What lawyers need to know about the metaverse

In the last few weeks, the metaverse has been in the news headlines on a nearly daily basis. Companies are investing billions in it and are looking to hire thousands of people to build it. In this article, we look at what lawyers need to know about the metaverse. It addresses the following questions: what is the metaverse, what can the metaverse be used for, what concerns have been raised about the metaverse, and how is the metaverse relevant for lawyers?

What is the metaverse?

Rather than starting off with an attempt at definition, it may be useful to first quickly go over the history of the idea or concept. The idea for the metaverse is the result of several technological evolutions that are converging. On the one hand, you have computer games that have created entire virtual online worlds that are becoming more and more life-like, and where people have avatars representing them to interact with others and the virtual environment. Another aspect is the increasing use of virtual reality and augmented reality tools in real life for different purposes like training, education, etc. Think, e.g., of a surgeon or medical students practicing a medical procedure. The pandemic has also created new needs for virtual meetings and conferences and has sped up the process of courts going online. All of these tools rely on the Internet. So, the vision rose to enhance the internet in a way that all these technologies could be combined in one parallel virtual / augmented online world where we can live, work, learn, relax, play, socialize, etc.

There is no commonly accepted definition for the metaverse yet. (There even are alternative names for it like, e.g., the omniverse). The Wikipedia, e.g., gives the following definition: “The metaverse (a portmanteau of “meta-” and “universe” or “Universe” and “Meta”) is the hypothesized next iteration of the internet, supporting decentralized, persistent online 3-D virtual environments.” This Wikipedia definition, however, is limited in its scope. These are some of the other aspects that leaders in the field are using to describe it: “a virtual world connecting all sorts of digital environments”, with “social human interaction at its core”; “a vision for a new place to interact with other humans and bots to play games, conduct business, socialize and shop”; “a fully immersive, partially real life, partially digital experience that runs in parallel with the physical world”; “a vast and immersive digital world that is inexorably enmeshed with our physical world”.

This new online world would, just like the Internet, always be on and accessible. At present, accessing such world requires the usage of virtual reality sets or augmented reality glasses, as well as smartphones, PCs, or game consoles. For the metaverse to become a success, investors and developers realise that they must make it more easily accessible, and that interoperability between metaverse applications is essential.

What can the metaverse be used for? Examples of current and future applications.

The early stages of the metaverse already exist. There are, e.g., well-defined use cases within the video game, business, education, retail, and real-estate sectors.

We already gave the examples of games that are being played in entire online worlds, and where millions of players can simultaneously interact with each other and the environment.

Anybody who worked from home during the pandemic undoubtedly is familiar with virtual business meetings. Many also became familiar with online training.

The same goes for education where classes were suddenly taught online instead of in class rooms or auditoria. In some cases, students can use virtual reality headset to learn to manipulate 3D virtual objects, etc.

There are virtual shops that you can walk around in to choose what you want to buy. Similarly, people looking to buy a house can take a virtual tour to determine whether it is worth visiting the actual house. Developers use 3D models of the projects they want to build and put them online for potential buyers and investors.

There already are early metaverse applications for sports and entertainment and for healthcare. During the pandemic there were live concerts that could be attended virtually, where the musicians physically were in different locations, all playing together.

All of this already exists and would be enhanced further. In the future metaverse, people and companies would have their virtual offices. The online shopping experience would dramatically change, too, where virtual shops become far more lifelike. You could have your avatar customised to match the way you look at present and, e.g., try on clothes in the virtual shop before ordering them.

Movies could become 3D environments where you can look around and have a 360-degree view of what is going on. Family reunions and gatherings could take place in virtual environments so those who cannot physically be present, can still attend.

The possibilities look endless.

What concerns have been raised about the metaverse?

While many of these evolutions are thing people can get excited about, there also are plenty of reasons for concerns. Here are a few.

Privacy: big tech companies like Google and Facebook already have a bad reputation when it comes to all the data they gather. Many privacy advocates rightfully point out that the situation could get far worse in the metaverse, especially if it is being run by the same or just a few companies.

