As usual, some weeks ago Good2bSocial (www.good2bsocial.com) published its annual Social Law Firm Index. If you are not familiar with it, it is study of social media marketing adoption, use, and practices within the legal industry. It analyses each firm’s presence on the internet and across social media and evaluates their social usage to extend thought leadership content and to engage with clients and constituents. It measures social media reach, engagement, and marketing performance on platforms that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Based on this information, the report also publishes rankings of America’s Top 200 law firms for best social media achievement.

Due to the coronavirus, 2020 was a different year, and this shows in the findings of the report. Here are the key takeaways.

  1. Firms bulked up their digital marketing strategies during the pandemic: In the olden days, lawyers mainly relied on ‘social marketing’ to gather clients through, e.g., person to person interactions at social events, etc. Even in this digital age, it was a quite common and important way to reach potential new clients. But in 2020 the coronavirus made sure that no longer was a viable option. As law firms had to shift their entire practice online, they also were forced to embrace digital marketing strategies to extents never witnessed before. In 2020, “we saw firms embrace webinars, write and promote content, increase their social media advertising budgets and launch podcasts. Digital marketing is here to stay and it’s great watching firms embrace it and learn from best practices and opportunities to grow.” (Guy Alvarez, CEO Good2bSocial).
  2. The year of the webinars: In 2020, webinars became one of the most important tools for law firms to continue marketing and providing valuable content for their clients and potential clients. Where webinars have always been an effective digital marketing tool for law firms, in 2020 they became a necessity.
  3. The rise of podcasts: 2020 also was the year law firms started embracing podcasts. An unprecedented 38% of the top 200 US law firms are producing podcasts, and that percentage is expected to keep increasing in 2021. Podcasts allow law firms to tell their story, demonstrate their expertise and subject-matter authority, while potentially reaching brand-new audiences.
  4. Increased interest in SEO: in 2019, Google made some fundamental changes to its search algorithms. The underlying idea is that people are looking for answers to questions. So, the algorithms were adapted to prioritize web pages that provide the relevant information to answer those questions. In other words, the focus shifted from key word search to relevant content search. This forced many law firms to re-evaluate the content they were providing and to shift their SEO efforts to emphasize the most useful, relevant and targeted content they are providing.
  5. Paid LinkedIn goes mainstream: law firms noticed that their advertising on LinkedIn was far more effective than on other platforms. “The platform’s major selling point for marketers is its ability to target an audience by their industry, job title and work experience and more, not just their demographics.” As a result, paid advertising on LinkedIn has become the new normal for law firms.

Apart from these key takeaways, the report also contains several predictions for 2021:

Technology adoption will be at an all-time high: the adoption of technology by law firms was spectacularly accelerated by the pandemic. Because people could not meet in person, they met in cyberspace, and the legal profession followed suit: not only did lawyers start having virtual meetings with clients, but court cases too were handled online. As a result, law firms have relied on technology like never before and that is expected to continue in 2021. As they are getting familiar with all these new technologies, they will continue to reap more benefits from it. Law firms started embracing creativity and incorporating artificial intelligence, which also became a tool for data-driven marketing campaigns. It also allows to extract the right insights from the data they already have collected in their different software platforms. All of this is expected to contribute to increased operational efficiency, and better risk management.

Greater adoption of account-based marketing: one of the shifts we are witnessing is the new focus on account-based marketing. Account-based marketing is also known as key account marketing. The idea 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.

Increased use of social media advertising: the pandemic has led to an increase in social media advertising and this is expected to continue in 2021. LinkedIn saw its market share among law firm increase, and Facebook wants to remain competitive and is modifying its offerings. The result will be that it will be easier and more effective to use social media advertising than before.

Greater emphasis on website seo + cro: as attracting new clients online is becoming the new normal, more attention will be paid to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Where websites used to be online brochures, they are now full-fledged tools for acquiring new clients. The conversion rate is the percentage of your website visitors or leads that become actual clients, and CRO focuses on strategies and technologies to optimize those conversion rates. It is a step-by-step process that includes looking for ways to engage clients, including Calls to Action (CTA) on web pages, etc.

In previous years, the report also included a list of best and worst practices. This year’s report is slightly different in that it still contains a list with worst practices to avoid, but no longer contains a list of general best practices. Instead, those best practices are now analysed per specific platform, which falls beyond the scope of this article. We do have the time to go over the list of the worst practices that should be avoided.

Websites aren’t optimized for conversions: the primary function of a website should be to attract new clients, and for that reason the focus should be on conversions.

No true clarity on target audience or business goals: a website should not be a mere presence on the Internet, aimed at the public at large. Law firms need to identify their target audiences and ideal clients, and they need to clearly define what they want to accomplish with their website.

Not using data/ technology to evolve: to effectively use your website to attract new clients, you have to keep track and follow-up on all kinds of metrics: what works well, and what does not, when it comes to standing out, attracting the attention of potential clients and ultimately converting those leads to clients?

Only focusing on the top of the funnel: CRO strategies use the analogy of a funnel, where at the top of the funnel, you have all the potential new clients, and at the bottom of the funnel, you have those that become actual clients. The CRO strategies are aimed at guiding the leads through that funnel. Many law firms make the mistake of only focusing on the first step, or the top of the funnel. They also need to pay attention to the next steps, or the middle of the funnel. “Middle-of-funnel prospects are already in the buying funnel and are perfect candidates for targeted marketing campaigns. They need attention that is unique and relevant to them. When law firms build a collaborative relationship with the prospect, they can acquire more data about them to better understand their problems and needs and offer them the personalized approach to close the deal.”

That concludes the quick overview of the 2020 Social Law Firm Index. 2020 surely was an interesting year from a digital marketing point of view, where the pandemic became an unexpected catalyst for faster digital marketing adoption. That evolution is expected to continue in 2021.

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