Guide

Connecting the dots

Legal consumers, mobile apps, and your law firm

Originally published 2018

Legal marketing has gone mobile.

In fact, for years now, consumers have used their mobile phone in place of a desktop computer to research and contact an attorney. According to Search Engine Land, nearly 60 percent of Google searches generate from a cell phone. The tipping point arrived in 2016, when the number of mobile searches overtook traditional desktop queries for the first time. 1 Since then, consumers have become more mobile savvy, expecting more from the businesses they buy from and the brands they interact with.

One catalyst for that evolution is the rise of mobile applications. The average person has nearly 40 apps downloaded on their phone, and they spend three hours a day on them.2 People use apps to connect with friends, communicate with people and find directions. However, not all apps are created equal.

According to Tech Crunch, the average person uses nine apps per day, a much easier number to manage when considering where to focus your legal marketing budget.3 The apps that dominate the average person’s phone usage are Facebook, Google Maps, and YouTube. Law firms that show up on these apps — those optimized for searches no matter where someone looks for an attorney — are positioned to successfully reach the most legal consumers, leading to more clients.

How apps enhance the mobile buying process

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Users’ ability to customize a mobile phone’s app library and layout means that each device is unique to its owner. But while their specifics may vary, individual users typically exhibit broader mobile behaviors that can be categorized according to two factors: their intent and their progress in the buyer’s journey. Google has coined the phrase “micro-moments” to describe these specific stages, and below you will see them mapped to a legal consumer’s behavior — one seeking advice for information on property laws in California:

“Micro-moments” of a legal consumer’s behavior.

As you can see, the Micro-moments framework is fairly straightforward, but today’s mobile experience makes it a little more complicated than it seems. That’s because any single action a consumer takes on an app can represent more than one micro-moment at a time. Obviously, a legal consumer opening Google Maps may be looking up directions to a specific firm (I want to go), but most Google Maps users also know the app is a great place to get a quick click-to-call phone number for a local attorney (I want to buy). Likewise, a Facebook user could find your law firm’s hours of operation (I want to know) from your online profile, or they could scroll through your previous posts to validate their decision to hire you or your firm (I want to do).

It all boils down to this: The mobile experience is complex and detailed.

People with legal needs do not follow the old linear path to finding an attorney. They may not even start with a Google search, once considered the Holy Grail of internet marketing. Nowadays, they open the app they’re most comfortable with and move through the research process however they want. What’s more, they’re successful.

The internet doesn’t feel old to most of us, but the era of browser-based SEO and Google search results as a paramount success metric are gone. Today’s mobile consumer can research (know), choose (do), locate (go), and contact (buy) an attorney all within a few select apps, and all without once having opened a traditional web browser.

The good news for attorneys? The list of apps most relevant to these actions is relatively small. Two major players dominate the space (you can guess who), and even the secondary and tertiary apps are well known by most. If you’re showing up on the apps that follow, you can be confident your firm is accounted for where your prospects spend most of their time.

First things first: Get on the map(s)

Maps applications like Google or Apple Maps now offer a range of options for someone looking for a local business. Outside of their obvious ability to offer driving directions, such apps let consumers read brief descriptions of a law firm, browse ratings and reviews and even click to call an attorney right from the app.

For your prospects, maps fall under the I want to do, I want to go, I want to know and I want to buy micro-moments. When they want to do, consumers have researched their legal issue and decided they need an attorney. It’s time to pull the phone out of their pocket to find the right law firm for them.

Because legal consumers want a local attorney, maps play an integral role in this stage. According to FindLaw’s 2018 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey, more than 60 percent of people who need an attorney won’t drive to law firms more than 29 miles from their location, and 45 percent considered finding a local attorney a top priority during the hiring process.

Maps also provide reviews that factor into the I want to know phase of a consumer’s search. Google Maps, for example, displays the very same ratings and reviews a user would see in a desktop or mobile search. For an attorney to successfully win over prospects who search these apps, their law firm will need positive reviews that provide details of past clients’ experiences.

The I want to go micro-moment might seem obvious: Maps offer consumers the best directions to a location. For law firms to capitalize, they need to claim their business on each app, carefully check each one for the correct address and create a full profile — including pictures of their office, website and phone number. That contact information is vitally important in making a map listing something more than an address. Considering the vast majority (85 percent) of legal consumers who contact an attorney end up hiring one, a phone call to your firm from a mobile map listing is a true I want to buy moment.

Key player: Google Maps

Google Maps was the fifth most used app on mobile phones in the United States in 2017. 4 The app doesn’t just provide its users with travel routes and directions, it gives them a list of businesses to choose from in their area, including law firms. Users can also interact with a business straight from the app through a link to its website and a click-to-call feature mentioned previously.

