While many firms are content producing powerhouses, disseminating client alerts, thought leadership pieces, social media posts and other information daily via the many distribution channels with which they engage their target audiences, they often fail to really think about the how, what, when, where and why of the content they are creating and how it will actually benefit their clients and other influential readers.
These firms are on content autopilot, just going through the motions to churn out thought leadership pieces as efficiently as possible, often because that’s just the way their firm does things or because they don’t want to question a partner or someone more senior to them or because there is pressure to get things out the door to be competitive with another firm.
If you find yourself in this position, take a moment to give yourself a “content time-out” in order to really think about why you are doing what you are doing. If it doesn’t make sense with your brand and business development goals, immediately change course.
Taking the time to ensure that your content marketing and your business development strategies are completely aligned will enable you to create more focused, client-centric content that will better engage with your target audiences and lead to new business and the retention of clients.
Remember that the goal of content marketing is not just about populating your social media feeds with a steady stream of content. Rather, the goal is to use content as a differentiator to help position your lawyers and your firm as thought leaders, which will help to keep you top of mind with key individuals for when they have a matter that fits your background. It’s always about quality versus quantity.
Here are some ideas to take your content strategy to the next level.
- Align your content strategy to your business development goals. I believe that every legal marketing professional should think of themselves as a business development person regardless of their job title. A marketing professional must be focused on lead generation and business development in their role to really understand what their firm’s goals are, especially when it comes to content. By aligning your content and social media strategy to your BD goals you will be able to focus in on the right practices and industries, and the lawyers to spotlight within them. Then use your data and competitive intelligence to help support these efforts (such as Google analytics, web site, social media and email statistics, among others). Remember, everything you do should be centered on bringing leads and providing value to your clients, including each piece of content you create.
- Show vs. tell. All of your content should be helpful and client-centric. So, don’t just tell your clients whyyou are the best lawyers, show them. Think about how to demonstrate that you are a leader in your field versus telling someone. Write every piece of content with this concept in mind – from the highest-level thought leadership article to every social media post. Think about why your clients should care about this when crafting language.
- Know your audience: Remember that often, your clients are not lawyers, so throw the legalese and jargon out the window and write in their language and in a tone that directly speaks to them, not your colleagues down the hall.
- Reuse and repurpose everything. Lawyer headshots, practice area and event images, as well as previously published client alerts, news items and articles can all be reused multiple times to help enhance your brand and support your lead generation efforts. For example, pull out an interesting statistic, a quote or a big number to bring important points to life in a piece of thought leadership, and voilà, it’s a different piece of content! Or get really creative with a word cloud, icons or illustration. You can also podcasts and video to engage over another medium.If you’re finding it hard to keep track and manage of all of this content, make your life easier by using an editorial calendar and social scheduling software such as Hootsuite or Clearview Social to help you track and manage posts.
- Create once, publish everywhere (but adjust the message for the medium). Leverage the social platforms most frequently used by your clients and prospects, but don’t post the same exact content and image to LinkedIn that you would post to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. It’s very important that you demonstrate to your target audiences that you have mastery of the social platforms that you are utilizing. Incorrectly using a platform shows your audience that you lack critical social media skills. So, adjust each post (length, tone and content wise) to fit each the particular social channel.
- Use your analytics to create smarter content. Marketers have a treasure trove of valuable information right at their fingertips through their data and analytics. This information can help them create more of the content that has done well with target audiences and less of what hasn’t. For more clues on what resonated most (and least) with your audiences, review your web site, email marketing and social media analytics for the highest and least performing content. Look for commonalities and themes in the overall body copy, posts and headlines, which will help you partner with lawyers to create smarter future content. Note – one step I see often missed by legal marketers is building a regular process with lawyer authors to let them know how their content ranked. In addition, the content for each practice should be analyzed quarterly and yearly to look for readership and engagement trends – this is the best first-hand information firms have on what their clients want in content from their them – so use it wisely.
- Your lawyers hold the content key. It’s not enough to post to your firm’s social media accounts, you also need to tap into the critical social networks of your lawyers to ensure maximum reach and engagement. Properly train your lawyers on how to effectively use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to share and like content from your firm company page and more importantly, from their own personal LinkedIn accounts so you can tap into reaching the individuals in their powerful networks. Note – I find that while brown bag trainings where demonstrate how to share content on social can be helpful, the most powerful way to train lawyers by doing. So, go visit their office and actually show them how to like, comment and share posts. Help them become more comfortable on LinkedIn – how to navigate the home page, how to get to your firm’s company page and even how to manage their own profile. A little hand holding and deskside training can have a lot of major payoff down the road.
- Utilize hashtags to help your content be discovered. Hashtags are becoming increasingly important to incorporate on the major social media channels – if you use them wisely. Hashtags have always been commonly used on Twitter as many users search topics by them, but there is a character limit for Twitter posts, which makes selecting the right hashtag crucial (also don’t go overboard on overusing hashtags on Twitter – 2 to 3 is plenty. Hashtags on Instagram are just as important on that platform for discoverability of content, and users get a lot more flexibility with the number of hashtags they can use, enabling content to be more easily found (keep in mind that if you have a private Instagram profile, only your connections will be able to see your hashtags) If you are having trouble coming up with hashtags (don’t adopt the kitchen sink approach and hashtag broad, general terms such as the word “law” – it defeats the purpose of using a hashtag. You’re looking for terms that are relevant but not too broad or specific (and please don’t make up your own hashtag).If you don’t know about hashtagify.me, which is an online hashtag search/discovery engine that provides you with the top trending hashtags associated with a particular topic and some basic analytics too, you should (and you can thank me later). LinkedIn has a helpful hashtag suggestion tool right in the body of your posts based on the content you enter, which is usually spot on. One note on hashtags – try to incorporate them in the body of the post rather than waiting until the end to include multiple hashtags in a row, use no more than 2-3 in a post (or they get annoying) and don’t make up your own hashtag or use anything that is too general, such as the word “law” for example. Why? It won’t help your content be found and you are taking away from your post and using up precious word count.
