Law firm online advertising sucks : Firms need to become media players

Taking the lead from Steve Outings, the publisher of a network of citizen-media-driven websites, in a post at Editor & Publisher, law firm online advertising, as is the case with other companies, sucks. Law firms, as Steve advises other companies, need to become media players through the use of blogs.

Buying sponsored links at Google, effective for a few firms, is very expensive, never ending, and not trusted by the majority of Internet users. Banner ads, whether at Martindale-Hubbell’s lawyers.com or other places are as cheesy as billboards on the side of a road. Web sites tend to be shrines to the firm, streaming little, if any, helpful information to current and prospective clients. And how many of you trust the SEO consultants who are selling snake oil to uninformed buyers.

Law firms need to take a lead from companies like Nike, the subject of a recent New York Times article, for their Internet efforts. Steve characterized Nike’s use of blogs as becoming a ‘media enterprise, not only producing content, but creating running (and other sports) communities, and producing useful online tools for athletes.’

Stefan Olander, Nike’s global director for brand connections, said ‘We want to find a way to enhance the experience and services, rather than looking for a way to interrupt people from getting to where they want to go. How can we provide a service that the consumer goes, ‘Wow, you really made this easier for me’?’

Plus, as Steve point out Internet advertising is not trusted.

A global study by Nielsen Research released this month, based on research of more than 26,000 online users, showed that Internet advertising is near the bottom of the list in terms of how much it’s trusted by consumers. Print newspaper ads did quite well, coming in second place with 63% of people saying they trust them. TV commercials and magazine ads placed a few percentage points behind. Search ads were trusted by 34% of consumers, and banner ads (still the stalwart at most newspaper sites) were trusted by just 26% of respondents.

What was No. 1? Word of mouth. (WOM means not only friends telling friends about products and services that they recommend, but being empowered by the Internet to share their recommendations with a broad and loose group of ‘friends’ who may belong to online communities of people with shared interests. WOM also includes all the consumer reviews — e.g., book and product reviews by consumers on Amazon.com — that people now rely on so heavily to make purchasing decisions.)

Of course your law firm doesn’t have the marketing budget of Nike. You don’t need it. The vast majority of law firm Internet advertising is so pathetic, that a focused and concerted effort on your part will make you a shining star.

How does your law firm become a media enterprise? By producing and disseminating content in the same way large companies are doing so – via blogs and RSS. Focused blog content cited by other bloggers and the main stream media creates a word of mouth buzz about your firm that’s much more effective than other Internet advertising. And it’s something you can be proud of as a lawyer – unlike a shlocky banner ad.

I agree with Steve that companies, law firms included, are going to find they do not need traditional media as much, because they can reach their target audiences directly themselves.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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