Unsurprisingly, the app continues to evolve. Google Maps has started to experiment with advertising now that the “local pack” (the small set of local business listings that appears at the top of search results) is becoming even more competitive. Businesses can’t easily game the local search algorithm, because Google heavily weighs a company’s proximity to the searcher in the results people see. Outside of more reviews and an optimized Google My Business listing, advertising on the app is the best way for a firm to catch a consumer’s attention.

Google Maps ads appear on the in-app search results and correlate with location pins on the map, which shows the search locations — including your office — in relation to the searcher. Like they do in a traditional pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, law firms bid on keywords and locations through their Google My Business account. You’ll need to link your Google account to the AdWords and location extensions. From there, you can set the search area and keywords you’d like to bid on.

Waze and Apple Maps

Google isn’t the only digital cartographer vying for our attention. Though less prominent than the Google Maps app, Waze and Apple Maps both play a role in consumer decisions as well. The number of people who find businesses in the No. 2 and No. 3 apps are high, totaling a combined 136 million users.5

Waze provides a crowdsourced feel and simpler user experience at the expense of a detailed business page. Even so, the software is in the early stages of monetization and could blossom into an effective way for attorneys to drive consumers to their law firm. Much like Google, Apple Maps provides a detailed description of a law firm, including click-to-call capability and Yelp-driven reviews that show up as a differentiator in the “near me” search results. Its most noteworthy aspect is its rich integration into the iOS ecosystem — an advantage no business should overlook.

Social apps

Social media has long played a role in consumer decision-making. It’s an environment where people can learn about businesses at a personal level. Apps like Facebook invite users to experience an attorney’s day, evaluate their expertise, and learn from fellow users what it’s like to be a client. That’s why more than 60 million businesses have a Facebook page6 and around 71 percent of U.S. businesses have an Instagram account.7

Why is social media so invaluable to businesses?

One study found that 52 percent of people said that social media influenced their online and offline purchasing decisions.8 For legal consumers, it’s part of the I want to know and I want to do phases of the buying process. Consumers turn to social media for information that differs from a broad internet search. If an internet search is like ordering a suit from a print catalog, studying a law firm on social media is a trip to the tailor, where you can feel the fabric and try on the jacket for size.

Facebook, for example, allows people to ask their friends for local recommendations, and if your business information is up to date on the app, your firm’s official page could show up as a link in the replies. It’s the online equivalent of a word-of-mouth referral without the legwork. Instagram’s elegant advertising interface allows legal consumers to call your office directly from the app. YouTube’s massive audience is paired with parent company Google’s advertising savvy to help raise a law firm’s brand awareness through ads embedded into videos people are watching.

The modern digital experience is quickly reaching the point where social media is becoming so fully integrated that it’s tough to know where its boundaries lie. New networks and apps crop up constantly, and different generations exhibit strong biases toward different platforms. That said, much like the maps discussed earlier, just a few platforms cast long shadows on the social media landscape.

Key player: Facebook

It should come as no surprise that Facebook is currently the most used app on mobile phones.9 The average time spent on one visit to the Facebook app is nearly 20 minutes. Half of 18- to 24- year-olds check Facebook the moment they wake up,10 and more than half of U.S. residents use the social network several times a day.11 These are staggering numbers that prove just how critical the app is to consumers and businesses alike.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has become ubiquitous in modern life. What was once a simple way of communicating and sharing photos with friends has now evolved into an e-commerce platform that is integral to the world economy.12 But on a smaller scale, it’s also a way that legal consumers find out more about an attorney.

Legal consumers turn to Facebook because they understand how other businesses use the platform, as a conversational communications outlet that speaks directly to their customer base. People expect the same of law firms. Remember that, for many, a legal issue is an emotional one. Your prospects want an informal look at the person they’re about to hire, and there’s no better place to deliver that insight online than through social media.

What to measure on Facebook

Businesses measure Facebook success through “engagement” metrics. How many likes and comments did your posts receive? How many new followers did your page gain this month? How many people visited your website from Facebook?

For promoted posts, consider the number of legal consumers your ads reached. If your posts aren’t performing well, you may need to tweak your targeted demographics.

Organic vs. paid social

On the Facebook app, consumers interact with businesses in two ways. The first is the simplest. They “like” a business page because they’re familiar with the company and they want to keep up with the work they’ve done. This type of interaction is prominent in retail and local businesses. Small businesses like law firms engage with their neighbors through regularly posting updates and responding to comments that users leave on their page.

Responding to Facebook comments will entice people to continue visiting your firm’s page, especially from their phone. Whether consumers ask you a question in a post or they reach out over Facebook Messenger, notification of your response gets delivered to their phone. Because of your diligence these consumers can stay one touch away from opening the app again and keeping you top of mind.

Unfortunately, these organic posts are not reaching consumers like they did in the early days of business pages. Facebook’s algorithm began to change when their targeted advertising became sophisticated enough to provide advertising value to companies, at the expense of organic posting.

And while fewer people are “liking” business pages for everyday content, they are searching for a specific law firm within the app. For example, when legal consumers find the attorney they’re interested in, they’ll often check the firm’s Facebook page to gain a sense of the person or people behind the brand.

