For most law firms, 80% of their budget is tied up within internal resources, so deciding where to focus resource is the greatest challenge they will ever face. For every channel that’s added to their strategy, that means diluting the impact that they will have elsewhere. Every tweet means less time blogging. Every blog means less time reviewing analytics.
The two digital channels most impactful and time intensive for the majority of law firms are social media and email, so the significance of deciding how to divide time, energy and budget between the two cannot be exaggerated. It’s therefore essential that firms are fully equipped with all the relevant detail.
The pros of social media for law firms
– You are meeting your audience where they are already active – people spend more time on social media than any other form of website, so if you want to meet them on their terms, social media is the place to begin. The exact platform will of course depend on your audience, and it may be that your firm has multiple audience segments and therefore requires activity in multiple locations. It may be that the B2B component of your offering needs to focus on LinkedIn, while your consumer proposition is better placed on Facebook. Meanwhile, your recruitment strategy may demand that you have an active presence on Instagram or TikTok. This fragmentation obviously comes at a big cost operationally (which we’ll come back to) so from this POV firms with a distinct priority audience are at a particular advantage.
– Extending your reach – unlike an email that is only seen by those on the list, social media opens your brand up to anyone on that platform. The only limit on your reach is the sum of your creative multiplied by your media budgets. For new channels like TikTok, the emphasis is very much on the former, with massive organic reach available for anyone able to publish content that sparks genuine interest. For more mature channels like Facebook, the emphasis is more on ad spend, as the platform looks to squeeze every penny from its brands. Either way, your audience is there should you wish to speak with them.
– Scalability – growing an opt-in email list is an organic process. It may be that you can accelerate things by adding data capture to your site, running email capture campaigns on social media, etc, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to grow the list as quickly as you can scale activity on social media itself, whether that’s through paid ad strategies, influencer campaigns, or even using social channels like LinkedIn to scrape data. Therefore most aggressive digital campaigns involve a strong degree of social activity.
– Repurposing – while social media has its operational challenges (the constant evolution of algorithms, ephemeral content providing only short bursts of traction, etc), it does offer one big efficiency, and that’s repurposing. Imagine you spend 10 hours creating a brilliant set of assets for your Instagram page, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll also be able to make use of those (with some editing perhaps) on TikTok, Facebook or LinkedIn.
The pros of email marketing for law firms
– You are developing an asset – the trouble with social media is that your firm does not actually own its presence on any of those channels. Rather it is renting it. If you invest thousands of hours in building a large, engaged audience on LinkedIn, you are doing so on someone else’s land. If LinkedIn remove your access, there’s nothing you can do about it. If they shift the algorithm to favour sponsored content, you have no choice but to spend more money. And if they vanish because a more popular platform occupies their space in the market in 3 years from now, it will be like your community never existed. Email, on the other hand, is all yours. Of course there is always uncertainty about how email as.a channel will feature within people’s communication habits in the future, but let’s not forget it’s been a core part of our lives for nearly three decades, so it seems reasonable to assume it’ll be around a good while longer.
– It’s incredibly cost effective – while social media may seem like a cheap route into your audience, there are two considerations that may change the equation. For a start, developing a community requires an extraordinary amount of time, which means expensive resources, whereas an email list only requires the updating of messaging, much of which may even come from other content you’re creating elsewhere (articles, interviews, etc). Secondly, as social channels mature they tend to shift towards greater monetisation, meaning you will have to pay simply to maintain connection with your existing audience! Your email list, on the other hand, is yours. And will only cost the amount it pays to host your list on one of the major platforms, which if your list is under 10,000 shouldn’t cost much at all.
– You have people’s permission – developing an opt-in list means they are actually asking for the information. It’s a sign you have a real relationship with the recipient and one that will grow with every communication they receive.
– It drives purchasing decisions – as a law firm you will likely find there is a stronger correlation between your direct response email activity and lead generation, than from any other form of channel activity. In fact with the right messaging it’s likely that the CPA (cost per acquisition) that your firm will be able to achieve will be far lower than you could ever dream of via the likes of PPC, and this will only grow with time.
