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Episode 78: COVID Era Digital Marketing: What Law Firms Need to Know with Jason Ciment, CEO of GetVisible

Sharon:   Welcome to The Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today, my guest is Jason Ciment, founder of GetVisible, Inc. which provides outsourced digital marketing services to law firms. He’s also the author of the book, “I Need More Clients” which you can find on Amazon. Today he’ll be talking about digital marketing in the current environment. Jason, welcome to the program.

Jason:     Thank you, happy to be here.

Sharon:   So glad to have you and for those people, those listeners who haven’t heard your background, can you please give us a brief overview of your path that led to you to your company?

Jason:     Sure, well it started in 1990 when I was a CPA for Kenneth Leventhal which was the top real estate accounting firm in the country.  After a few years there and having passed the CPA, I went to Fordham Law School and in that second summer where you’re supposed to take a job with a law firm, I ended up working for one of the biggest manufacturers in Asia. I lived in Sri Lanka for a year, went to Hong Kong for the owner and then I ended up working through my last year of law school for the company and when I finished law school and passed the bar, I ended up actually starting a business online back in ’96 where even Google was client; they were buying everything we were selling. I didn’t even know it was Google. They used a secret name and about six months later, they told me who they were and this is before the world really knew who Google was and then I had read a number of years that the employee I was talking to was the number seven employee, so I should have had them pay me in stock instead of cash.

So in 2003, I ended up buying the company that was running my website and I bought an e-commerce platform; it was called Webcart and in 2006 or 2007, one of my first employees who had put himself through college working in the e-commerce business, he called me and said, “Hey, why don’t we start a consulting business. You’ve been building all these e-commerce websites. Why not consult for them and actually drive traffic to their websites” because we had just been building sites, but not doing any marketing and so we opened up originally as LADesign; it became Visible a few years ago, but we started doing marketing and we started with search engine optimization, then we did search engine advertising and every couple of years, we added another employee and then we had social media and social media advertising and then the last thing was doing LinkedIn outreach a couple of years ago. We started with that and did reputation management where we own the first page of Google. So now it’s twelve years later and we’ve got a full team, about fifteen people between designers and developers and writers and marketers. Of course, we don’t write nearly to the level of Berbay, so it’s a different type of writing and we don’t do the stuff that you do in terms of press releases and talking to the media, but that’s why we have a good working relationship because we have partners like Berbay for different things that we definitely do not do, but when it comes to digital marketing, that’s where we focus.

Sharon:   And those digital marketing services, that’s what you do for law firms, right?

Jason:     Correct, so we focus on rankings, advertising, creating content for the social media calendar which is more of a low-grade version of content. It’s not big white papers or articles or thought pieces and then also doing the advertising on the social channels like Facebook and Instagram because what we don’t realize: you might have five thousand friends on Facebook, but when you post something, the majority of your friends don’t see it because Facebook makes its money charging you to boost to your post or to advertise. So, having a Facebook campaign really means growing your organic reach and then having advertising to access all of that reach and that’s very important.

Sharon:   Yeah, no, I mean that’s what I’ve heard. I only go on Instagram and I know that Instagram is the same way. You can have ten thousand people following you, but if you post something, only a fraction will see the post and I’m sure advertising makes a difference if you advertise with them.

Jason:     Right, that’s true and there’s one other thing that you should be aware of which is why they need people like your team to put it back on you is the creativity of what you write about or what you post will actually influence how well the post gets distributed to your own followers say with a blog post of getting picked up because if people see what you’re writing and they like it and they engage with it, the sooner that that happens and you actually see activity, the more the social channels then say, “Hey, wait a second. This stuff is good. Let’s get it out there,” because as much as they are incentivized to sell you an ad, they’re also incentivized to have activity happening in their channel. So, if they’re giving good content to your friends if you will and people like it, then they’re going to open up the circle wider. That’s why like, for example, in the search engine game, for rankings, the rankings are always going to be the best result on the page next to an advertisement which may be equally as good, but in terms of what we think of as getting to the top of a page, it only works if the ranking is good because if people click and they don’t like what they get, Google’s going to reduce the ranking because Google wants to give people the best experience, the same thing for Facebook, the same thing for Instagram. So advertising is great when it works in conjunction with organic.

Sharon:   Has that changed because of the pandemic? Have your strategies changed? Is the way that you advise and counsel lawyers to market online—any changes there?

Jason:     Well, one thing is definitely—I’m not sure if I would call it a COVID change, but I think that because more people are online now in terms of their marketing because they can’t do the in-person stuff the way they used, what we are advising is to stock up the quality of what you do and what that means is not just the intelligence and the authority and the research that go into writing a well-written piece, but actually doing what we call a Hollywood product which is to dress it up. It’s almost like—we were joking that we’re not doing a video podcast, so I could be just like for a zoom call and have my shorts on if I want and the idea for an article is if you just put an article up and you don’t invest the extra effort to dress it up and put the tie on or put on the earrings or whatever the accoutrements are, then people will not pay as much attention to that article as if you have infographics on there which are custom graphics, maybe video on the article page, charts, stuff that keeps them engaged beyond just the text of what’s displayed, using subheadlines, bolding certain things, having what in the old schools they called the “Johnson Box” which is like a little yellow box that calls attention to something that you want to highlight like a quote for example or maybe it’s that call to action to get them to download the PDF. So bottom line is we’re advising clients to invest extra beyond just writing that 500-word post or 1,000-word post. Dress it up.

