Law firms looking to draw traffic to their websites and blogs will want to move on from SEO to social media.

Technology journalist, Ben Weitzenkor (@benkwx), reports in Entrepreneur Magazine that social media may soon drive more traffic to websites than search engines.

Last year, half of all internet users ages 18 to 23, and 43 percent of users ages 24 to 32, used social networks as their go-to internet-discovery resource, according to a new report from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. Overall, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are the preferred means of discovery for nearly a third of all Americans, up from 18 percent in 2010.

At the same time, 54 percent of American internet users still relied on traditional search results to find the information they were looking for. As expected, that number is on the decline and, according to the report, represents a seven-point drop in overall search engine popularity from 61 percent in 2010.

Chris Sherman (@cjsherman), founding editor of SearchEngineLand, commented further on the generational differences in how people find websites.

While natural search results was the clear preference for all generations, social media was the most favored second preference for younger people, with 50% preference for Generation Z (ages 18 to 23) and 43% of Generation Y (ages 24 to 32), with just 22% of Older Boomers (ages 57 to 67) and 19% for the Golden Generation (ages 68 and older) using social media to find websites.

forrester-search How we found websites 2012 Law firms focused on SEO, like other marketers, are living in the past. From Weitzenkor:

Although consumers are rapidly changing their habits and behavior, marketers still haven’t caught up, prioritizing SEO and paid search efforts above engagement over social media. In order to turn that around, the report asserts, search marketing teams need to learn what searchers are really looking for and focus on broader engagement instead of simply trying to drive an immediate sale.

Social is not just important in the obvious way – links being shared. Social is even more important with individual lawyers needing to establish their influence through social media.

We’re moving on from a push content out to everyone in every way possible world to a more mature and more meaningful online world. A world where people will discover, not search for, what they are looking for. They’ll discover insight and commentary from those viewed as thought leaders, those viewed as influential.

Unlike SEO which law firms and lawyers buy from third parties, you’ll not be able to buy influence and thought leadership status. Such status will be earned through real and authentic engagement via blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other social networks.

This may feel like tough love to lawyers and law firms who have bought their presence online. But in the long run this is good for them and our profession as a whole. We can use all we can get of lawyers socializing online in a real and authentic way.

h/t Stephen Fairley

20130518-103512.jpg “We can’t all have “geniuses” representing our brand like Apple does, but never underestimate how brands can be personified by the simplest virtual and face-to-face social communication.”

This from Christa Carone (@ChristaCarone), CMO for Xerox, in a piece in the Harvard Business Review last month on the power of a CMO leading by example in their use of social media.

Carone understood being an active participant, not a passive observer, was required to understand social media.

She also wanted to show her team, as a true leader, that using social media could change the public’s perception of Xerox as one of a copier company to one of business process outsourcing, where most of their revenue is derived today.

As I read Carone’s story of a using social media for a year all I could think of was law firm CMO’s. Where are they in their active use of social media to make sure they understood social media and leading by example to influence the perception of their law firms?

Carone faced similar challenges law firm CMO’s perceive with regard to social media.

I’ll be honest; playing guinea pig required time that is scarce these days. Maintaining a lively, close-to-real-time presence on any media outlet is not for the faint of heart. How many followers and tweets make a Twitter feed look respectable? How many views make a blog post high-impact? Is my Klout score high enough? And ROI? Let’s not even go there.

And of course the personal versus firm brand, an issue that often paralyzes law firm marketing.

Our executive team is proud of the Xerox brand presence in the social space, but we have a team-oriented, humble culture. I didn’t want to be seen as a chest-thumping “celebrity” executive who uses social media as a megaphone and whose personal brand can outshine their professional one

Rather than just starting to use social media Carone got clear on her strategy.

I set out to connect with communications professionals and marketing thought leaders, the most relevant audience for me as a marketing executive. Before taking the plunge, I carefully considered what value I could bring to the social conversation in a very crowded field. I thought about how Xerox helps customers so they can focus on their real businesses — and my purpose as its CMO. My answer was clear: giving a real, clear-eyed take on the business of marketing and communications. Marketers have a reputation for being full of hype; I wanted to share information about and examples of smart, yet simple, marketing and communications

Facebook was reserved for Carone’s personal life, so she started on Twitter, and later, blogging.