Facebook’s real power (for businesses) comes in the form of its advertising capabilities. Facebook still offers the best targeting data to reach your consumers on the app. They also have some of the best ad capabilities, like carousel ads that allow your firm to tell a story through in-app pictures a user swipes through, and powerful social video options. Mobile advertising makes up 86 percent of Facebook’s yearly revenue.13 Why? Because the majority of people check social media on the go.

Watch for Instagram

Instagram (owned by Facebook) is quickly catching up with its parent company for the most used social media app. Instagram’s photo and video platform presents a quick way to see what’s going on in a friend’s life that day. For example, the “Instagram stories” feature is used as an ephemeral, daily status update about someone’s life, and they disappear after 24 hours.

Instagram offers law firms a secondary way of advertising to social media users. Because Facebook has become saturated, and their ad prices are increasing, many law firms consider Instagram the next great advertising platform. For one, an Instagram ad isn’t lost in the clutter, because the photo, copy, and call to action (CTA) take up the entire phone screen when a user scrolls through their feed. Instagram also allows for CTAs that are often more bold and direct than Facebook (notoriously restrictive in their advertising guidelines), and, as expected, users can call or email a law firm with one click.

Advertising on Instagram

Share professional pictures of company outings or shots of your office. These photos will build your brand and help consumers relate to your firm on a personal level.

To the bottom of each ad, place a “Learn More” block that links to your website. The block should take visitors to a page that’s informational, like a blog post, or a specific client conversion tool, like a contact form.

YouTube

People don’t necessarily think of YouTube as a social media platform, but we’re including it in this list for several reasons. First, it’s democratic. Anyone can create and share video content on YouTube, and feedback and interaction between creator and audience abound on the platform. Second, its reach is massive. YouTube has a 71 percent usage rate among Americans who own a smartphone.14 People turn to the app to watch everything from music videos to instructional content and beyond. Last, YouTube represents the origin of the species when discussing “viral” content that’s shared among friends and peers.

YouTube is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which uses its proprietary AdWords algorithm to advertise to the app’s viewers. Law firms can take advantage of the same targeted advertising that Google offers businesses on its search engine to reach consumers who are on YouTube almost daily — often with a specific goal of wanting to know or do something your law firm could help with.

To grow their business model, YouTube is experimenting with new formats such as YouTube live streaming and YouTube TV, their new cable network. With that growth will come more ways to advertise to legal consumers, though time will tell if the new formats are worth an investment.

It’s time to think phone first

There’s a reason apps are so popular in e-commerce. Mobile phones have now replaced desktop computers as the primary place where most people use the internet. That’s why mobile SEO has evolved into an integrated, app-based approach to finding an attorney. The lawyers who are present on the apps that are most popular to consumers are in the best position to court the most prospects.

Sources:

  1. “Google’s desktop search could be out of date compared to mobile results soon,” The Guardian, October 14, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/14/google-desktop-search-out-of-date-mobile
  2. “The Average Smartphone User Accessed Close to 40 Apps per Month in 2017.” App Annie, https://www.appannie.com/en/insights/market-data/apps-used-2017/
  3. “Report: Smartphone owners are using 9 apps per day, 30 per month,” Tech Crunch, https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/04/report-smartphone-owners-are-using-9-apps-per-day- 30-per-month/
  4. “These are the 10 most used smartphone apps,” Business Insider, August 29, 2017, https://www.businessinsider.com/most-used-smartphone-apps-2017-8
  5. “14 Interesting Waze Statistics and Facts (June 2018),” https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/waze-statistics-facts/
  6. “Facebook: 60 million businesses have Pages, 4 million actively advertise,” Venture Beat, September 27, 2016, https://venturebeat.com/2016/09/27/facebook-60-million-businesses-have-pages-4-million-actively-advertise/
  7. “18 Instagram Stats Every Marketer Should Know for 2018,” Sprout Social, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-stats/
  8. “Facebook influences over half of shoppers says DigitasLBi’s Connected Commerce report,” The Drum, April 24, 2015, https://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/04/24/facebook-influences-over-half-shoppers-says-digitaslbi-s-connected-commerce-report
  9. “These are the 10 most used smartphone apps,” Business Insider, August 29, 2017, https://www.businessinsider.com/most-used-smartphone-apps-2017-8
  10. “The Top 20 Valuable Facebook Statistics – Updated September 2018,” Zephoria, https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/
  11. “Facebook Revenue and Usage Statistics (2018),” Business of Apps, May 4, 2018, http://www.businessofapps.com/data/facebook-statistics/
  12. “INFOGRAPHIC: Facebook’s Impact on the Global Economy,” Adweek, January 20, 2015, https://www.adweek.com/digital/infographic-deloitte-facebooks-global-economic-impact/
  13. “A Long List of Facebook Statistics That Matter to Social Marketers,” Hootsuite, January 14, 2018, https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/

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