John McDougall: I’m John McDougall with McDougall Interactive Marketing. I’m here today with Kimberly Hafley, Director of Marketing and Recruitment at Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith, PC. In this next segment, we’re going to be talking about law firm content, social media, and blogging for trust and rankings.
Kimberly, how important is social media for increasing trust for attorneys?
At the very least, is it a negative when you click on social media icons and they reveal almost no followers on Facebook or Twitter and things like that? Is that a big negative? What do you think of all that?
Kimberly Hafley: As a firm that’s really just started to focus on social media over the last 18 months ‑‑ not that we totally ignored it, but really it’s been the last 18 months that we’ve had a plan and started working on it ‑‑ I think that it evolves. What I would hope people would do is go in and do a little looking and seeing what’s there.
There are a lot of firms out there, like Foster Swift, that are getting their feet wet, immersing themselves in it, and realizing the value that it has. Obviously, with anything, when you’re new to it, there’s a learning curve.
I think firms, like ourselves, we get better every day at it. There’s more relevance. We’re adding likes. We’re adding followers. You have to dig in a little deeper than just quickly look at the number of followers and the number of likes and go, “Oh, they’re nobody.” Or “Gee, they’re not worthwhile.”
John: I agree. We’re certainly in an age where social has grown up, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s doing it perfectly, ourselves included. We’re always trying to grow with our own social channels. We’re super‑strong on SEO, and we were always trying to help our social media along.
Even for the agencies, it’s a challenge. Some of these tools are still fairly new, and new ones coming out all the time.
Kimberly: I think that’s going to be one of the challenges for law firms in the future is there is always going to be the next new tool. For example, Clout is a new tool. It has a lot of sex appeal right now. It’s very interesting. You look at that, and you can see how you all rank.
Those things are interesting. One of the things that will be really interesting to see, over the next few years, is how we develop a framework to evaluate these news tools and decide which ones are really appropriate for our law firm and our marketing plan, and which ones we need to take a backseat on, because they just aren’t quite as relevant to our operation.
John: That’s a good point. It makes me think back to what you said in the first segment, about LinkedIn, and how that’s basically mandatory at this point. Maybe social media in general. Does your firm have the most awesome Facebook page?
That may be less important than your more serious activity on LinkedIn, for example. Maybe not in every case, but in some cases, may come down to the specific channels.
Kimberly: I agree totally.
John: “People buy from those they know, like, and trust” is a pretty common saying. According a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, being an attorney is, supposedly, among the least trusted occupations in America.
Can attorneys gain some of that trust back, and initiate the influence principle of reciprocity by giving of their knowledge through website content?
Kimberly: Absolutely. I agree with that 100 percent. I think that that’s one of the huge benefits to social media. It gives a great forum to do that. It’s exciting to see some of the innovative approach, the candid dialog that’s out there on a lot of these topics, which helps better establish expectation management among clients.
One of the things that’s very difficult sometimes is that, particularly if your client base tends to be people who aren’t frequent purchasers of legal services, that based on television and media and books, their expectations of what attorneys should be able to accomplish, and the timeframe, and the amount of work it takes to accomplish something is often very unrealistic.
All these forums provide a means to deliver that information. A good example of that is something that we have on one of our online newsletters, which is a “Litigation 101” section. In that newsletter, every issue, we have another little nugget on Litigation 101.
We’ve had numerous people write and go, “This is so helpful. I never knew that it…I always thought that if I filed suit, it was going to be resolved in six months.” These are people that are individuals that, most often, a real estate deal gone awry, or some other sort of service contract gone awry.
They don’t realize that the litigation process really, especially if they have an extensive discovery period, can often take years. They see on TV, everything gets resolved in 46 minutes.
John: [laughs] Right. That’s really fascinating. As an educational process, people’s perception of attorneys, and what they do, and who they are, you can really help people better understand the legal profession and just how much even love and energy goes into helping your clients through their problems.
Like anything, there’s often a lot more to it than meets the eye. Those are all good insights.
<Kimberly: Exactly. One other thing along a similar note would be, as we look at earlier on in the first segment, you asked the question, “How important is it that an attorney’s an authority in their primary area of practice, or can they be a jack‑of‑all‑trades?”
We all know of people, when they’re starting a business, they ask their friend who’s a divorce attorney to help them with the entity formation papers.
