Paid social media is the new frontier in law firm advertising. Firms that get on board early will reap the benefits while others will be left behind.
By Kirk Stange, Family Lawyer
A Brief History of Law Firm Advertising
Once advertising became acceptable in the legal industry, lawyers and law firms that wanted to grow their practice advertised on traditional platforms: from the phonebook to magazines to billboards to radio and television.
In the mid to early 2000s, a big shift began with lawyer and law firm advertising. Instead of advertising through traditional platforms, a few shrewd and bold law firms took their advertising efforts online. The firms that took a chance and tried something new by going online were often able to grow their practices more quickly while spending less than the firms that were advertising by traditional means.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising for Law Firms
When online advertising began — and even today — law firms grew their practice online predominately through the development of a website. In addition to creating an excellent website, many firms began investing in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: paying major search engines like Google and Yahoo/Bing each time someone clicks an ad linking visitors to their website.
Many law firms that were doing traditional advertising could not understand why other firms went with only online advertising. However, the cost of PPC advertising used to be relatively inexpensive when compared to traditional platforms, making it a good choice for start-up and budget-crunched firms.
Today, PPC advertising is no longer cutting-edge; in fact, lots of law firms are doing it. In some cases, the cost of PPC advertising has risen to a point where it is just as expensive as traditional advertising. PPC advertising is now cost-prohibitive for many firms: a law firm could spend approximately $50 for a single click in a competitive area of the law. As more and more law firms follow the crowd and get into PPC advertising, the cost will continue to escalate – perhaps to a point where it becomes extremely difficult for start-up and budget-crunched firms to compete. Even if a firm purchases clicks for a limited period of time or for limited times throughout the day, most simply do not have the funds to regularly and consistently run their PPC advertisements in competitive localities.
Today, almost every law firm has a website of some kind – good, bad, or ugly. Shrewd firms no longer see their website as an online brochure; they know that a successful website must now be a rich resource of legal content for potential clients. However, getting a website to show up organically on page one of search engines is neither simple nor easy; it can be a difficult and lengthy process for many firms – and some may never get to that first page on important terms.
Even if a website reaches page one, search engine algorithm updates often cause rankings to re-shuffle, which creates a lack of security for law firms that rely solely on organic rankings for leads. If a firm does not have the budget to compete with PPC advertising, and it cannot reach or remain on the first page of an organic search, then it may struggle to generate any leads online.
So what is the new frontier for law firm advertising in 2019 and beyond? Is there a cost-effective way to generate new client leads online? Is there a way for a start-up firm to grow their practice quickly while spending a reasonable amount of money on marketing – as many did in the early to mid-2000s?
Paid Social Media Advertising
Although many lawyers are still skeptical about social media, the new wave of successful advertising is through paid social media ads.
Today, the cost of paid advertising on Facebook and Twitter is significantly less than the cost of paid advertising on paid advertising on Google or Yahoo/Bing. On Facebook and Twitter, law firms can syndicate their own blogs, videos, podcasts, legal information, and other relevant content which can drive individuals to the firm’s website if they click the social media advertisements. If an individual clicks through to a law firm’s website, and the website is content-rich and appealing, they will often contact the firm about their case.
Reaching Your Target Market via Social Media Advertising
Facebook and Twitter ads can also target specific regions and individuals that fit certain demographics that might make them likely to be promising clients. For example, Facebook offers “Lead Ads,” in which individuals seeking a lawyer in your area can fill out a form with their name, contact information, and some general information regarding their case.
Both Facebook and Twitter offer “Remarketing Ads.” These ads are powerful: a cookie on your website allows your ads to be re-run to individuals that have previously visited your website for a fixed period of time. Individuals often do not reach out during their first visit to your website – but after seeing your ads a second or third time, they are more likely to call or email about their situation.
If you routinely post on your firm’s social media pages, you might wonder why you should consider paid social media advertising when you can post or tweet for free. The reality is that most law firms have few followers or social media contacts. While free posts and tweets have some value, those posts are not going to reach very many people unless they are promoted through paid ads. Even if you utilize a creative hashtag, it is still tough to create enough organic traffic to generate meaningful new client leads.
Early Adopters Will Reap the Benefits of Social Media Advertising
While many are still leery of taking the plunge into paid social media advertising, the lawyers and law firms that are delving into Facebook and Twitter ads are taking advantage of an opportunity that their competition is not – plus these ads are inexpensive when compared to other advertising methods.
Additionally, the number of individuals who are spending vast amounts of time on social media has been increasing rapidly. Unlike radio and television – where there are many different stations – there is only one Facebook and one Twitter. This means that people are more likely to see your ads online through social media than if they are watching television or listening to the radio.
As time goes on, other social media platforms may rise to prominence as well, and they will likely offer paid advertisements as a viable option. Snapchat, for example, now offers paid ads.
So, if you are looking for the new frontier in law firm advertising, you ought to think long and hard about paid social media advertising. Those who get on board early will reap the benefits while other law firms will be left behind.
Kirk Stange is a Founding Partner of Stange Law Firm, PC. He is licensed in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Kirk received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia. www.stangelawfirm.com
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