Law firms are increasingly recognising the value of content marketing to showcase their expertise, but there is no point writing great content if it cannot be found by potential clients. Gavin Ward provides his 10 top tips for effective online content distribution
Law firms are increasingly competing for attention on the internet – and the online space is becoming saturated. Regardless of which channels firms focus on (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc), it is becoming ever more difficult to stand out from the crowd and drive business online.
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
Content marketing is one of the key ways for firms to generate quality leads. But however great a piece of content is, there is no guarantee of it being seen or shared online. The sheer amount of competition online means that, regardless of the talent at your firm and how well you think you differentiate yourselves, great, unique content can still go unnoticed. To put it bluntly, simply creating good content does not cut it anymore. So how can you make your firm’s content marketing effective? Below are my 10 top tips.
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. Look at sites like Flipboard, Twitter or LinkedIn; use online tools like the Trending Now feature in BuzzSumo or the Content Explorer feature within Ahrefs; or try the old-fashioned approach of asking colleagues in your team. If you write outstanding content about what your clients want to know most, your content, once published, is more likely to be shared by others.
Also, before any content is written, conduct 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 search engine optimisation strategy). The Keyword Planner within Google Adwords can give you a greater insight into what headings and subheadings you should be writing about. For instance, search for ‘divorce’ as your product or service within the product category ‘Family law’, and you will find that one of the most popular searches is ‘how to get a divorce’ – certainly something which would merit an article.
Of course, you should not write about everything suggested by keyword research tools. To generate the highest quality leads, focus on the most profitable areas for your firm. You could, for example, be getting thousands of monthly visits to your website for a well-written article about ‘online divorce’, but it may not yield the best results, as that is a keyword where people may be looking for a cheaper service than you provide.
Other research tools include Google Analytics, which can show you which pieces of content have worked best for your firm in the past and 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 generate the most leads (and this, combined with call tracking, can show which content generates the most phone calls). It is good practice to then either improve these key pieces (and re-share) or write on similar topics – 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 do not just rely on a hunch.
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 and those who have otherwise agreed to receive updates. While not everyone will click through or even open your email, many will – especially if your email marketing campaign is enticing enough – thus exposing your content to relevant and interested contacts.
The key is to maintain a robust list of relevant contacts – ideally one list for each of your main practice areas – and to grow it organically, eg through consistent inbound marketing with data capture, or through offline events. We would not recommend simply buying a mailing list and sending 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.
Many firms, pleased with themselves for having written a post, simply publish and share once or twice, then forget about it. But 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, such as Buffer or Hootsuite, that allow you to schedule tweets and posts in the future to social media channels. This means you can 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 – this saves time and improves consistency of tone and voice. Ideally, change the title and description of your share each time.
Only schedule relevant, on-message content, and don’t share many things in quick succession – it can look like spamming.
Analyse the impact of your social shares using tools such as Twitter Analytics.
Share useful, informative content from others and generally engage with others more than you promote your own content, this is likely to lead to better relationships online and better long-term sharing potential for 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 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.
If you have referenced experts or commentators in your post, be sure to share the post with them, online or via email. They will naturally have an interest in their own work, and if they share the content (whether through social channels or through publishing an amended version on their own website), it could expose your piece to new audiences.
Images grab readers’ attention and help them understand your message. You can generate more interest in your posts by including an image with the headline in your shares.
Maintaining your social media channels is paramount to the long-term success of distributing content. 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, as they allow for sharing of content to several channels from one platform.
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 are looking to reach very specific new audiences, this can actually be cost-effective. Sponsored posts within Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are some of the main options, although there are others too, such as promoting a single Twitter account. We have also seen practice area teams get individual pieces of content distributed quickly and effectively using Google Adwords. These approaches are becoming more common than the more traditional methods of paying PR professionals or distributing through 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.
While it is 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 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.’
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. It can be harder to maintain a consistent voice that reflects your organisation and its values. Managing several Twitter accounts can prove unwieldy, and it does not reflect well on your business 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.
The days of business falling into solicitors’ laps are over: firms must get better at writing engaging content based on effective trend and keyword research, and getting it found through 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.