Social Media Marketing

The standard ways of marketing our law practices – yellow pages, radio or TV ads – have given way to less expensive or no-cost solutions with the same or better results – social media. We hear so much about social media, but what exactly is it?

According to social media experts Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, social media is “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

Web 2.0 is a loosely defined intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. The three main types of social media are:

  1. Blogs and microblogs, e.g. Twitter;
  2. Content communities, e.g. YouTube;
  3. Social networking sites, e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook.

Technologies used for marketing on these social media sites include blogs, wall-postings, email and instant messaging.

As attorneys we are guided by the California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1-400 Advertising and Solicitation. In addition, Wendy L. Patrick’s article titled, “Advertising in the Electronic Age”, published in the November 2010 California Bar Journal, states that “State Bar Formal Opinion 2001-155 concludes that attorney website information relating to employment availability qualifies as a communication under California Rule 1-400(A), but not as a solicitation under Rule 1-400(B).

As a communication, the website information must comply with the restrictions governing permissible content of communications. The applicable regulations govern not only the words on the website, but also the sounds and images.”

The Importance of Websites & Blogs

Websites

Having an effective website is an important part of your sales strategy, while getting ‘hits’ on your website is an important part of your marketing strategy – driving traffic to your website.

An effective website should make a visitor feel that you understand her problem and can solve it. It should introduce your services, highlight your expertise and be able to close the sale. If your site does not market or sell, it is ineffective. Visiting an effective website, the visitor should understand:

  1. Why they are on your website: A brief explanation of your services – your value proposition – should be at the top of the homepage;
  2. Where to look on the website: Some websites have busy homepages. Having too many options is confusing to visitors and causes them to lose interest. Instead, the homepage should direct visitors to pages where they can find an answers to their concerns.
  3. Tell your visitor what to do: Provide a call to action, such as “Call for a free consult” or “Click here to get more information”. Show confidence on your website and the visitor will have confidence in you.

There are user-friendly tools to help you build your own website for free. All you need is time and patience. There are many platforms you can use called ‘open source’, developed specifically for free use. There are three primary open source platforms for website development: WordPress, Joomla & Drupal. Once you have built your website it needs to be hosted on the Internet. Some good hosting sites that are reasonably priced are GoDaddy.com or HostGator.com.

Now Blog!

A blog is a personal journal published on the Internet. It consists of entries, referred to as posts, displayed in reverse chronological order so that the most recent post appears first. Blogs can be the writings of a single individual or a small group, usually focusing on a single subject.

Blogs have become a very popular form of marketing and therefore get more ‘hits’ than websites. They are favored by search engines and many of the latest online tools. This is due to the thousands of individual posts that accumulate with time and cater to search engines. Blogs are similar to websites but the information is organized differently. Blogs also have a ‘subscribe’ function, called an RSS feed. When the blog is updated with a new post, the update is sent through the RSS feed, usually via email, to the subscriber, helping you maintain consistent contact. The main value add of blogs is that it integrates different platforms, e.g. your LinkedIn or Twitter profile.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

It is important to get ranked high on search engines like Google so that visitors can find your website easily. There are various things you can do to achieve a high ranking. For example, Google gives high ranking to sentences and paragraphs, so it is best to avoid hidden text and bulleted lists. Needless to say “Keywords are Key!” Research and pick about 10-12 primary keyword phrases and use them.

Google Analytics

Now that you have set up your website, it is helpful to know who is visiting the site so you can evaluate the site’s effectiveness. Google Analytics is a great tool for this purpose and it is free. With Google Analytics you can see:

  • Who is visiting your website;
  • What keywords were used to find your site;
  • How much time visitors spent on the site;
  • Which pages were of interest;
  • The visitor’s geographic location and so on and so on…

Go to www.google.com/analytics for information on how to sign up for an account.

Driving Traffic to Your Website

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a powerful tool for your business. You can contact your audience many times over while building rapport and trust by offering valuable information or updates on relevant issues in your area of expertise. A great tool to manage emails is an email auto-responder. It is a platform that manages your email marketing efforts and can upload prewritten emails that are sent out automatically to an email subscriber.
The three most popular autoresponder providers are aWeber, Infusionsoft and Constant Contact.

Start a Podcast

Imagine being featured in the iTunes Music Store! It is possible with a Podcast. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to countless people. iTunes is not just a source for music, but also for information. Visitors on iTunes can subscribe to your Podcast and when you post a new one, they will be automatically notified. If they are subscribed to your Podcast when the visitor logs on to iTunes your latest podcast automatically downloads. Also, since podcasts are in audio format, most people will be listening on their MP3 player when they are working out, driving to work, or shopping.

Social Media

Twitter

Twitter is an online micro-blogging service, a form of blogging where users exchange posts of up to 140 characters, often including links or images, known as ‘tweets’. A typical tweet consists of a teaser sentence or two, followed by a link that your followers can click for more information.

An effective way to market on Twitter is to write a list of tips that can be tweeted automatically via platforms such as SocialOomph.com or HootSuite. Using such services, you can schedule tweets to go out once a day for 200 to 300 days.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional social networking site. It can assist with your marketing efforts through status updates, recommendations, rankings and keywords. When you update your LinkedIn profile, it is announced to your LinkedIn network. The site is also a great resource to make announcements, such as a seminar you may be hosting. Your status update is displayed at the top of your profile, under your name and photo. LinkedIn has more profile information than other social media platforms – so take advantage of it and use it!

Think of it as your online resume. Recommendations are read often on LinkedIn. One way to get a recommendation tactfully is to write a recommendation for someone who truly deserves it. Upon receipt of an email stating that you wrote them a recommendation on LinkedIn, they will have an opportunity to reciprocate. The email states “[T]he recommendation has been posted to your profile. Why not return the favor and recommend XX back”.

Finally, one of the most powerful features of LinkedIn as a marketing tool is that you can do searches by job title. By including specific keywords in your LinkedIn profile it will help increase your Google ranking. Try not to use common generic terms as too many other people are using them. Instead, try using specific and technical terms.

Facebook

Facebook has three different facilities: Profiles, groups and pages. You only need to understand the different facilities and how to utilize them to your advantage. Profiles are for individuals, while Groups are for multiple individuals with similar interests. Pages are designed for businesses. An individual with a Facebook profile can build a page and become the “admin” for the page.

Facebook pages can have multiple admins that you can easily add or remove as your business changes. A Facebook page is fully indexed by Google and other search engines. Since Facebook is such a huge website it ranks high on Google and can help you improve your own search engine ranking. The title of your Facebook page is the most valuable piece of information from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, so include a few keywords beyond your name.

Conclusion

When selecting which media to use, make sure you spend the necessary time and effort to maintain a churn of information. Select one that you will enjoy participating in but that will provide results. Be patient as results take time, but will be well worth the effort. Activity will keep your Social Media and Marketing effort alive and interesting.


Ivette M. Santaella’s practice includes Estate Planning, Family Law and Elder Law. She has been licensed in California for 24 years. Her Estate Planning practice includes preparing wills, trusts, health directives, Durable Power of Attorney, etc.

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