Law firms are increasingly competing for attention on the internet and, with content marketing being one of the main ways for firms to generate quality leads, the online space is becoming increasingly saturated. Regardless of which online channels firms choose to focus on (eg Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc), it’s becoming ever more difficult for law firms looking to be noticed to stand out from the crowd and drive more business online.
As difficult as it can be to get lawyers to write content for online publication, even once a great piece of content has been written, there’s no guarantee of it being seen or shared online. Due to the sheer amount of competition online, regardless of the talent you have at your law firm and no matter how well you think you differentiate yourselves from your competitors, it is still possible for great, unique content to go unnoticed. To put it bluntly, simply creating good content does not cut it anymore.
Ten top tips
With that in mind, here are our ten top tips for distributing content successfully online:
1. Write outstanding content about trending subjects
The key to great content distribution starts before content has even been written. Look at what content is trending online and in your relevant fields. Online tools like the Trending Now feature in BuzzSumo or the Content Explorer feature within Ahrefs can really help in this respect. Or listen to what’s most popular using tools like Flipboard, Twitter or LinkedIn. Or try the old-fashioned approach of asking colleagues in your team; if you don’t have someone in your team sending a regular email with the most topical updates you should be considering that in any case. By writing outstanding content about what your clients want to know most, your content once published is more likely to be shared by others.
2. Rely on accurate keyword research and other online data
Again, before any content is written, it’s important to plan further and complete accurate keyword research. This can really help the reach of your content in search engines (provided your content is used as part of an effective SEO strategy). Basic keyword research can be done relatively easily using the Keyword Planner within Google Adwords (without paying for Adwords), which can give you a greater insight into what headings and subheadings you should be writing about.
The illustration following, for instance, shows one of the initial keyword research screens in the Keyword Planner regarding relevant divorce topics and keywords within family law, which shows that “How to get a divorce” is one of the most searched for phrases and would certainly merit an article being published and shared.
Of course, you don’t want to write about everything that gets suggested by keyword research tools. To stay focused on generating the highest quality leads, it’s best to write about the most profitable areas for your firm. You could, for example, be getting thousands of monthly visits to your firm’s website for a well-written article about “online divorce”, but it may not yield the best results as that’s a keyword where people are possibly looking for a cheaper service.
Other research tools include Google Analytics, which can show you which pieces of content have worked best for your firm in the past and can show you which platforms have driven the most traffic. More advanced users can also have Google Analytics set up to show which pieces of content and referral sources have generated the most leads for your firm (and when combined with call tracking to find out which pieces of content generate the most phone calls, this can really help close the analytics loop). It’s good practice to then either improve these pieces that have worked well (and re-share) or write about similar ones – a strategy known as “pumpkin hacking”.
Because there are more ways than ever before to reach clients online through social media, email marketing and organic search, it is vital that law firms know what words and phrases to use to reach clients effectively, and not just rely on a hunch.
3. Share your content with your email list
One of the most effective ways to distribute your content is to share it directly with those who have an interest. An email list will normally consist of current clients and contacts, those who have signed up to your newsletter or those who have otherwise agreed to receive updates. While not everyone will click through to the page or even open your email, a significant number is still likely to, especially if your email marketing campaign is enticing enough, thus exposing your content to relevant and interested contacts of your firm. The key to this tactic is to maintain a robust list of relevant contacts, ideally for each main practice area in your firm, and to grow it organically, eg through consistent inbound marketing with data capture or through offline events. It’s not recommended to simply buy a mailing list and send marketing emails, no matter how good your content is; this type of spam will have a detrimental effect on your firm’s reputation and can even have consequences with the Information Commissioners’ Office.
4. Schedule and share content on social media
Many firms, pleased with themselves for having written a post, simply publish and share once or twice, then forget to redistribute the piece. However, one of the best things that you can do is to spread out the promotion of new content over a period.
There are many tools that can help schedule tweets and posts to other social media channels, such as Buffer or Hootsuite. Both of these platforms allow you to schedule social posts in the future. This allows you to continually distribute content and schedule the release of posts over a number of weeks, ensuring that your social media accounts are continually updated.
Here are a few simple rules we recommend you follow when scheduling social posts:
- Schedule many posts in one sitting. Scheduling social posts is a task that can be done in less than an hour, rather than a continual task throughout the week. Ideally change the title and description of your share each time. Scheduling in one sitting improves consistency of tone and voice.
- Only schedule relevant, on-message, content. It is important that when you share content, you do so evenly, as sharing in quick succession can look like spamming.
- Analyse the impact of your social shares. Using tools such as Twitter Analytics it is possible to measure the impact of your social shares.
- Be conservative with your own content promotions and share others’ content more than you promote yourself. The majority of firms active on social media tend to share about 8–10 pieces of content daily on Twitter. Don’t just promote your own content; engaging with others, including the content of other individuals and firms, is vital for social media traction. This is likely to lead to greater traction long-term, with others sharing your content.
