Social media optimization for law firms
I have spoken with several firms recently that are in the midst of a major website redesign effort. Frankly, I’m glad to see firms are finally moving to retire the old “brochure” layout in favor of adopting new functionality as well as a more contemporary look and feel. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to incorporate the principles of responsive design which will provide viewers with an optimal navigation and reading experience regardless of the device (desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone) they are using.
It’s also a good time to optimize the website for social media. Based on the results from our last Social Law Firm Index, it’s apparent to us that social media remains an afterthought for most law firms when it comes to website design and functionality. At most, firms will consider creating a blog page on their site, but give little or no consideration to other simple techniques they can use to enhance their website for social media use. And social media optimization (SMO) is increasingly important because good SMO drives traffic. This works in a number of ways. Most importantly, SMO will enable a firm to drive traffic directly from various social networks; it promotes the sharing of the firm’s content across those networks, and it will also significantly improve the website’s search engine ranking because nowadays SEO performance is directly tied to SMO. In other words, SMO is too important to be an afterthought – it should be front and center when you tackle your redesign.
In general, social media optimization refers to optimizing a website and its content in terms of sharing across social media and social networking sites. Here then are a series of tips that you should consider on your website redesign:
Social Icons – It is important that your website displays the firm’s social icons in a prominent place on the site. Usually the best places to do this is on the site’s header and footer. Make sure that these icons link directly to the firm’s social media properties on each social network and that when the user clicks on them, a new window pops up. That way you can insure that the visitor can quickly go back to your firm’s website after they have reviewed the page on a specific social network.
Share buttons – One of the biggest mistakes law firms make on their websites is forgetting to include share buttons. The whole idea behind social media and content marketing is to enable people to share your valuable content. Firms need to make it easy for visitors to share by adding share buttons. There are many different ways to accomplish this including using services such as AddThis, ShareThis and AddtoAny. In addition, if your website is a WordPress website, you can easily add a plugin to your site in a matter of minutes, which requires no programming or html code. (Note that some sharing buttons will display the number of shares each piece of content receives. It’s a good idea to disable this feature until your content start to generate a significant level of engagement.)
Shareable content – Perhaps it goes without saying, but in order for your firm’s site to be optimized for social media, it needs to include valuable and engaging content. Having something worth sharing, after all, is the key to sharing. Yet most law firms primarily display promotional content on their website instead of truly useful content. Press releases about a new office in Dubai or a recent litigation victory will do little to promote sharing. In addition to providing useful content, it’s important to format it properly instead of simply posting a long memo as a PDF or Word document. Documents that are overly long and need to be downloaded will not enjoy the same pass along on social media as shorter, properly formatted material. Instead of long memos, consider posting items such as infographics, top tips posts or short question and answer posts.
Content Prominence – Another mistake that law firms make with their websites is that they don’t prominently display their thought leadership content. A firm may be creating valuable and engaging content but it is often hidden in a blog or resources page. This is a big mistake. Firms need to make sure that this type of content is prominently displayed on the website’s home page. Visitors to the firm website should be able to find current and useful content on a frequent basis. It is the reason they will keep coming back for more. Most firm websites display stale and promotional content on their home page instead of content that is new and engaging. If a firm is taking the time and effort to create valuable content, then they need to display it prominently.
Enabling comments – While an increasing number of law firm websites include blogs, very few law firm blogs permit site visitors to post comments. The reason for this seems to be that firms are afraid of inflammatory comments or blog trolls. The reality is that blog software allows firms to moderate and only publish those comments that have been reviewed and approved by the firm. Moderation takes away the risks associated with flames or trolls. Therefore we encourage our clients to enable comments on their blogs. After all, the idea behind social media is engagement and interaction. Firms should want visitors to comment on their content to make it more engaging and interactive. This is what social media is all about. Furthermore, firms should enable social login options to make it easy for users to comment on their site.
Images – An image is worth a thousand words. Nowhere is this old saying more apt than online. Images are incredibly important in capturing the attention of website visitors as well as driving engagement. It’s good practice to include an image with every blog post. Firms should include images that add value and stay away from redundant stock photography and traditional legal icons such as the scales of justice, a gavel, roman columns. Firms should be creative with their image selection and choose images that are intriguing and invite the reader to find out more.
Subscription options – Social media is meant to drive back traffic to your website. That is perhaps its most important business function. However, most firms make the mistake of not including a call to action front and center on their website when new visitors arrive. In any redesign you should include a prominent display of newsletter subscription options and other calls to action such as email and RSS feeds. After all, a major objective of your site redesign and SMO efforts is to grow your firm’s email database and generate new leads so it makes no sense not to ask for sign-ups.
Rich snippets – social networks pull in rich snippets, data designed to summarize the content of a page. These are very useful for users reading and sharing your content. Every social networks pull in this data in different ways. It is important to manage and optimize these rich snippets so that they are working properly regardless of which social network the reader shares your content with. You can find more information on managing and optimizing rich snippets here.
Landing pages and microsites – Sometimes law firms need to develop specific landing pages or even microsites for their content marketing campaigns. Campaigns may focus on a specific practice area or niche topic. The benefit of developing specific landing pages or micro sites for content marketing campaigns is that it enables the reader to easily find the information and content that they are looking for. It also allows the law firms to more easily measure the results of a specific content marketing campaign.
Optimizing a firm website for social media is an important component of the firm’s overall marketing and business development strategy. Firms need to consider all of these points before embarking on a website redesign. Law firms need to spend less time on choosing the right colors and fonts and more time focusing on how they are going to make sure that the content on the website will be easily read and shared by their target audience.
Updated and republished February 3, 2017.