If your firm’s most recent LinkedIn post earned a seemingly impressive 100 likes, 10 comments and more than a dozen shares — so what? Like any aspect of a robust marketing and business development program, raw data in the absence of context is meaningless.
Developing and executing a social media strategy for your firm requires significant effort and costs money. So does the technology to properly manage and monitor it. Yet, most legal marketers struggle to show the return on investment of their social media efforts.
As law firms become more discerning with their marketing, business development and communications spends, marketers must show how each component of their programs contributes to the bottom line. This is particularly true of social media, given its proliferation — and success — as a primary vehicle in the delivery of impactful thought leadership content.
To adequately measure social media ROI, you must first ask several questions. Most importantly, what is your firm’s strategic business objective when using social media? What are your social media campaign’s key performance indicators, or KPIs? What are the digital values to which your KPIs are assigned? And, are your KPIs tied directly to your business objective?
Determine Your Business Objective
When developing a social media strategy for your firm, the first job of the legal marketer is to determine the initiative’s business objective. Generally speaking, social media business objectives can be distilled into four categories.
The most common objective is to use social media to generate leads by identifying potential clients and converting them into paying clients.
Another popular business objective is to use social media to enhance your firm’s, a practice group’s or an attorney’s thought leadership position. This involves using social media to disseminate free, thoughtful educational content in an area of expertise on the issues of greatest importance to your desired audience.
A third objective is to provide added value to existing clients through your social media content. Let’s face it —clients are increasingly demanding valuable, actionable and timely information to augment your fee-earning legal advice. Providing added value to existing client relationships through social media not only fulfills this demand but can also provide opportunities to cross-sell your firm’s services. For example, a litigation client may see one of your pieces on data privacy. If it is sufficiently timely and relevant to that client, this can lead to a direct inquiry.
A fourth business objective is to differentiate your practice- or industry-specific expertise from that of your competitors. This entails providing consistent, high-quality content that is both valuable and recurring.
Define Your KPIs
Based on your business objective, the next step in the ROI process is to define your key performance indicators. Measured against specific targets, these are the metrics that will provide meaningful context to gauge the success of social media programs in achieving discrete business goals.
For example, if the business objective of your social media initiative is to generate leads, your KPIs should focus on your reach to potential clients. These will include the all-important click-through rate (the traffic your social media is driving back to your website), which is the first step in measuring individuals who convert into so-called “qualified leads” — those who complete an action on your website in which they identify themselves.
Prospects do this in myriad ways, including filling out a contact form, downloading an eBook, signing up for a newsletter or registering for a webinar. If your firm provides few opportunities for website visitors to identify themselves, now might be the time to change that.
A separate question involves who at your firm should follow up with the qualified lead and in what manner.The answer depends on the digital behavior of the qualified lead and on the lead’s networking relationships with internal stakeholders, which you should also be tracking. How you nurture these prospects can make or break the most important conversion of all — converting a qualified lead into a paying client.
On the other hand, if your business objective is to enhance your thought leadership position and build the reputation of a lawyer or practice group, then “engagement metrics” are required. These include shares, comments, “likes” and other types of social media interactions. Additional engagement metrics can include social media interactions that result in an opportunity to speak with a reporter, write an article or participate in a conference.
Once your KPIs are established, you must utilize Google Analytics to track your social media activities. Among other valuable insights, this will allow you to see the amount of traffic each social media channel is sending to your website, and how much of that traffic is converting into qualified leads.
Assign Values to Your KPIs
There are a variety of ways to assign values to your key performance indicators, particularly if your business objective is lead generation. One method is to assign a lifetime value to your client conversions, which equates to the average revenue generated over the “life” of a client.
Alternatively, you can use a lifetime value multiplied by your conversion rate, which will measure how much each social-media-generated visit to your website is worth based on the percentage of visitors that convert into clients.
For example, suppose you are driving 100 visitors a day from a social media program back to your website. Out of these visitors, 20 of them convert into qualified leads. Out of these 20, two become clients. This KPI equals twice the monetary value that you ascribed to a new client.
In addition, if your firm is conducting paid social media and/or pay-per-click campaigns, you can also compare the cost of purchasing these ads to the revenue you’re generating organically through your social media initiatives.
Benchmark Against Your Competitors
The final step in determining your social media ROI is to compare your social media efforts to your competitors. Doing so provides even more valuable context for your strategy.
What are your respective engagement rates? Which social channels are the most successful in reaching your target audience? Which topics are measurably resonating — those relating to cybersecurity? M&A? Pro bono? Which type of content leads to the most engagement? Videos? Infographics? Articles?
More importantly, what is your social media growth rate relative to your competitors? And what is your “share of voice” in the marketplace?
Benchmarking not only helps you compare your social media program’s effectiveness against other key industry players, it can also uncover opportunities for your firm to improve and enhance its thought leadership position.
Needless to say, your number of social media followers cannot be overlooked. For example, while there are several firms with more than 30,000 LinkedIn followers, there are far too many BigLaw firms with fewer than 10,000. If you are in this boat, either your social media program is in its infancy or your content isn’t resonating sufficiently with your target audiences.
That said, having even 5,000 engaged followers on social media can be more valuable than having 50,000 followers who do not engage.
Social media ROI measurement provides firms and partners with critical ways to objectively evaluate the success of your firm’s marketing efforts. It also enables marketers to adjust their social media tactics to maximize programs’ effectiveness.
Most importantly, it helps stakeholders determine if they’re receiving sufficient bang for their buck.
This article was co-written by Guy Alvarez and Tom Orewyler.