Some weeks ago, Good2bSocial published its eighth annual report on how law firms use social media, the 2021 Social Law Firm Index. In this article, we look at its key findings, at social media practices to avoid, and at predictions for 2022.
Some of the findings were expected. As the pandemic endures, everybody is still having Zoom meetings, but as vaccines are rolled out, more and more people are returning to the office. And now that lawyers spend more time online professionally, their budgets for digital marketing are also still increasing with more spent on advertising. The report also notes that by now, all the major law firms are on LinkedIn. Apart from that, there are four key findings.
The number of law firms that are creating podcasts has grown exponentially. In 2020, 38% of the biggest law firms in the US had a podcast. In 2021, that number has grown to 75%, and many of them had more than one podcast. Overall, podcasts are popular, with 40% of the US population listening to at least one podcast a month. For law firms, they are an ideal way to establish themselves as experts in a given field and to attract a new and interested audience. For those law firms who consider starting a podcast, the report points out that it is important to maintain a consistent schedule. (For more information on starting a legal podcast, read our article on podcasting for lawyers).
The use of video has increased across social media. Video content is the most popular content on social media and has become one of the most mediums for law firms too. Videos tend to appeal more because they are more engaging and more memorable. (People are more likely to remember something they’ve seen than something they’ve read). Video also tends to score better when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization). Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are the most popular platforms for videos. The report encourages law firms to produce more videos. It urges law firms to make sure their content is relevant and to include captivating headlines and descriptions. (For more information, read our article on using video in your law firm).
There is an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and corporate activism. Over the last years, there has been an increase in intolerance towards minorities. Law firms have joined the movement to turn the tide. They “issued press releases emphasizing their commitment to improving their diversity efforts, upped their donations to BIPOC causes, increased pro bono efforts, and showed their support for LBGTQ audiences with rainbow flags.” (p. 7). Some went further and created fellowships and/or they created partnerships with racial justice organizations.
Covid-19 resource centres. During the pandemic and its different waves, what people, businesses and organizations were allowed and not allowed to do often changed. Many law firms offered resource centres on their websites to keep their clients and potential clients up to speed with a variety of in-depth information and insights regarding the fast-changing developments.
Social Media Practices to avoid
Every year, the report also highlights the worst practices that are still prevalent and should be avoided. This year, it lists five of these practices that law firms should avoid in their usage of social media and their website.
Poorly defined target audience: this is one of the most persistent errors law firms keep on making, i.e., they do not target a sufficiently defined audience. Many law firms still seem to cling on to the misconception that they have to target as wide an audience as possible. The opposite is true. If your message isn’t specific enough, it will just get lost in the information overload Internet users are bombarded with. The more specific your target audience, the higher the chance you will stand out for those potential clients that actually need your services. In other words, the more accurately you define your target audience, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Failing to engage in conversations: legal consumers want their lawyers to listen to them. Engaging in conversations demonstrates that you are listening and offers a chance to show your expertise. Respond quickly and consistently to the comments your law firms receive. The report advises to occasionally do a Q&A on certain topics or do an ‘ask me anything’ session.
Poor reporting and analytics capabilities: to know what social media and content marketing strategies work, you need to analyse the metrics. It helps you to evaluate your ROI, and to finetune your strategies and your budget. Unfortunately, most law firms don’t do a great job at regularly tracking the relevant data. (For more information on web analytics and metrics, you can read our article that provides an introduction to web analytics).
Treating all social media platforms the same: different social media attract different user groups with different expectations. LinkedIn has a more professional audience than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. What works on one platform does not necessarily work on another. It is crucial to understand each platform and to use the correct type of content, as well as the optimal rate of publishing content for that platform. (For more information, read our article on planning your social media activity).
Too much focus on firm-centric and promotional content: Another big mistake law firms tend to make is to mainly focus on self-promotion. Legal consumers may well be interested in what you can do, but they rather would know whether working with your firm will be a satisfying experience, and whether your firm will meet their expectations. (For more information, read our article on making your law firm more client-centred).
Predictions for 2022
Sticking to tradition, the report also makes some predictions for the year ahead.
Continued increase in paid online advertising: the pandemic more or less forced law firms to spend more on online advertising as the more traditional ways of business development – which for lawyers largely depended on socializing – were not available. Still, compared to regular businesses, law firms tend to spend a far lower percentage of their budget on marketing and advertising. This is especially the case for small and medium-sized law firms who hardly spend any money on marketing and advertising. The report expects that law firms slowly will start catching up with the rest of the market and will continue to spend more on online advertising.
Focus on account-based marketing and related technologies: as we explained in a previous article, the idea of account-based marketing is to identify key accounts and then customize your marketing strategies for each one of them individually, rather than having one general marketing strategy for all accounts. It is more effective, and makes it easier to track and measure goals, and identify a clear ROI. As it focuses on the client’s journey and experience, it also results in a boost in client loyalty.
Evaluation of firms’ marketing technology stack: the report defines the marketing technology (often shortened to MarTecK) stack as “the collection of marketing tools that your team uses to place ads, post on social media, and gather results and analyze ROI.” (p.11) Digital marketing campaigns use several different tools, and now additional tools are appearing that either combine the functionality of those tools or allow them to work better together. It is advisable for law firms to evaluate the tools they are using and see where improvements in the stack are possible.
Exploration of programmatic advertising and intent-based targeting: the report predicts law firms will start experimenting with intent-based targeting. What are we talking about? In a previous article on the digital marketing concepts lawyers need to know, we explained what a conversion funnel is. Intent-based marketing is a type of marketing that specifically targets those prospects who are in the last stage of the funnel, i.e., those who have shown an intention to make a purchase.
The report also expects an increase in programmatic advertising, which it describes as “a way to automatically buy and optimize digital campaigns, rather than buying directly from publishers” (p. 12). This used to be something only the largest law firms could to. But more and more tools are becoming available that allow smaller law firms to use programmatic advertising, too.