brief Twitter description includes a concise and keyword conscious description of your specialty areas, you’ll have a much higher search ranking for your Twitter account than for other types of social media accounts.  This is a positive way to show your company.

If you want your Twitter account to be at its best for search engine optimization, the days of overusing keywords are over.  This means that you must keep your Twitter account looking clean and full of worthwhile content.  People will read your tweets only if you make sure that they’re actually worth thinking about and passing on.  Remember that the better your ideas are on Twitter, the more you’ll be doing for your overall search engine optimization.

#7: Looking Forward

It’s important as a law firm that you’re perceived as doing the right thing and looking toward the future when it comes to your marketing plan. Since Twitter has continued growing, it’s very possible that neglecting your Twitter account will actually start to lose clients for you in a very meaningful way within the next year or two.  Keep your firm looking forward by maintaining a presence on the social media site most likely to maintain its relevance for several years to come.

Step By Step Guide: Making Facebook Work For Your Firm

  Step By Step Guide: Making Facebook Work For Your Firm

Facebook can seem a little bit daunting if you're not used to it.  While some law firms dove happily into Facebook and used it as a tool easily, not everyone has the same amount of internet familiarity.  If your law firm has been hesitant to jump into Facebook because you're not sure what it's all about, don't worry.  Help is on the way.  This guide will give you some step by step instructions on how to make Facebook a vital part of your firm's marketing and brand.

Step 1: Get To Understand Facebook With a Personal Account

If you're really new to social networking, that's fine, but you don't want to dive right in with a business account representing your law firm first.  It's fairly likely that you'll make mistakes in the first days and weeks that you're involved in social networks, and that's okay—you actually want the freedom to make mistakes and be corrected by other people you're connected to.

The best thing that you can do to familiarize yourself with Facebook is to get a personal account first.  A personal account will only be read by people who have a personal connection with you as long as you set your privacy settings to only share your Facebook updates with friends.  This gives you a safe place to experiment, get used to Facebook, and cultivate some friends on the site before you decide to dive in with a business account.

Step 2: Get Started With Your Business Account

Once you feel fairly comfortable with your personal account, including making it personalized with Timeline entries and photographs, it's time to create your business account.  Make sure that you have professional photographs of your attorneys and your office for posting on Facebook.  Having these photographs can give people a better and more realistic view of what it's like to actually consult with attorneys in your office.  This, in turn, makes people more likely to convert.

When you start your business account, you should also consider updating your Timeline to include a variety of important events from your law firm's past.  While not everyone who looks at your law firm's Facebook page will notice these Timeline entries, having them filled out is a nice way to show that you do care about the website's features and are familiar with how to enngage with Facebook users.  Try to give your Facebook Timeline entries a bit of narrative depth while keeping them relatively short and simple.

Step 3: Keep Both Accounts Active and Posting

Both your personal and business accounts should be kept quite active if you want the maximum effect from Facebook.  Forgetting about your accounts is one of the fastest ways to lose friends and stop influencing people.  By keeping business and personal accounts both active, while remaining separate and posting about different things, you'll make sure that you're maximizing how many people contact you about things they read in your Facebook entries.

Step 4: Import Contacts and Make Friends

When you start your Facebook account, one of the first things that you'll be asked is whether you want to invite friends to use the service with you.  If you want, you can even have a program take a look at your address books and let Facebook see if any other users of their service are already people that you talk to.  Importing a contact list can be a great way to make sure that you start your Facebook account with a fairly large number of friends.

Make sure that when you're talking to people and trying to make friendly connections, you also send some kind of personalized message.  Not everyone will take as kindly to someone trying to reconnect, especially if your email contact is several years old.

Step 5: Expand Your Social Network

One of the best aspects of Facebook is that it lets you make friends with people that you might not otherwise have known.  For that matter, when you're using Facebook as a business tool, the website actually lets you target people with your advertising who are friends of the people that you have already established friend connections with.

Using this kind of advertising can be very useful if you're trying to get new clients in a relative hurry.  Remember that people tend to befriend others in similar demographics, and if your demographics are very specific, you're likely to find other ideal clients in their groups of friends.  For example, if you're a divorce attorney whose clients are following your firm's site, marketing to your clients' friends is likely to find a significant number of other people who are considering divorce or separation.

Step 6: Learn What Potential Clients Want

When you're using Facebook, keep in mind that it's a two-way communication medium.  Facebook is not like television or radio, where you're just telling people what to think.  Conversations are shaped by both consumers and brands on Facebook, and if you hear your commenters consistently asking for the same thing from you, you need to make sure that you're listening.

By reading all the comments people leave for you—consider very strongly using a social medialon dashboard, which can streamline this process substantially while ensuring that you don't miss any comments or questions—you'll learn what potential clients care about and what their most commonly asked questions are before giving you a call.

