3 Ways Law Firm Marketers Can Use Data to Build Better Content Strategy

by JD Supra Perspectives
Contact

[The tenth in a series of 12 year-end posts published by LMA's Social & Digital Media SIG:]

From the series editors: Last time we checked, just 30% of law firms had a content strategy in place. And those that had them still struggled to do much with them. Yet a content strategy is where the magic lies in terms of linking your attorneys’ writing to growing their practices. This doesn’t have to be rocket science. Getting vastly more out of your content can really be as simple as this one-two-three approach that Adrian Lurssen and Susan Kostal provide here – whether you have a strategy or are looking to create one. Read on!

It’s almost 2018, do you know what your data is doing?

Sometimes “data” feels like one of those buzzwords in linguistic limbo in the legal marketplace. Excitement around “Data with a capital D” arrived on the scene after the initial embrace of all things social/digital media and content marketing, but before the latest round of hot new disciplines like Automation and Artificial Intelligence and … whatever else is next to come rushing at us before we are able to get a complete handle on yesterday’s thing.

Talk to any law firm marketer or business development professional and they’ll likely acknowledge they’re sitting on a fair amount of data - including data around the content their firm publishes. Accessibility hardly seems the problem. In the digital age, everything can be tracked. So if data availability isn’t the problem, what is it then?

The problem, it seems, is what to do with the data. Where to start?

Here are three answers to that question as you start the new year looking to focus a content strategy that might well be characterized as occasionally random, almost certainly haphazard, and at the very least, driven mostly by blind intuition (versus strategic and tactical insight). None of these require a significant time commitment, just a minor calibration to work you are likely already doing. Data is like finding money in the couch. Not loose change, though. We are talking $20 bills.

1. It need not be big data to be good data

Let’s start with a shout out to … ahem … small data. This is especially worthwhile when considering how “data” can help focus a content strategy in which individual interactions with a practice group or attorney’s publications are high-value opportunities.

If the value of “big” data can be captured in a question like: what patterns do we see in this large record of interaction with our work? -- then the value of small data can be captured in questions like: 

  • Who connected with my attorney on LinkedIn after we published her post on the latest FCPA enforcements?
  • Who tweeted her post on the latest round of SEC rules to do with Bitcoin?
  • Who left a comment on that popular blog post on patent reform?
  • Which blogger linked to our alert on the latest NLRB rules on social media?
  • Who listened to our cleantech podcast on JD Supra? 

In this marketplace, it is not always a volume game, but instead it is about connecting with the right people (or person) at the right time. In the new year, your content strategy will be vastly improved if you add an hour or two a month to your process in which you scour your analytics -- on your website and third-party sites -- looking for key, target readers to identify themselves: c-level executives, general counsel, reporters, and others. The names of these people engaged with your work? Data. Valuable data. Act on it, as it makes sense.

For example: if an industry blogger includes a link to your insurance post on their insurance-focused blog, connect with that person on LinkedIn. Thank them. Turn that one piece of data into a professional connection, an opportunity, by acknowledging it and creating potential for it to happen again.

The takeaway: spend an extra hour or two a month sorting through the small data points that show interaction with your content, and turn the high-value engagements into action items. Follow up! More importantly, these readers have self-identified as interested in your content, and will likely welcome more. If you have high-value readers, it can be worth tailoring content to match their interests. Sometimes the best strategy is to think small.

2. It’s not the data, it’s the findings

(And/or the context.)

That post your partner wrote on new estate planning rules in 2018 got 2,000 views in a mere five days. Is that good?

Answer: too little information. It’s hard to tell. It’s good if this time last year he wrote the same forward-looking post and only got 700 views. It means that in a year he has more than doubled his readership of this looking-ahead post. It’s bad if last year he got 4,500 views and someone else writing a similar post in June got 5,100 views. It means… well, you know what it means.

Context is everything when looking for meaning in data -- and context is informed (should always be informed) by your overall strategy.

In your top ten posts for 2017, at least three are about startup matters (something your IP practice group addressed in their writing about trademarks). Is this good? Yes, if you care about the startup marketplace as a source for new work. Double down on these successful posts. No, if you don’t. Tell your IP team to stop writing about startups. Or, better yet, ask them to consider if that visibility represents another untapped opportunity.

Kathryn Whitaker of McNair Law Firm tells the story of helping an immigration attorney launch a blog by first publishing the attorney’s writing on the firm’s site and distributing via JD Supra. From this initial national audience, Kathryn and her attorney were able to find some interesting data points that significantly shaped their content strategy going forward. For example, they discovered that one of the easiest ways to be read by professionals within a specific sector (healthcare, higher education, etc) around immigration matters was to mention those sectors directly in the title and framing of each post. In other words: don’t just write about H-1B visa issues, write about how H-1B visa issues impact higher education hiring practices. (Sounds obvious, and it is a great thesis. Data proved it to be true: posts that mention a sector directly get more readership by that sector, and are among the most popular in the mix.) This data greatly informs the focus of the immigration blog, which is exactly as it should be.

The takeaway: in the first weeks of 2018, as you look back at the last year’s work and what was most well-read, don’t simply issue internal lists of popular reads. Take the extra time (not much required) to ask what the data might mean in the context of your larger goals. Work with your writers on a paragraph or two of “Findings” that can be extrapolated from this data. For example: in all of your Fintech writing for 2017, cryptocurrency posts did the best. Time to launch a crypto-focused blog? Yes, if that’s where you want to expand market share. The reader data supports the focus.

3. Data can help build internal consensus (and strategy)

People look to big data for big ideas. Built from so many individual data points, it is hard to argue with it. Marketers often have amazing ideas. The gating item is getting firm leadership and partners to do what you want them to do. Your content big data is key to building consensus, driving buy-in, and spurring internal stakeholders to action.

Big data, in the form of benchmark reports, for example, tells you about your industry, topics relevant to readers, and your position relative to those. This information cuts both ways. Say you have a climate change blog, but it ranks 30th among the top legal publishers on the topic. The question becomes, then, do you want to continue publishing in the field? For some firms, the answer will be yes. If so, the data tells you the firm needs to change its approach to climate content to have any impact. This data helps you make hard decisions about content--even cutting some content, even when you have enthusiastic writers.

Likewise, and more importantly, a thoughtful look at the data will show you the holes in the content landscape. Look at the top five publishers in a given topic area. What are they not providing? Therein lies the opportunity.

The takeaway: big data puts everyone inside the firm on same page. This is vital in starting new publishing ventures, ensuring the health of existing ones, and killing off those that are lagging in the marketplace of ideas. It takes the pressure off the marketer, eliminating “I think we should,” and replaces it with incontrovertible knowledge.

The 2017 takeaway: Producing and distributing content takes time, money, and effort. Good content isn’t enough anymore. Law firms need to produce content that excels in the marketplace. It doesn’t need to be a mystery. Working on both a small and large scale, firms can craft content strategies that meet specific business objectives.

*

[Susan Kostal, principal at Stet, delivers legal marketing and content strategy to individuals and firms. She is contributing editor at Attorney At Work, where she writes the monthly Content Under Pressure  column. See her work at  www.susankostal.com, connect on  LinkedIn, and see rants of all shades on  Twitter.  She is based in San Francisco.

Adrian Lurssen is co-founder and VP of strategic development at JD Supra, a media platform that helps lawyers and law firms increase readership, engagement, and results for their content efforts.]

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives
Contact
more
less

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.