In the digital marketing world, “influencer marketing” has become an almost inescapable buzz word over the last few years. If you’re familiar with the term at all, it probably conjures up images of twentysomething lifestyle gurus posing on Instagram with beauty products or bottled smoothies made from whatever counts as a superfood this week.
Like so many other digital marketing tools, though, influencer marketing is a broad concept with many different applications, and the ones that get the most attention shouldn’t necessarily define what influencer marketing is.
In this article, we’ll define the practice of influencer marketing for those who aren’t familiar and then outline some ways your law firm can benefit from the core principles of effective influencer marketing.
What Is Influencer Marketing, Anyway?
First, a few influencer marketing statistics to chew on:
- 94% of marketers who used influencer marketing tactics say they were effective.
- Compared to traditional forms of marketing like billboards and television ads, influencer marketing delivers 11 times the return on investment (ROI).
- 48% of marketers in the U.S. say they ramped up their budget in 2018 for influencer-focused campaigns.
At its core, influencer marketing is about getting key thought leaders who have access to your audience to promote your brand and your messaging. Ideally, an influencer is someone who has an existing community of engaged followers, and those followers are just the people you want to get your messaging in front of.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that someone becomes an influencer solely based on popularity or recognizability. When The Law Offices of Hupy and Abraham hires William Shatner to shill for them, that’s not influencer marketing — that’s just a celebrity endorsement. So what’s the difference?
Well, mainly, no potential client who would see this ad believes William Shatner has any expertise in the law or any credibility in recommending one law firm over another. Sure, a celebrity endorsement inspires some consumer confidence on a baseline level — If this firm can afford to hire an actor I’ve heard of, they must have something going for them — but other than that, the ad campaign doesn’t draw on any thought leadership or special credibility on the part of the celebrity, and viewers implicitly understand that the celebrity’s investment in the brand comes down to them reading a script for money.
However, even though influencer marketing is different than a celebrity endorsement, effective influencer marketing campaigns certainly draw on the principles that make great celebrity endorsements work. Think about the indelible relationship between Michael Jordan and Nike in the 1980s and 1990s — a marriage between the world’s best basketball player and the world’s premiere maker of basketball shoes that led a generation of aspiring hardcourt stars to reach for the Swoosh in their local shoe store. Behind the scenes, it was no doubt an ad campaign of military scope and precision. But for consumers, it worked because it felt like a natural fit between an athlete they looked up to and a brand that embodied the aspirational aspects of his story.
The most important factor that has changed the nature of influencer marketing between the Air Jordan era and now is the advent of social media. Today’s influencers use social media platforms to carefully craft their public personas and then promote themselves aggressively to build highly engaged followings. While it sometimes feels like social media superstars have wrenched the bar for what we consider “celebrity” out of the wall and tossed it down the stairs, there’s no denying their impact or the extent to which established brands court them for help reaching consumers.
Know Your Influencers
Fortunately, as an attorney, you don’t need to wade into the teeming pool of Instagram models and YouTube daredevils to find influencers who can reach your target audience. When people run into an issue and need help from a lawyer, they rarely turn to celebrities for a recommendation. Instead, they often look to trusted friends and family members who’ve had experience working with a lawyer before. And increasingly, they also look for reviews and recommendations online.
This means that, for you, the most important influencers are likely the clients you’re already working with and your former clients who had great experiences with your firm. Obviously, the most important part of turning your clients into ambassadors for your brand is delivering a great client experience, but we’re not here to tell you how to run your firm and deal with clients. Assuming you’re delivering that experience and producing a steady stream of satisfied clients, the next step is mobilizing those clients to advertise for you.
In many cases, getting your clients to leave reviews and testimonials for you is as simple as asking them and then making the process as easy as possible for them. In the past, I’ve written about strategies that can help attorneys gather more and better reviews, and all those strategies apply here. They include:
- Creating profiles on the most important review sites, like Google Businesses, Facebook, and Avvo
- Using marketing automation tools to send clients personalized email reminders to review your firm and including a link to leave a review in communications such as monthly newsletters
- Offering incentives in exchange for reviews, like a ticket to monthly raffle contest or a small credit toward their legal bills
- Use dedicated tools like Birdeye to streamline and automate your process for requesting client reviews
Beyond simple reviews and written testimonials, recruiting your most passionate clients for high-quality video testimonials is incredibly effective for building trust with your audience and showing them that you excel at helping people like them navigate complicated legal issues.