Step 7: Use Social Connections for Referrals and Testimonials

If you can build a rapport with people on your Facebook wall based on long term interactions, gradually it's likely that you'll see referrals start to happen even without asking for them. This does require acting with long term relationships in mind, being authentic and true to your brand for months or even years.

You can also solicit testimonials from past clients that can help you get new clients on your website or through social media channels.  Having real testimonials on social media makes it much easier for people to become new clients and pick up the phone for a first consultation.

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. 

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.

Outsourcing Legal Marketing: Understanding the Issues

Outsourcing Legal Marketing: Understanding the Issues

 

 

If your law firm doesn't consider marketing to be one of its strong suits—and studies show that nearly half of small firm partners consider marketing to be the most difficult part of their business—you may be considering asking an outside firm to handle some or all of your legal marketing work.  In today's marketing climate, though, not all elements of your marketing campaigns can be handled equally well by someone from outside your firm.  In this guide, we'll look at four distinct aspects of your marketing that you might be considering outsourcing: social media, reputation management, blogging, and advertising. 

Facebook/Social Media Marketing

Why You Might Want to Outsource It:

Let's face it, not every law office has someone who thinks that Facebook is the best and highest use of your firm's people and time.  Outsourcing your social media has an appeal, especially for attorneys who think they're above marketing to some extent—if you're afraid that your marketing efforts could come off as fake or desperate, it may be time to hire an outside firm.

You'll definitely want to outsource your social media marketing if you've found that you're unable to keep up with it.  If you're not posting regular updates and keeping up your web presence on social networks, you're going to lose followers and connections fast.  If you really need help and the alternatie is not having any social media presence, by all means, find a great professional company with experience helping law firms like yours.

Use Caution If:

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when it comes to social media marketing—and most other outsourcing solutions.  If your firm uses a marketing firm that is inexpensive but hires people who don't understand the legal field, you're not going to be happy with your results.  In some cases, hiring a bad social media marketing firm could actually be disastrous.  Unethical conduct or just seeming impersonal, or having a bad command of the English language, could lead to your marketing company sinking your firm's reputation.  Think long and hard before hiring a bargain basement firm to do your social media.

Reputation Management

Why You Might Want to Outsource It:

It's stressful to worry about your firm's online reputation on a day to day basis, but it's also something that needs to be done.  Your online reputation can change in a heartbeat, and not always for reasons that are even your fault.  In some cases, a rival firm or disgruntled client could spread misinformation about your firm.  In other situations, you might find that you're getting criticism because of a specific policy or an interview you did with the media.

Knowing what people are saying about you is great—but finding out can be hard.  Outsourcing gives you the psychological distance to be able to deal constructively with critiques, instead of finding them and taking them personally.  Having a neutral third party looking at the criticisms of your firm can also help you to determine how to work on those criticisms and how best to respond.  In many situations, an online reputation management firm can help you have negative search results removed or pushed so low into the search results that it's unlikely anyone will ever find them again.

Use Caution If:

Online reputation management firms are really only something that your firm needs if you're relatively large.  Solo practitioners and very small firms don't generally need a team of people managing their online reputation, unless they handle very high profile cases that get a lot of media attention.  If you're working for a small firm, you may want to put your outsourcing dollars into an area where they'll get you more immediate benefits for marketing purposes.

Blogging

Why You Might Want to Outsource It:

You're busy!  Blogging—especially good blogging—takes a huge amount of time and energy.  There's not just the writing, there's also the research, and keeping up with the comments, and maybe even commenting on the blogs of others to help you network.  With all these responsibilities, it's no wonder that many attorneys just want to foist off the job.

Use Caution If:

Unfortunately, this is one where the answer is that you should ALWAYS proceed with extreme caution.  There's almost never a good reason to outsource your blogging.  Think about it: clients and other attorneys come to your blog looking for your original thoughts.  If they're getting the thoughts of a flunky at a marketing firm, and not a well-educated, articulate attorney who's been trained in argumentation and legal writing, they're going to feel cheated—and rightfully so.

Blogs simply can't be outsourced well.  A blog that is generic enough to be outsourced is a blog that is unlikely to bring your website a great deal of traffic anyhow.  Many of the SEO tricks that used to make low-quality blogs shine in search engine results no longer work, so even if you're willing to use tricks and gimmicks it's now very hard to succeed with an outsourced blog.

Online Advertising

Why You Might Want to Outsource It:

Pay per click and targeting and ROI, oh my!  Not all people at law offices want to spend a lot of time figuring out exactly how many pennies to spend on every click of the mouse that leads a person to your website.  For many attorneys, this kind of work feels nitpicky and trivial, and it's hard for them to really feel excited about starting new online advertising campaigns.

