As a professional service business, law firms are always in limbo between offering their current clients excellent service to retain them and engaging in business development to attract new ones. While traditional business development activities — such as attending networking events, asking for referrals and participating in active media relations techniques — remain important, the Internet now plays a much bigger role in business development.

For several years, we at Jaffe PR have been advocating the use of social media for lawyers and law firms. We assist our clients in updating their websites to the latest technology, helping them enhance their content, and ensuring that they implement best search-marketing practices.

But don’t just take our word for it. According to a recent study published by Hinge Research Institute, titled “Beyond Referrals: How Today’s Buyers Check You Out,” more than 80 percent of buyers of professional services review a company’s website before engaging, more than 63 percent research it using a search engine such as Google, and almost 60 percent look it up on social media. People also employ traditional tactics, with 62.4 percent of buyers asking a friend or colleague, while 55.5 percent actually call the references that the company provides.

Enhance Your Law Firm’s Online Presence

So what does this mean? It means that you need to make sure your law firm’s online marketing materials are up to par.

Here are the top three things we recommend to make the most of your online presence.

  1. Update your website technology: Make sure that your law firm’s website is able to incorporate a number of content-related technologies, including blogs, RSS feeds, rich media and social media integration. You also want your website to render well on mobile devices and provide functionality aimed at the mobile user — since, according to a Pew Research Center report, 63 percent of U.S. adult mobile phone owners use their devices to surf the Web. Responsive design is one technique that delivers the appropriate website version based on which device the visitor is using.
  2. Keep your website content up-to-date and relevant: As mentioned above, make sure that your content is current. If your law firm has a blog, update it regularly. Having a grossly outdated blog can sometimes hurt your law firm’s public reputation. You also want to make sure that you use a good selection of keywords to improve search engine optimization (SEO). When a user types words related to your law firm or practice into a search engine, good keyword selection will help improve the chances that your firm name will come up on page one of Google. Also, make sure that your bio is current. Add speaking engagements and link to the event if possible. Did you write an article? Were you quoted by a reporter? Post links to articles in which you were quoted or bylined articles you have written. This will expand your readership.
  3. Don’t neglect your social media profile: We recommend that lawyers maintain a LinkedIn profile. According to the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey Report, 81 percent of lawyers are using social media. Of those, 98 percent use LinkedIn. As with your law firm’s website, make sure that your profile is updated. Mirror your offline networking to match your online networking: Send personal invitations, share useful information and provide value to your network. For more tips on how to make the most out of LinkedIn prior to attending a conference, check out my colleague Kathy O’Brien’s advice.

Considering that your online presence is such an important component of your personal brand and public reputation, remember that once something is published online it can’t really be taken back. Be mindful of what you say and be sure to follow ABA ethics guidelines.

Knowing that potential clients are carefully watching your online presence, feel free to give me a call to discuss ways to get the competitive advantage. I can be reached at sholtzman@jaffepr.com.