I didn’t have a huge Twitter following then and I still don’t. Quantity is never the point. Quality engagement always is. I tweet a few times a day — much of it is sharing what I’m reading, watching, and inspired by in marketing, branding, communications, leadership, and the occasional a-ha moment I have as a runner and/or as a parent. These are topics I live and breathe every day.

What Carone most enjoys by being active in social, as do I, is the way it helps build connections with others in the business.

I’ve been surprised by the number of people, fellow employees included, who introduce themselves at large events to say they read and share my tweets and blog posts. It’s nice to know someone hears you when you’re talking in a forest.

One of Carone’s favorites is when a woman approached her after a speaking engagement (something she’s asked to do more often now).

I never thought I’d see the old brand Xerox represented by a woman in an orange dress who tweets and talks like she’s my next door neighbor. I thought Xerox was stodgy; now I can tell you’re not.

Carone’s advice to CMO’s getting started with social media:

  • Be conversational. Initiate or amplify conversations with clients, prospects, media players and employees. Remember: the only legitimate social media voice is the same one you would use in a room full of peers. You’re not leading a seminar. You’re having a conversation around the virtual water cooler, or even better, at a collegial cocktail party.
  • Don’t sell. If you want to sell, buy an ad or an advertorial or, perhaps, sponsor tweets. Otherwise, contribute insights and stimulate conversation by expressing a point of view.
  • Enlist a team. It’s just a reality that busy executives will sometimes be out of commission in closed-door meetings or airplanes without Wi-Fi. Chatter on digital media outlets is 24/7. So be open to asking trusted advisors to watch your blog and social media feeds while you’re “dark” and alert you when it’s important that you respond.
  • It’s personal. And, it only works if it’s authentic. That means it won’t work for any professional who sees it as a burden instead of an opportunity.(emphasis added)

Social media has now become a natural part of Carone’s day and has changed how she gets, shares, and talks about information. She says if she’s “[S]uccessful in getting just a handful of people to see a new face to the new Xerox, then it’s worth every tweetin’ moment.”

Last Friday in New York I had a couple beers with the CMO of a top 10 law firm. I could sense their excitement with a social media initiative underway at the firm.

After a half hour, they said I’d like you to personally coach me on various aspects of social media. They wanted to understand what social media was, how to use it, and to lead by example. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to work with them, and possibly later on, their firm as a whole.

In the 10 years since founding LexBlog I believe that’s the first time a CMO made such a request of me. Maybe it’s my fault in not making the offer, I don’t know. But the law firm CMO’s who are blogging and using other social media, especially as it pertains to communicating the firm’s message, are few and far between.

As a law firm CMO, are you leading on social media? Are you, personally, communicating the firm’s position and brand, through social media? Assuming not, don’t you see it as a lost opportunity? Could it even be a dereliction of duty?

Thanks for your story Christa. No question I liberally cited from your piece — it was just too good. ;)

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It’s all about mobile when it comes to business in 2013. That’s the word from Clair Cain Miller (@clairecm) in a post in the New York Times’ Bits Blog yesterday.

[A ComScore Report] shows that the effects of a movement toward mobile are everywhere, from shopping to media to search. According to the report, “2013 could spell a very rocky economic transition,” and businesses will have to scramble to stay ahead of consumers’ changing behavior.

Cain Miller found the following facts from the report of particular interest.

  • Last year, smartphone penetration crossed 50 percent for the first time, led by Android phones.
  • People spend 63 percent of their time online on desktop computers and 37 percent on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.
  • Facebook and Google are dominant and at each other’s throats. Facebook reaches 76 percent of the smartphone market and accounts for 23 percent of total time spent using apps each month. The next five most used apps are Google’s, which account for 10 percent of time on apps.
  • As mobile continues to take share from desktop, some industries are seeing significant declines in desktop use of their products. They are newspapers, search engines, maps, weather, comparison shopping, directories and instant messenger services.