- Use evergreen content to your advantage: Evergreen content is SEO-optimized content that doesn’t have an expiration date or lose its relevancy and value over time. It is high-quality, helpful content that provides value whether it is read today, next week or a year from now. So why is it called “evergreen?” The evergreen tree is a symbol of everlasting life because this type of tree keeps its leaves throughout the seasons, rather than shedding them. Like the trees, evergreen content is considered sustainable and lasting. Creating an evergreen content strategy is easier than you think because you already have all the content and most of the tools that you need. It just requires a little creative thinking on how to effectively repurpose them. For example, content opportunities (and the visual assets that go along with them) such as lawyer bios, holidays, office openings, firm history, timeless client alerts (such as why you need to have a will), case studies on matters, as well as content related to careers, professional development, pro bono, diversity and events, as well as information pulled from transcripts can all be used to fill in content gaps in your editorial calendar. For more on this topic, take a look at my JD Supra article, What to Do When You Run Out of Things to Say – Your How-To Guide to Creating an Evergreen Content Strategy.
- Always incorporate visuals. I’m a firm believer that you should post nothing to social media without an image. Why? Because social media posts with images gain more views and engagement, period. Today, anyone can incorporate visuals into their social media strategy, you just need to be creative and resourceful. You can easily reuse and repurpose images that you already have and resize them using tools right on your smartphone. In addition, there are many photo and online design tools that enable you to create visually arresting graphics and images for free or at a low cost such as Canva and Picstitch that will help you bring your social media posts to life. For more low cost/free tools you can incorporate into your social media content strategy, take a look at my JD Supra article exploring 17 cool martech tools that you should know about.
- Focus on the headlines. In order to stand out from the many emails that in-house counsel receive each day and the countless social media posts clogging their feeds, you must create headlines and copy that will draw them in. The subject lines/headlines of your emails (so client alerts, press releases, white papers, CLE programs and anything else that you send via email to clients/contacts) is the very first thing that they see and determines whether someone wants to open your email – or not. Make them clear, actionable, short and succinct and extra points if you can create a “how-to” or “why” piece or use numbers or lists. “Listcicles” are popular ways of breaking down complex information into digestible chunks.
- Share content on social media: LinkedIn is themost important social media channel for law firm business development and professional networking. It enables you to quickly build and grow relationships so that you can bring in new business and referrals, strengthen your brand and stay top of mind with key individuals in your network. So, use it smartly and use it often (meaning post and share value-added content, and engage meaningfully with your connections). I write a lot about how to maximize LinkedIn and use it effectively – see my JD Supra articles on LinkedIn profile basics and more advanced LinkedIn to-do’s – because I have never seen the platform directly lead to new business more than I have in the last year.
- Think quality not quantity. I touched on this a bit above, but since it’s such an important point, I wanted to dedicate a bullet to it. Always remember that it’s not how often you post content to social media that makes a true impact, but rather what you say and how you say it. The quality not the quantity of your posts should always be your primary focus and keeping that concept at the forefront of your content strategy will help guide your overall efforts.
- Good is sometimes good enough. So many lawyers I know are perfectionists, and as a result, they create an alert on a timely topic but then sit on it as they edit it or wordsmith it repeatedly. Here’s the thing though, if you don’t distribute it, your competitors will. It’s often more important to let your clients know about an important update in the law before it’s too late. So, don’t wait – create and distribute content while the topic is hot. You don’t always need to be a content overachiever – sometimes good is good enough.
- Engage audiences with new forms of content. While written content such as a client alert or thought leadership piece that you then can promote via social media will always be the foundation of law firm content marketing, why not dip your toes into some of the newer ways of engaging with your target audiences though your content? For example, feature your lawyers discussing recent matter successes or a case study through a video series, create a podcast series with an industry focus or use Facebook Live to create a short webinar series. Provide your audiences with new ways to digest your content. Also, taking us back to an earlier point, remember that you can reuse and repurpose your existing content for different mediums. So, use a client alert as the basis for a podcast, video or webinar. Every single piece of written content you produce can be brought to life in a new way. It just requires a little creativity.
- Stop doing “random acts of content.” So many firms and lawyers spend the time to create good content but then they post it just once on social media. This is huge waste of time for everyone involved. Here’s why: Your clients and prospects are incredibly busy individuals who are likely to miss the content you post and distribute on your social channels. In fact, email is still the best way to reach your targets. So, when using social, leverage and maximize content by sharing posts several times using the same trackable link but changing up the content in the posts by using some of the ideas above (pulling out a statistic, a quote, using icons or images – you get the idea). Utilize your content calendar to help with scheduling to ensure that you have space between each post. Also, I promise you that no one is following your firm or your lawyers closely enough to remember that your firm posted something recently on this topic.
Remember that while it’s terrific if your firm has thousands of followers on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, real social media success is measured today by much more than likes, shares or follows.
Attracting and engaging audiences through your content is what will lead to new business and the retention of clients. Remember, the ultimate goal of content marketing is to drive your readers to take action, preferably in the form of retaining your firm. For your content marketing strategy to be truly successful, you should always think about how it can build relationships for your lawyers, showcase their expertise, highlight key practices and industries at your firm, all while it adds value to your target audiences. Good content can help you do all of these, firms just need to make their content (and visuals) work smarter and harder for them.
The good news is that most firms aren’t yet aligning their content strategy to their business development goals, so there is a real opportunity for those firms that are ready, willing and able to do this. So, try incorporating some of these tips into your content strategy and let me know how it goes!