Our CEO, Lynn Foley, was recently asked to contribute to the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) 12 Days of Social & Digital Media. This is an initiative of the LMA Social & Digital Media Special Interest Group (SIG) which provides 12 days of contributions that give a nod to 2019, while looking ahead to 2020. Lynn’s post focused on recent changes to social media algorithms and how they may effect lawyers and their law firms.
With the rapidly changing digital landscape, law firms of all sizes are approaching social media in a variety of ways. This series of posts, many of which are provided by past chairs of this LMA SIG, provides new and exciting information to share, from Facebook ads to internal engagement training. We encourage you to read each and every post.
A copy of Lynn’s post is provided below.
What technology do you anticipate will make the biggest impact on social and digital media?
Whether you’re a part of a corporate-focused law firm, or lead the marketing of a plaintiff-side firm, social media can be an important part of your content marketing plan. For 2020, we’re closely watching the impact of recent algorithm changes of two of the most used social media platforms: LinkedIn and Facebook.
Changes to LinkedIn Algorithm
As some of you social media mavens may already know, LinkedIn is now prioritizing posts from close connections within the platform. In effect, they are rewarding people who create content, as opposed to simply showing visitors the most popular content in an effort to maximize responses. The idea is to spread out some of the engagement so that extremely popular members, e.g. Bill Gates, who has 23 million+ followers, don’t get all the attention.
Previously, their algorithm considered the probability that “the viewer would click the post or give feedback on it by liking, commenting, or resharing it”, as well as the likelihood that a viewer’s connections would engage with the post. This led to some influencers with huge followings and “hyper-viral posts” crowding out posts from closer connections. It also meant that when the “average” user, such as your typical attorney, shared content, they were competing for limited space with celebrity thought-leaders. Their algorithm had created a rich-get-richer scenario.
LinkedIn wants “average” users to keep posting and using its platform. To help them out (and keep them active on LinkedIn), the company has made changes to their algorithm, adding a new ranking criterion to their algorithm that considers the “the value of feedback to the creator”. (LinkedIn has described their new framework as “People You Know, Talking About Things You Care About.”)
So, how does this affect legal marketing? Well, it should result in LinkedIn users now seeing more content from people they know and slightly less from top influencers. This is good news for your average lawyer. There are more opportunities to foster engagement within close contacts and niche groups. Also, the faces that lawyers see in their feed when they log on to LinkedIn will be more familiar; their feed looking more like an industry networking event than a list of celebrities and viral content.
As LinkedIn explained the problem last October:
“…we were in danger of creating an economy where all the gains in viral actions accrued to the top 1% power users, while the majority of creators who don’t receive much feedback were receiving less than ever. The distribution was already skewed to start with, which occurs naturally in any system where virality propagates. Influencers like Bill Gates get orders of magnitude more feedback than the average person; he has millions of followers, so this is normal and expected. In some ways, a “rich get richer” feedback loop is normal to expect in social media (indeed, a related phenomenon dubbed the “Matthew effect” has been observed in many areas of social interaction). But in this case, we saw that the number of creators who get zero feedback when they post was actually increasing. Yikes!”
Changes to Facebook Algorithm
Last year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s algorithm will prioritize “meaningful interactions” from friends and family over content from brands (i.e. company pages). This makes it harder for companies and yes, law firms, to attract attention with their content. Organic reach had already been declining for businesses and this update, and the subsequent tweaks, only accelerated the trend. Today, we find organic reach for company pages at an all time low.
Facebook noted in relation to the algorithm change that: “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.” (Source: https://about.fb.com/news/2018/01/news-feed-fyi-bringing-people-closer-together/)
This was partly in response to the criticism that Facebook had received in response to “fake news” shared on its platform. A more cynical interpretation would be that Facebook is simply looking to push more businesses into spending money on advertising (the average cost of which they have increased again and again).
Another variable to note is that Facebook’s algorithm now prioritizes comments, engagements, and shares of content through Facebook Messenger. It also weighs numerous other factors including, of course, who shared the content and the user’s connection to them.
Ultimately, this algorithm change means it’s harder than ever to attract organic attention for your law firm’s posts through Facebook. So, if Facebook is a high priority for your firm, how do you combat this problem?
- Consider asking your attorneys to create Facebook (non-personal) accounts in order to share and interact with content, thereby boosting visibility of your firm’s content in the newsfeed
- Create a Facebook group (if you have the resources) to discuss a topic or industry.
- Encourage lawyers and staff to share firm content on Facebook. This will get the ball moving and vastly increase the audience for posts.
- Encourage all members of your firm to interact where appropriate within Facebook posts; people having conversations in the comments creates lift.
What Does This Mean for Legal Marketing in 2020?
These algorithm changes dovetail into one of our top priorities for 2020, getting lawyers to actively engage on social media, LinkedIn in particular, and share more content. Their engagement will benefit both their own professional brand and the profile of their law firm. However, if lawyers are still skeptical, share these key points with them:
- Changes to both the LinkedIn and Facebook algorithm put more emphasis on personal relationships. This means that it’s harder for law firm pages to attract attention organically.
- Both algorithms are prioritizing content that encourages active engagement, such as sharing and comments, especially from close connections. On LinkedIn, these are likely to be colleagues, former class mates, and industry contacts. On Facebook, friends and family.
- It’s more important than ever to get professional staff and lawyers engaging with content; not just liking an article, but actually sharing and commenting on posts.
- LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups offer an opportunity for creating communities around specific topics. (Be honest with them though – establishing a successful group can require a lot of time and effort.)
- Luckily, LinkedIn’s new “Employee Notifications” tool makes it easier to alert lawyers about a new post, so they won’t be on their own in this endeavour. Their marketing team can help.
If all else fails and your lawyers don’t have the time or inclination to engage in social media (if you are not doing so already) consider investing in social media advertising. With organic reach declining on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, this is a sure way to get your content in front of large audiences. Of course, these platforms also offer numerous targeting options to help you reach the right audiences.
What digital or social media campaign/effort are you most proud of and why?
In 2019, the issue of mental wellness in the legal industry was front and center in the legal media. The ABA Well-Being in the Legal Profession Pledge was gaining more traction, but was still being discussed in the context of attorneys. As members of the legal marketing community, and having worked in-house at various law firms, we knew the stress that legal marketers and those in related fields experience. Our team at fSquared Marketing searched for data comparable to that we were seeing for attorneys in order to write a blog about the issue and yet we could find none.
So, we took it upon ourselves to get the data. We launched the first Legal Marketing Mental Wellness Survey, and the link to the survey was shared throughout our community across social media, including the sharing of posts on personal pages and through groups. Numerous respondents became aware of the survey that way.
Just as importantly, the resulting report was shared in greater numbers as it’s data was released through social media using graphics, infographics, and more traditional text posts. The report received attention in the legal press and was featured in The American Lawyer, the Lawyer’s Daily, Law360, Above the Law, and in Canadian Lawyer Magazine. All shared their stories on social media, distributing the report in a broader community that we could have ever reached on our own. A podcast was ‘broadcast’ on Law.com, featuring the data which inspired further discussion. Law.com is now putting forward a comprehensive survey that addresses issues of mental health and substance abuse for both attorneys and professional staff, which we hope was in some small way influenced by our research.