Your Most Important Influencer Is You
The most important takeaway for attorneys from the budding field of influencer marketing is perhaps not the importance of finding big-name influencers who can advertise for them, but the value in becoming an influencer. And as a lawyer, you’ve already got a leg up in this regard since you have specialized expertise and knowledge that distinguish you from the general population.
The key to successfully becoming an influencer, then, is making your expertise accessible and helpful to your audience. To do that, you simply need to follow a few low-cost and low-risk practices that you can start implementing today.
Consistently publish high-quality content
No matter which marketing strategy we write about here at LaFleur, it feels like we always tie it back to content marketing in the end. That’s because content marketing is one of the most cost-effective, sustainable, and consistently successful digital marketing strategy for almost all types of businesses — both in our experience and in the opinions of most digital marketing experts.
When it comes to influencer marketing, your content is the walk behind your talk. While social media offers many benefits, most social sites don’t excel as platforms to publish in-depth treatments of your areas of expertise (except LinkedIn, which does let you publish blog articles but is mainly for interacting with your peers in the legal industry). When your social media presence or client reviews page hooks a potential client and inspires them to learn more about you, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong foundation of quality content (blog articles, ebooks, infographics, videos) that fleshes out their image of you and starts building the all-important sense of trust that inspires potential clients to pick up the phone or fill out a website form.
Promote your content, your ideas, and your winning personality on social media
Once you’ve got a consistent and coherent content strategy in place, you need to promote that content aggressively on social platforms — including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Sharing original and informative content consistently is the most efficient way to establish yourself as a trusted source of the information that your potential clients are looking for as they evaluate their legal needs and options.
However, don’t forget that people use social media primarily to get to know and interact with other people. While you should share blog articles and other content a few times a week, that’s not necessarily the type of activity that should make up the core of your social strategy. Often, the social media posts that get the most traction for our clients at LaFleur are simple “slice-of-life” snapshots that showcase attorneys’ personalities, preferences, and interactions with their staff around the office.
Interact with your audience
Ever wonder why frat boys can garner millions of YouTube followers by repeatedly injuring or embarrassing themselves on camera? Even the lowest common denominator among today’s social media influencers intuitively understand that they build their followings one user at a time, and the perceived intimacy of social media is their greatest strength. Often, they decide what to publish by taking direct feedback and suggestions from their audience and responding with content on a very quick turnaround.
You’ll often find you can get the same level of enthusiasm from your social media followers just by showing up and interacting with them. Frankly, it’s shocking how many attorneys never take the time to visit their social media profiles and check for comments. If someone asks you a question on Facebook, take the time to write an answer. Even better, record a short video response and post it to your YouTube channel, then link to it as your response. You don’t need high production values — in fact, relatively raw video and audio recordings are the stock-in-trade of many of today’s most successful social media influencers.
Remember that becoming an influencer isn’t necessarily about gathering millions of followers. That’s probably not a realistic goal for a small law firm, and the raw number of likes or views you get aren’t the best metrics for engagement anyway. What matters is building a dedicated following of people who look to you as an expert source of trusted, reliable information — and who also view you as a real person they can interact with and get to know.
LaFleur: Your Digital and Legal Marketing Experts
Whether you’re looking to explore the benefits of influencer marketing for your firm or you want to raise your online profile so you can connect with more and better clients, our team at LaFleur can help. We can analyze your current marketing efforts and develop a customized digital marketing plan to help you achieve your business goals.
Ahmad, I. (2018, March 18). The rising importance of influencer marketing — Statistics and trends [infographic]. Social Media Today. Retrieved from https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/the-rising-importance-of-influencer-marketing-statistics-and-trends-info/519084/