A few takeaways for lawyers and law firms:

  • Lawyers ought to be networking through the Internet in the places and in the form their target audience is. That’s on apps on smartphones and tablets. Lawyers equipped to network on smart phones and tablets will be far ahead of their competition when it comes to business development.
  • As with newspapers which are losing viewership on the desktop, law firms will start to lose their website and content viewers on the desktop. All law firm content and websites need to be mobile optimized.
  • A lawyer’s and a law firm’s target audience is networking on Facebook’s mobile app to build relationships. Lawyers ought to begin to use Facebook for networking so as to appreciate Facebook’s business development value.
  • The best applications for networking through the Internet are on mobile devices, especially the iPad, not laptop computers. Networking from a desktop or laptop is much less effective and a time waster.

As Cain Miller reports, “If there is one theme that will be the topic of digital business this year, it is mobile.”

Image courtesy of Flickr by MRBECK.

20130216-160007.jpg Perhaps not the exact sweet spot for law firms, but 77% of those using the Internet in the age 30 to 49 use social networking sites. This per a report entitled “The Demographics of Social Media Users—2012” by the Pew Research Center.

67% of all Internet users use social networking. Here’s the breakdown for other age groups.

  • 18 to 29 – 83%
  • 50 to 64 – 52%
  • 65 and over – 32%

Virtually all of a law firm’s clientele use the Internet, so a lawyer is looking at anywhere from 32% to 83% of their clients, potential clients, business associates, referral sources, and the influencers of these four groups using social networking.

If you’re a lawyer, do you understand how to network via social networking sites? Are you networking via social networking sites?

If not, you’re arguably becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the majority of people who are nurturing and building relationships via social networking.

I’ve always felt that blogging and Twitter slowed while Facebook came alive on the weekends. That’s at least as to my circle of friends and connections – business people, lawyers, reporters, technologists, association leaders, and the like.

It turns out that most Facebook interaction (likes, comments, and shares) for most industries does come on the weekend. This from a report by LinchpinSEO, shared by Devon Glenn (@DevonGlenn), Editor of SocialTimes in her post today, ‘The Best Days to Post to Facebook, by Industry.’

Technology is the exception to the rule, with Monday being the best day to post, with an engagement rate that’s 30 percent higher than on other days.

Your law firm may be closed on the weekend, but if you are looking to engage your target audience (existing clients, prospective clients, and the influencers of those two) on Facebook, you best be open. That goes for your firm’s marketing professionals as well as for your lawyers, the later being more effective for relationship building.

Remember also that Facebook is not a one way street. You can’t just post on Facebook on the weekend to engage. You need to listen and interact.

Interaction on Facebook comes in commenting, liking, and sharing. A lawyer or law firm cannot interact by just auto-posting or having someone ill-equipped to do business development attempt engage on Facebook.

No question it’s hard work to do business development on the weekend. But if your target audience was gathering in an arena downtown on a Saturday afternoon, you’d go. Look at Facebook the same way.

For the days of heaviest Facebook interaction broken out for the industries you represent, please see in the below info-graphic.

facebook infographic
Facebook Post Data Segmented By Industry infographic designed by Linchpin Infographic Design

As reported by Science Daily, a study published recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research finds that about one in four physicians uses social media daily or multiple times a day to scan or explore medical information.

Findings from the survey of 485 oncologists and primary care physicians include:

  • On a weekly basis or more, 61 percent of physicians scan for information and 46 percent contribute new information.
  • Over 50% use online physician-only communities.
  • Only 7 percent use Twitter.
  • 14 percent use social media each day to contribute new information.
  • Oncologists are more likely to use social media to keep up with innovation, while primary care physicians are more likely to use social media to get in touch with peers and learn from them.

Surprisingly, the survey was conducted a year and a half ago. Per Robert S. Miller, M.D. (@rsm2800), an assistant professor of oncology and oncology medical information officer at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center,

…[I]t’s likely that more physicians are using social media now, says The amount of information required for medical practice is growing exponentially and social media provides very valid construct for physicians to keep current.

Bottom line, physicians saw social media as a vehicle to make them better docs and improve patient care.

Nearly 60 percent said social media is beneficial, engaging and good way to get current, high-quality information; enables them to care for patients more efficiently; and improves the quality of patient care they deliver.

Many lawyers and law firms look at social media solely as a means of enhancing one’s reputation and growing their businesses. Nothing wrong with achieving both through social media.

But social media is so much more. As Dr. Miller says social media provides a very valid way to stay current.

As with medicine, the amount of information required to practice law is growing exponentially (assuming you are looking to stay current not only on the law, but on information relevant to the industries and people you represent).