Use Caution If:

This is one area where many law firms would do well to bring in outside people, at least for some time.  Getting a handle on advertising online—which search terms you should advertise with, demographics research, and so on—is much easier when you've hired someone who already knows what they're doing to help you out.  Online advertising can be fairly confusing, so hiring some outside consultants to help you get a handle on things can ensure that you don't flush money down the drain on a campaign that had little or no chance of succeeding.

6 Legal Marketing Questions: One Size Does Not Fit All

6 Legal Marketing Questions: One Size Does Not Fit All

 

When you're starting to develop your strategies for legal marketing, you'll find all kinds of opinions online that make it sound like there's only one way for your firm to be if you want to be successful.  Only one design aesthetic, only one right way to talk to clients, only one right way to divide your marketing budget.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  There's no one perfect legal website that you should model yours after.  There's no one way to get your marketing message out.  To understand what's actually best for your firmwide marketing plan, you need to ask real questions about your firm's priorities.  These tips are best for people who are just starting out with their law firm marketing plans and are in the brainstorming phase of strategic planning.

#1: How Personal Do You Want to Get?

One of the biggest questions you have to ask yourself when thinking about legal marketing is whether you want your content to have a personal, warm touch, or for it to be more formal and traditional?  Traditional approaches are the way that many law firms choose to communicate that they are staffed by serious professionals.  This kind of approach usually doesn't offer much in the way of new content, but if you're going to go with traditional approaches make sure you're doing them well—with professional photography, excellent writing, and fresh, informative content.  If you're dry, at least be dry with a lot of well-organized, easy to understand information.

On the personal side, make sure that if you're trying a personal strategy, you don't let it get unprofessional.  You can be funny, you can be authentic and earnest and folksy, you can do just about any style that fits with your personal style.  What you can't do is let that style get in the way of communicating clearly with people looking at your site.  Don't lose sight of the fact that you want to keep people informed, and tone down your style if it's interfering with your ability to be informative.

#2: What's the Role of Technology?

You need to decide right away whether you're actually committed to using new, online technologies in your marketing campaign.  With over 85 percent of consumers of legal services looking for attorneys online instead of using phone books, you can't afford to be a total Luddite—but how much tech do you want to get involved with?

You're the one who knows your people.  Will you be getting in over your head if you try to download social media dashboards and maintain 7 different social networking profiles?  What are the technologies that excite you?  What are the ones that scare you?  Just because you're using online marketing doesn't mean you have to latch onto everything—use the marketing ideas that call out to you, whether you're working online or off.

#3: Which Social Networking Sites Match Your Clientele?

Some law firms are dealing primarily with hipper, younger clientele who are more likely to have smartphones and use social networks like Twitter.  Other consumer oriented firms are much more likely to have a client base that uses Facebook as its only source of social networking.  Still other firms interact largely with businesses and prefer LinkedIn.

Pay attention to what kind of client you're trying to attract when deciding which social networks to join.  A consumer oriented firm in a small town is unlikely to get much, if any, new business from LinkedIn, for example.  Make sure you know what people are using not only in the demographics you're interested in, but also in your local area.

#4: Focus on Long or Short Term Returns?

If asked, the vast majority of people will say that they want to focus on their long term goals, whether those goals are related to marketing, their personal life, or anything else.  But that's not always really true.  Maybe in an ideal universe we'd always be able to focus on the long haul, but in today's intensely competitive legal world, that's not always what really needs to happen.

If you need short term gains because otherwise you're going to have a hard time keeping the lights on, you don't need to hear more platitudes about long term planning.  Instead, you need to work on the kinds of advertising and marketing that work right away.  Probably the best form of online marketing for those needing a quick fix of new clients is pay per click advertising.  This form of advertising allows you to target specific types of clients based on search terms or demographics.  Using this form of advertising allows you to get new clients within hours or days, not weeks or months.

PPC advertising is very short-sighted if you want to keep your eye on the long term goals, though.  As soon as you stop spending, it stops working.  Consider options with better long term payoffs, like social media and building on your social networks, when short term goals aren't enough.

#5: How Do You Know If It's Working?

Before you get started with your campaign, you need to think about how you'll determine if you've seen the results you wanted.  What criteria are actually important to you?  What do you want your online marketing to do for your law firm?  Only you can decide what results make a difference to you.  Don't listen to what marketing gurus have to say about calculating return on investment—figure out the metrics that make the most sense in your specific circumstances.

#6: Who Do You Trust For Critique?

Everyone—no matter who—could use a good editor and critic.  By having someone you trust to critique your work, you can make sure that you're only putting your best foot forward in your online marketing campaign.  Always make sure you have an extra set of eyes look at any marketing material—one of the fastest ways to a faux pas is to go too quickly and send out copy that isn't yet ready for prime time.