I recently gave a presentation to members of the New York chapter of the Legal Marketing Association entitled “I have a blog, a Twitter handle, and a LinkedIn page, now what?” The audience was mostly comprised of marketers at top law firms who are focused on learning how to properly utilize social media and how to take their firm’s social media marketing to the next level.
As is often the case at these presentations, members of the audience asked about why law firms need to use Google+ as compared to the social networks (LinkedIn and Twitter) traditionally used by law firm marketers. It seems that while most law firms acknowledge the importance of LinkedIn and are beginning to expand their use of Twitter, Google+ remains a social network that is often misunderstood if not ignored by legal marketers.
Clear evidence of this is found in our recent research for the Social Law Firm Index, which shows that while a significant number of law firms have a page on Google+, almost all of these pages are merely placeholders not being actively used to publish content or engage with an audience. Precisely because Google+ is so under-appreciated and overlooked by law firms, we find ourselves often advising our clients and colleagues about the huge opportunities presented by what has now become the second largest social network on the planet.
Indeed, Google’s latest data reports that the social network has over 300 million active users on the network. That is far less than Facebook’s 1.2 billion, but equal to LinkedIn’s 300 million users and more than Twitter’s 241 million. Size alone does not adequately convey why law firms need to us Google+ for their social media marketing. The main reasons that Google+ is so important are SEO and Authority.
The reality is that Google+ has become a necessary part of virtually every sophisticated content marketing strategy. Therefore, it is important for legal marketers to understand why that is, and how they can take advantage of the valuable opportunities presented by Google+. Let’s begin with authority and influence. In the non-digital world, a lawyer’s influence and authority on a specific subject matter grows every time that lawyer is mentioned by his peers and clients.
If a lawyer gives a presentation at a conference or writes a law review article and then that presentation or article is referenced and quoted by others, then the lawyer’s influence and authority grows. Furthermore, the more that lawyer is mentioned by others or even quoted by the press, the more that lawyer becomes an authority on that subject. The same applies in the digital world. When a lawyer writes a blog post, or publishes a presentation on Slideshare, that lawyer’s authority and influence rises when other people share, comment and like it. This is called social media engagement. The more engagement a lawyer has on the content that he publishes, the higher his or her influence and authority will be.
There are some social media services like Klout and Kred that set out to measure a person’s influence in the digital arena. However, the single most important indicator of authority and influence is how that person’s content ranks in a search engine. After all, if a prospect or client is looking for an expert in tax controversy, then a lawyer who specializes in tax controversy will want to make sure that any content published on the matter will be at the top of search engine results when someone does a search for tax controversy.
Why Law Firms Need to Use Google+
Google+ is important for establishing online identity and reputation because it is the only social network that the Google search engine looks to in evaluating such information. The reason why is that the other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn do not allow complete access to Google and, as a result, Google does not use social information from those sites to establish reputation and credibility. On the other hand, Google has complete access to all information on Google+ and Google+ pages and is able to use that data for establishing authority and identity. As a result, when the Google search engine considers identity and reputation as part of its search rankings it only uses data from Google+ to do so.
This factor alone makes establishing a presence for your law firm, on Google+, critical for the overall success of your social media and SEO strategy. Another reason why Google+ is important is the quality of the people who are on Google+. The Google+ community tends to be more tech savvy and sophisticated than communities on other social networks. It is important to remember that each social network has a unique audience, people who expect and enjoy (and are therefore more likely to share) a specific type of content. On Google+ the best type of content to share is content that teaches people something. Educational posts, videos or infographics typically perform extremely well on Google+ and are likely to be shared by members of the community.
In addition, Google + is the only mainstream social network that allows users to share animated gifs. This provides a great opportunity to law firms that are willing to invest the time in creating educational animated gifs and sharing them on Google+ communities. Speaking of communities, this to me is the most valuable part of Google+. As is the case of LinkedIn, Google+ has thousands of topic related communities. There are topic communities, industry communities and many legal communities. Posting in these communities often doubles, or even triples the amount of +1s or shares your content can receive on the social network. The benefit of Google+ communities as opposed to LinkedIn groups is that there are less lawyers on Google+. Therefore there are more opportunities for your legal content to stand out and be noticed.
There are two very good communities for lawyers on Google+ they are Lawyers on Google+ and Lawyers of Google+ which I encourage you to join and participate in. Google+ remains an often undervalued and misunderstood social network. This is particularly the case when it comes to legal marketing professionals. Hopefully, we have given you some information and knowledge that will help you better understand the value of Google+ and will encourage you to use it as part of your overall content and social media marketing strategy.