The amount of relevant information available to lawyers has never been greater. Social media is what enables lawyers to receive this information from trusted sources in a time effective fashion and grow their network by contributing new information.

The Pew Research Center has published a study on the impact social media and social networking had on voters this year.

The purpose of the study may have been to measure just how much more social networks and social media impacted the election in 2012 than in 2008, but much of the information gleaned is further evidence of social media’s integration into the average American’s life.

Here are just some of the findings:

  • 69 percent of online adults use social networks, almost twice as many as in 2008 (37 percent).
  • Facebook remains much more popular than Twitter.
  • While younger people are more likely to have a profile on a social medium, more than half of 50 to 64 year olds (57 percent) and more than a third (38 percent) of Americans over 65 use social media.
  • A third of voters say they not only used social media to follow politicians but also became self-active by encouraging others to vote and spreading their own political opinion.
  • 27 percent of registered voters used their cell phone to get news on the election.
  • More than a quarter (27 percent) couldn’t get enough news on one medium, so they used both a TV and a cell phone or computer during the election night.

All too many law firms tell me the first step in their social strategy is to find out whether their clients use social media.

C’mon, would you call your client’s cell and ask them if they used a cell phone? Would you send in-house counsel an email and ask if they use email?

Of course you wouldn’t. You’d look like a darn fool.

Cell phone and email usage have both woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s common sense your clients and the people who influence them use these tools.

You’re looking square in the face at social media and social networking being just as commonly used by average Americans as a cell phones or email.

Don’t spend your time and money asking clients if they use what common sense and research dictates they do. Develop a strategy that focuses on understanding what social media and social networking is all about – a means of standard business development for law firms, a means of building relationships and enhancing ones reputation.

Get the lawyers and other professionals in your firm understanding the what and the why of social combined with actually using social media and social networking. They’ll then never think of asking their clients if they are using these mediums.

What do you think? Do you law firms really need to survey clients on social media use?

Need any more validation that social media has woven into the fabric of our society?

92% of people are more inclined to purchase from a company that makes use of social media channels. For 67% of people, Facebook is their preferred social media channel. This from Accenture Interactive (@AccentureSocial) in a study released this week.

Consumers are also willing to trade privacy for relevancy and value being conveyed through multiple social media channels.

When asked to make a choice, 64 percent of respondents say it is more important that companies present them with relevant offers against only 36 percent who say companies should stop tracking their website activity.

Per Baiju Shah, managing director of strategy and innovation for Accenture Interactive,

It is clear that consumers are demanding a more individual relationship with retailers and in the emerging ‘forever prospect’ model of retailing, that means service and product experience can be more critical than price. Consumer marketing needs to address the current disconnect between offline and online shopping and enhance the physical store front with tailored digital experiences.

What does social media and consumer shopping have to do with law firms? Everything.

At the very heart of the service our profession offers is a relationship. The attorney – client relationship.

People, whether consumers of legal services or retail consumers, are demanding a more individual relationship with their provider. The relationship can even be more important than price.

Sure, attorneys nurture relationships in traditional ways, including the best way, face to face. But with social media feeling comfortable to so many people, consumers of legal services, including in-house counsel and executives, are going to build and nurture relationships with those lawyers who use social media effectively.

In time, consumers of legal services will be less inclined to use those lawyers and law firms not using social media. Not because they hold it against those lawyers and firms for not using social media, but because they simply won’t feel the engagement, trust, and relationships that social media fosters.

social media learning lawyersThis continues my series of posts to provide lawyers and legal marketing professionals with support for making the case for social media in their firms.

As more lawyers take on business development and marketing themselves, there’s a dominant demand by lawyers to learn about social media above other online marketing methods. This from this years Legal Marketing Survey Report by Avvo and LexBlog.