5. Find the best time to distribute your content
Your clients will be online at different times. Tools such as Tweriod or Google Analytics can allow you to find the peak time that your followers or website’s visitors are online, ensuring the maximum amount of exposure for your posts. But always test; you might find that when fewer people are online there is less noise and more chance for you to stand out to the handful of people who really want to hear from you.
6. Mention and notify all experts and commentators referenced
If you have referenced experts or commentators in your post, be sure to share the post with them, online or through email. They will naturally have an interest in their own work and if they share the content (whether through social channels directly or through publishing an amended version as a guest post to their own website), it could expose your piece to new audiences.
7. Create and use images
Most regular social media users will tell you of the importance of using images when sharing content. If you’re using images in your posts, a quick and easy tip is to share the headline or quote from your post along with an image. You could also make a tailored image using tools such as Canva to distribute specially for your social audience.
8. Maintain your social channels and the branding across all channels
Maintaining your social media channels is paramount to the long-term success of distributing content. Indeed, ineffective or inactive social media channels can even damage your firm’s brand. Social media dashboard tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite can be useful for this as they allow for sharing of content to several social media channels from the one platform. With a growing number of your existing and prospective clients searching for your firm on social media channels, it’s key to have consistent branding.
9. Pay to play
Paid social media marketing is becoming more important as social networks increasingly try to monetise their platforms. With some, such as Facebook, brands effectively now have to pay to get noticed. If you’re looking to reach very specific new audiences, this can even be cost-effective. Sponsored posts within Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are some of the main ways of doing this, although there are others too, such as promoting a single Twitter account. We’ve also seen teams from legal practice areas within firms get individual pieces of content distributed effectively and quickly using Google Adwords. These approaches are becoming more common than the more traditional methods of paying PR professionals or mainstream media outlets. But in any case, for the purpose of building a sustainable long term strategy, we would always recommend focusing on organic first, then paid.
10. Consider “tweeting in convoy”
While it’s important for effective content distribution to utilise multiple social media channels and not just rely on one person in your firm to do the sharing, there is a danger of spreading your firm’s efforts too thinly.
Many of the larger law firms, whether knowingly or not, are now using a social media strategy known as “tweeting in convoy” or “tweeting in fleet”, a concept that can also be applied to LinkedIn or other social channels. A phrase coined several years ago by corporate lawyer Jon Bloor and implemented in practice by a growing number of firms, perhaps most notably by Brian Inkster and his firm Inksters Solicitors, tweeting in convoy involves a coordinated effort across various accounts on Twitter, not just the one firm account. You have your main firm account, other practice area accounts and individual lawyer accounts, all working as part of an overall social media marketing strategy.
This can be particularly useful for law firms with multiple practice areas and with individual solicitors who are active on Twitter as it allows them to build relationships personally and target specific audiences, which will help to get content distributed more effectively. As Bloor explains: “You can’t have a conversation with a law firm so it will be this person (or several of them) [operating a specific account] who engage with your followers, take part in the discussion and promote the business.”
James Mulvey from leading social media management company, Hootsuite, explains this in a similar way, suggesting three paths of social media adoption, ranging from basic to advanced.
Ultimately, if firms are prepared to invest the resources required to implement such a dedicated strategy, the rewards can be significant, including greater brand awareness, national or global visibility for specialisms, higher client retention and higher visibility in Google for different areas of expertise.
Tweeting in convoy is not an approach that works for all firms. Tweeting from different accounts can also be confusing to clients and runs the risk of diluting the overall brand. Establishing a voice that reflects your organisation and its values is vital for your social media output to benefit your business. Managing several Twitter accounts can prove unwieldy and it doesn’t reflect well when some accounts are noticeably more inactive than others. Unless a solid business case can be made, tweeting from many accounts can devalue rather than add value.
When it comes to content distribution, it is key that you measure growth and set targets while building your online profile at a cost-effective level. Solicitors must accept that the days of business falling into their lap are over and firms must get better not only with writing engaging content based on effective trend research and keyword research, but also with getting it found with effective distribution. By enhancing the distribution of your content and building a robust online strategy, you will give yourself a better chance of maximising potential business opportunities and beating your competitors in an increasingly saturated online space.
One last thing – as mentioned at tip 4 above, it’s not just about promoting your firm’s own content and treating Twitter and LinkedIn as broadcast channels. Sharing useful, informative content from others and generally engaging with others more than you promote your own content is likely to lead to better relationships online and better long-term sharing potential for your content. If you think the tips above deserve extra sharing, I’m more than happy to reciprocate!
Gavin Ward is the Operations Director at Moore Legal Technology, Director at YouBlawg and Social Media Curator at Curated Media, helping law firms generate more profitable business online. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @GavWard.
Gavin would like to thank Stephen McIlkenny, a content marketing professional at Curated Media, for his assistance in the production of this article.