Monday, December 3, 2012

ABA Legal Technology Survey - Making it "Rain" Online

If you skimmed your December issue of the ABA Journal you may have stopped at the  page entitled "Online Rain."  The brief article and accompanying chart pulled some data from the an ABA survey from the Legal Technology Research Center.  Not surprisingly, the information culled from even that excerpt is a ringing endorsement of shifting firm time and resources to online marketing efforts.

Return on Investment

Unlike most reports of this nature, this survey was not talking just about who used social media--blogs, Facebook, and Twitter--but who actually saw clear return on investment for using them.  After all, few attorneys and firms engage in these online activities for the mere joy of doing so.  The goal is that the blogging and sharing will lead to enhanced relationships, reputation, and ultimately, clients.  Many firms have heard the chatter about the value of devoting resources to these online efforts, but they have failed to pull the trigger.  That is because there are concerns about whether investing in these media (and it is an investment) will pay off in the end.

This new survey offer even more evidence of the value to the bottom line.

The results as explicated in the article are as follows:

* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via blogging - 39.1%
* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via social networking (i.e. Facebook) - 16.5%
* Percentage of firms who got clients directly via microblogging (i.e. Twitter) - 11%

A few of the published crosstabs from the survey offer even more interesting information.  Far and away the most value for all of these tools goes to smaller firms--particularly solos and firms with ten or fewer attorneys.  This is not surprising, as social media efforts help to personalize the firm and its attorneys.  Large firms do not obtain clients via attorney personalization to the individual consumer--it is more about long-term reputation (particularly with business clients).  However, for smaller firms, their ability to "sell" themselves to those searching for an attorney online is crucial.  There is no way to sell yourself with engaging in these efforts of which blogging is at the forefront.

In addition, the trends lines are clear.  Not only are many firms getting clients directly via these Web 2.0 tools, but the percentage of firms getting clients this ways is growing.  Again, this is no surprise to those who have been paying even the least bit of attention to these issues in recent years.

Collateral Benefits

It is important to keep in mind that these survey results only include details of those firms who obtained the client directly vie use of these online tools.  Previous research has found many other collateral benefits to these sites which likely would not have been picked up by these very specific survey questions.  For example, many prospective clients hear about a firm via other sources--they live near the office or had a friend recommend them--and then use the firm's online presence to go ahead and call or not.  In many cases, the firm's activity online acts as either a confirmation or rejection by the potential client.  So even if a law firm blog does not produce the client directly, it may "seal the deal."  Conversely, not have a blog (or, worse, having a poorly maintained blog) can lose a prospective client.