The findings with commentary from me:

  • 44% SEO – With sharing of content on social networks and blogging effecting SEO more and more, social media is big here.
  • 41% Online Reputation Management – Developing a powerful online reputation that is the equal of your offline reputation requires adept and effective use of social media.
  • 32% Business Development Strategies – Business development online requires building relationships and growing an online word of mouth reputation. Social networking and social media are at the heart of this.
  • 31% Social Media – Enough said.
  • 28% Blogging – Another form of social media.
  • 28% Website Analytics
  • 27% Mobile Optimization
  • 26% Website Design
  • 24% Marketing and Advertising Ethics

I am always being asked, “How do I get our lawyers to start using social media? How do I overcome resistance.” I am always answering, “Education.” Educate your lawyers as to what social media is all about – developing relationships and building a strong word of mouth reputation, the same thing business development in the law has always been about. Then reach them about specific social media following a strategy you’ve developed.

Visting the Texas Bar Association a couple weeks ago, I was told their lawyer education sessions on social media are overflowing with lawyers wanting to learn more about social media. Now I see why.

Five of the first nine online marketing methods lawyers want to learn about involve social media.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Lawton Chiles.

Top Ten BeethovenMost lawyers and legal marketing professionals responded with just two words: Social Media.

That from a Legal Marketing Survey Report (pdf) by Avvo and LexBlog I shared with you yesterday. In my post yesterday I shared that the survey found law firms are curtailing investment in marketing traditional and embrace digital marketing.

In a continuing series of blog posts to help lawyers and legal marketing professionals support the case for social media in their firms, today I want to share from the same survey what lawyers and legal marketing professionals believe to be the ‘Top 10 Ways Legal Marketing Has Changed in the Past Five Years.’

  1. Legal marketing has moved to social media online. In fact most people responded with just two words: Social Media. It’s very clear search engines (Google) and social media (LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook,  etc.) have dramatically changed the way lawyers market their services and the tools they use.
  2. Need for online presence. The widespread belief that a lawyer must have an online presence to be recognized among peers and clients.
  3. Legal marketing is more competitive and aggressive. Because the cost to market legal services is far less (or even free) than what it used to be when advertising was primarily offline, it has effectively leveled the playing field for all lawyers across firm size, years of experience and practice area.
  4. Yellow pages are irrelevant. The Yellow Pages are no longer relevant and print media has declined dramatically to where it no longer makes business sense for lawyers to spend money on those channels.
  5. Bar rules confusion. The adoption of new marketing channels has created chaos among bar associations who struggle with adapting new rules and regulations. This has led to confusion and uncertainty among lawyers.
  6. Clients are smarter. People no longer rely on word of mouth – they do their own research when looking to hire an attorney, most often online, and come to appointments better educated and prepared with questions and requirements for establishing a client relationship.
  7. Older lawyers and more traditional law firms are adapting to the online world. Where at one time digital media was dismissed or its use even banned, there’s now an understanding of how important these tools are for the practice.
  8. Difficult to keep up. With so many different marketing tools, it is difficult to keep up. Lawyers feel overwhelmed.
  9. Relationships and reputation still matter, but increasing the use of online channels to market services makes it harder to develop personal connections.
  10. Rise in the smart phone and mobile. Along with the social media explosion, the rise in smart phone usage is also changing how potential clients find and contact, attorneys. Marketing plans now need to factor in mobile as a platform.

Two findings that require comment are number six, that people no longer rely on word of mouth – they do their online research, and number nine, that though relationships and word of mouth still matter, online channels make it more difficult to develop personal connections.

Word of mouth and asking a person you trust is the number one way Americans find a lawyer. Per a study last year by American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services:

People with personal legal matters are far more likely to turn to trusted sources instead of impersonal sources to find a lawyer… Trusted sources’ include friends, co-employees, business associates, relatives, and so on.

It’s after relying on relationships and a lawyer’s reputation, perhaps both accelerated by developing a strong online identity, that consumers of legal services go online to investigate the lawyer whose name they have received or heard of.

A website or LinkedIn profile is not then enough for a lawyer. People are looking to see that the lawyer is a real leader in their field. Are they thought highly of by their peers and the public? Does their blog show their intellect, passion, and care. Is what they are saying and writing being shared by others on social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Are they being quoted by leading bloggers and the media. All of these things are established by developing an online identity.

On number nine, as to relationships and reputation, I and thousands of lawyers on the LXBN network have found their relationships and reputation accelerated by developing a powerful online identity. We have not found online activity to make it harder to make connections, we have found it easier. I can only guess that many of the lawyers who responded to the survey did not understand how to use the Internet to develop relationships and connections.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jerry Bakewell.