Sharon:   I know that you’ve given us—I mean on behalf of our clients, I mean you’ve given us some really creative ideas about articles that have been very successful that we wouldn’t have thought of, surveys and things like that. Do you find that lawyers and law firms are paying attention to you now more? I mean are they dressing things up because what you’re talking about is a tremendous investment of time and thought power?

Jason:     So, there is an opportunity other people’s content or other people’s time if you will.  So, for example historically or statistically if you release information that’s based on user data—so for example I’m running a survey literally today on LinkedIn. I think so far about a thousand people have seen the survey that I put into LinkedIn and I’m asking questions of, “Well, where are going to invest in the next ninety days? Are you going to redesign your website? Are you going to invest in SEO? Are you going to put money into social media content and engagement? Are you going to launch a campaign?” So for example of the votes that came in today, I was extremely surprised that 44% of the people are investing in social media and only 15% are doing SEO out of the four choices that I had, so social media is where people are looking these days and maybe that’s a COVID outcome that people are getting their content from CNN and Fox, maybe if they’re consuming news that way even though statistically I think that less than 10% of America watch those channels. So that means they’re looking to other sources to get news, whether it’s political. There are different ways to consume information and what you see now, which I think is an outcome from COVID, is how social media is becoming much more influential.

Sharon:   Well, I can see how social media might be becoming more influential because to me, people—the lawyers or whoever—have more time to really figure out what’s going on with social media in a sense. This one other theory might be that before they just said, “O.K., I’ll get it,” but they didn’t have time to really focus on it. I don’t know. It makes sense to me.

Jason:     I think that’s true. Well, let’s look at California and maybe this actually can help. So the wildfires, as we both know, are pretty bad, even to the point where we were even seeing how the prayer services are outside in people’s backyards and with the wildfires they’re getting cancelled and so people are nervous about it? What’s the air quality like? And you can’t just go to a news channel and you’ll easily see that. I mean it’s hard to figure where you’re going to look, but you are going to ask a friend and the friend’s going to ask a friend and maybe they’re going to be able to share a resource and say, “Well, here’s where you can go look for your air quality, a reliable place” and so people are so quick to post, especially because of the internet and it’s real time, you can just have a situation, immediately jump to your Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram and take a picture, take a video or type out something or use Otter which is a transcription device to just transcribe your voice and create a text and you can go ask your two thousand friends a question and get almost an immediate answer. So when you think about it from the lawyers, so if you’re an accident attorney and you’re monitoring social channels and someone’s getting into—for example, their house got burnt down or got hurt by the wildfire, they may just simply write a message to their friends and say, “Hey, what should I do? Should I call an attorney? Do I need to call an insurance adjuster? Do I have to call my local congressman? What am I supposed to do here” and if you’re monitoring social channels, it’s very fast for you to say, “Hey, we’ve got this PDF you can download. It’s ten things you need to do if your house has been hurt by a wildfire or by a campfire” or different things like that. There is an aspect of again good content and then monitoring the channels where you can get that content picked up and distributed. I think that you’re right that lawyers are paying more attention or if they’re not because maybe they’re too busy practicing law, they’re probably hiring marketing coordinators to go ahead and do this and the coordinators, they live on social media, so they’re adding that into their mix now for the law firms.

Sharon:   Are you getting panicked calls from law firms or let’s say several months ago, were you getting panicked like, “What am I going to do? I mean my business just fell through the floor?” This remote working is going to leave a lasting mark on how lawyers do their business and business development. Do you think they’ll be networking through Zoom primarily or LinkedIn or will things change from what they’ve been?

Jason:     I think that there’s going to be—let’s assume that there is an antidote or a vaccine or something or social component to going to conferences and going to events where you see people in person because it’s just not the same being in a Zoom meeting and having a physical—like the relationship, it doesn’t mean something nefarious; it just means there’s something about being in person. I mean there are human beings. There’s a fifth sense of touch. Two months ago, I met a guy from Chicago. We were introduced and he owned an agency, not exactly like ours, but he owned an agency and he ended up selling the agency and doing a major shift in his business and he said, “You know what? All the agencies, they talk functionally. They say, ‘Oh, I’m going get you rankings. I’m going to run ads. I’m going to create content,” but they skip the step.” He has three hundred two-minute videos on YouTube. That’s all his marketing and he has Facebook ads or YouTube ads to drive people to the YouTube videos, but basically it’s all YouTube videos with really bad websites, but when people watch his corny two-minute videos that are all about certain areas of the law and what you can do without giving advice of course, he gets 70% of the people that walk working through–

Sharon: Definitely food for thought and this the time to be doing it since people have more time on their hands. So, Jason, thank you so much for being with us today. That’s a lot of good stuff and for everybody listening, that’s it for today’s Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. We’ll be with you next time with another professional who can help you move your firm forward and you can find us wherever you download and please rate us. We’ll be back next time with another thought-provoking guest who can help your firm move forward. Thank you so much for listening.

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