Developing an effective social media strategy for your law firm
No matter whether you’re a boutique firm servicing a specialist business audience, and legal tech start up targeting a consumer audience, or a large brand working with the whole spectrum, your firm will need to work through the following in order to get the most out of its social strategy:
1. Clarity of brand and content – as with any channel dependent on content, if your messaging is to be coherent and tell a compelling and consistent narrative over time then it needs to emanate from a well developed overarching brand strategy. There needs to be a clearly defined tone of voice, clarity around imagery and other visual/audio assets, agreement on the headline messages you’re seeking to deliver for each audience segment. As an extension of this, there needs to be a well defined content framework, with distinct pillars detailed in terms of subject matter, and an understanding about how those pillars correspond to each stage of the customer journey.
2. The priority social channel identified – while there is a lot to be said for firms adopting a Create Once, Distribute Everywhere (CODE) philosophy with their content where they invest in high quality content assets that are then used across a variety of social channels, it’s important that a firm understand which channel sits at the top of that list. After all, as with everything in marketing (and business!) the overwhelming majority of value will be derived from just one source (Pareto’s Law) so identifying that channel as early as possible means that you can develop your content with the quirks of that particular platform in mind. For example, if you’re creating content for TikTok then clearly it’s going to have to be in short video format, while Twitter will be far more text and image based.
3. Agreement on media budgets – there are few things more frustrating as a hard working content strategist than developing outstanding assets and then being unable to secure any serious budget for promotion. In the traditional days of media planning the rule was 80/20 – 80% of budget on media, 20% on content. If you translate that into present day digital marketing, that means that if you spent £2000 on content for your social media channels, you should be prepared to spend £8000 on promoting that content. Clearly the rules are different now and that kind of spend is unlikely to be required or agreed to, but at the same time doing what most law firms do and spending thousands on content then only £20 on promoting that content, doesn’t make much sense either. We would typically suggest allocating about the same spend to ads as you do to the content itself. This will vary from social channel to social channel, but as a general rule it’s about right, and will ensure your hard work on the content never goes to waste!
Developing an effective direct response email strategy for your law firm
For those law firms that are targeting a business audience, perhaps no channel offers such direct selling power as email. There are several stages to ensuring the campaign reaches its potential:
1. Ensuring GDPR compliance – if your audience is consumer then you will of course require double opt in consent. However, for those firms targeting limited companies, the rules are far more accommodating. All you need to do as a law firm is ensure the content is highly relevant to the audience (thereby satisfying “legitimate interest” criteria), that there is a link to your privacy statement and that it’s simple for recipients to unsubscribe. Do those things, and you are quite free to collect data via all available sources.
2. Work on your messaging – it’s of course a given that your headline and email body copy will be key in driving action, but in truth few law firms ever achieve a sufficiently high standard. Most firms are so concerned with maintaining a professional image that they strip away any sense of personality, and that’s a huge problem. Humour is one of your most powerful weapons within email marketing, and your ability to create a natural flow and conversational tone is critical. Remarkably some of the most effective emails from professional service firms to other companies include the use of gifs. And if you’re thinking “Hardly any law firm would do that”, you’d be right. And that’s precisely why you should!
3. Create a series – one email will almost never do it. Instead you need to create a series, each more intriguing and provocative than the last. The best number is usually 4. Most positive replies come after emails 3 or 4, so any less than 4 and your response rates will drop significantly. Any more and you may find yourself triggering some spam complaints, and we definitely don’t want that!
4. Deliverability – finally, we need to consider the more technical elements. We need to ensure the list is well maintained and hosted on a reputable platform (Mailchimp is as good as anything for most law firms). Any unsubscribes should be respected and great care should be taken to pre-cleanse any imported data. While you may want to use imagery within the emails, large files should be avoided as they will reduce your deliverability rates. These may sound like small changes, but email marketing is all about marginal gains, and you can find them everywhere.