Or conversely, they ask a business attorney to help them with their divorce, not realizing that those really are specialty areas, and in most cases, you are so much better served by going to someone who practices specifically in one area or another.
John: I agree. That makes sense. If a picture is worth a thousand words, and researchers indicate that over 70 percent of what we communicate is through our tone and our body language, not just through our words, doesn’t that make images, audio, and video an incredibly important part of influencing website visitors?
Kimberly: Absolutely. I think that that’s half because it’s very important, but because we are all influenced a little different by visuals, what means one thing to one person visually and how somebody interprets that same picture somewhere else, it can be very different.
It creates a big challenge for marketing directors in making sure the visuals are appropriate and trying to make sure that there’s not some obscure meaning that somebody might see that was never, ever intended.
John: That’s a good point. Do you have a good amount of video on your site? Do you feel that that works out well?
Kimberly: We are just starting to embark upon video. We played around with it a little bit, a few years ago. We didn’t like the end‑product of where we were at. We thought that it just didn’t have the look and feel that we were aiming for. We decided that if we weren’t happy with it, we just didn’t want to go down that path.
We just wrapped up shooting a little five‑series video about two weeks ago that, looking at the rough draft a couple days ago, we are much, much happier with and very excited to get that launched over the next four weeks.
Again, a good example of, there are so many great tools out there online to portray yourself. Better to do something really well than to put something out there that you just aren’t quite sure of or that you feel doesn’t represent you and your firm quite the way you would like it to.
John: That’s great. The last question is does thought‑leadership and or blogging matter more to B‑to‑B or business‑to‑consumer attorneys, in your opinion? [laughs]
Kimberly: I don’t know that I have a perfect answer for that. If you have good content, and you have thought about it and have a targeted audience, I think that it’s important to both groups.
I think where it gets fuzzy is potentially where you try to be too many things to too many people. Therefore, the messages either get muddied or unclear, or aren’t unique enough to add value to the viewer or to the listener, whatever the case may be.
John: Are there certain key areas that you’re more focused on lately, at your firm? In terms of thought‑leadership? Or where you’re putting more effort?
Kimberly: For us, personally, right now, we are really focusing on growing businesses, because for us, so really it’s the B‑to‑B element, we really see that the companies that have attorneys as trusted legal counsel in their planning stages are able to grow and maybe dodge some potholes along the way.
We’re out there, especially, we’re based in Michigan, and Michigan has certainly had some challenges over the last five years. What we’re seeing is a real resurgence in business. We’re an old law firm, and we’ve been through many cycles in Michigan. We want to be a part of this recovery just as we have been a part of the recoveries previous.
John: That’s good to hear. As a small business, believe me, I can appreciate the avoiding the potholes and seeing around the corners and having good, trusted advisors to do that.
Kimberly: It’s important. I think that the thing with your business and everything else, it’s so much easier. Even when things are pricey, it is always easier to be proactive. It always costs less money to be proactive than to be reactive.
John: Yeah. In your web content, in your blogging, and things like that, are you able to share that with potential customers? Tips and information? Is that part of what you’re able to share on the site?
Kimberly: That’s exactly. We try to focus on some of the best practices. Things that they want to think about as they’re looking at their legal questions and what their goals are. Certainly, all of our information is for general information, and is not meant to be legal advice.
Our goal is to make them think about the topics that they need to think about, and then go, “Gee, am I at the point where I need legal counsel, so I make sure I make good decisions, so that I can deliver my product or service on time and grow my business, expand into new markets.” Or whatever other growth strategy they’re pursuing.
“Do I need help so that I make sure that I get this done the way I want it to be done and to move forward, instead of having to look back and having to do a cleanup in aisle three?”
John: Those are great tips and sound very passionate. It sounds like a great firm. What’s the web address of your firm?
Kimberly: It is www.fosterswift.com.
John: Great. We will share that with the audience and send people to your site. I thank you so much for joining us today, and hope to talk to you in the future, as well.
Kimberly: Thank you. Have a wonderful evening.
John: You, too, Kimberly. Nice to meet you.
Kimberly: Nice to meet you, as well.
John: Next up at 5:45, we’re going to have Andrew Laver, the president of the LMA Philadelphia chapter. Until then…