There is a cluster of interlinked concerns that has to do with the spread of misinformation, alienation from real life through confirmation bias, and the resulting polarization of society. What are we talking about? In recent years, we have witnessed how social media have been abused to spread misinformation, either intentionally or unintentionally. There already is a problem where the algorithms used in social media are designed to provide you with the information you are interested in, which strengthens the phenomenon of confirmation bias. The algorithm does not care whether what it shows you is true; it is interested in showing you want you want to read. If you hold beliefs that are not true, the algorithms will show you information that confirms those beliefs. In other words, the metaverse may further distort users’ perceptions of reality with biased content to keep them engaged. This can lead to an alienation from what is real, and further contributes to an ongoing polarization of society.

Another problem has to do with online addiction. There have been many well-documented cases where people develop online addictions. With a metaverse that becomes more lifelike and more all-encompassing, an increase in addictions is anticipated.

Another set of concerns has legal implications. Who is in control of the metaverse? Who makes the rules and what rules apply? How are laws applied in virtual worlds? Can insults or threats in a virtual environment have real life repercussions? What if the threats are about the avatars, like somebody threatening to disfigure or destroy your avatar, or somebody replacing your avatar with a less desirable one? There also are concerns about monopolies or oligarchies where some tech companies rule and control everything. Many lawmakers already have expressed concerns about the power big tech companies currently have. In the metaverse, that could get worse. What we are witnessing now are the early stages of a battle over who will control the metaverse.

There are criticisms that the metaverse companies are trying to lure in investors with what is at present merely a purely speculative, and over-hyped concept based on existing technology. They are accused of misrepresenting the largest limitation for wide-scale adoption of the metaverse, which comes from technological limitations with current devices and sensors needed to interact with real-time virtual environments.

And undoubtedly, the metaverse will introduce whole new sets of problems, which will raise new ethical and legal questions. There already is a company that sells tailor-made human digital servants. What about digital slavery and prostitution? What about virtual affairs? One problem that is often mentioned is that of currencies: will you be able to use existing ones, or will new ones be created? Will these virtual currencies be usable in the real world (as in, have purchasing power) or will those be limited to specific environments and providers? Many new solutions will have to be found.

How is the metaverse relevant for lawyers?

In a previous article, we talked about the two sides of legal innovation: one side has to do with adopting new technologies for better legal service delivery; the other side has to do with coming up with new legal solutions for new situations. Both aspects apply to the metaverse.

We already mentioned above that there are multiple concerns about the legal aspects of the metaverse. What existing rules can be applied and what new rules are needed? What new solutions do we have to come up with to deal with the abovementioned concerns? Will the metaverse create a whole series of new crimes? All of these are new problems that will need new legal solutions. And hopefully, we will learn from the mistakes that were made with the Internet, where legislation and jurisprudence were lagging far behind in addressing the new problems that arose. If not, the gap between new problems and the needed legal solutions to address them will be even bigger for metaverse.

The other side of the relevance for lawyers is how it will affect the daily operation of law firms. The metaverse with its new technologies will change the way lawyers work. We can expect an increase in and enhancement of virtual offices, where receptionists and paralegals could be bots or avatars of real people. We will see new virtual courtrooms, virtual arbitration, etc. During litigation, experts and lawyers could provide 3D recreations and presentations of their arguments and findings…

In short, the metaverse is expected to open up a whole new world of possibilities, concerns, and issues.

 

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Legal aspects of Non-Fungible Tokens

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) made world headlines in March 2021 when a digital artwork NFT was auctioned for nearly 70 million USD. NFTs represent a market that is growing fast: in the second quarter of 2021, NFT transactions already were worth 2.4 billion USD. So, what are Non-Fungible Tokens, and what are some of the legal issues when dealing with them?

The Wikipedia defines a non-fungible token as “a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a digital ledger (blockchain). NFTs can be used to represent easily-reproducible items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files as unique items (analogous to a certificate of authenticity) and use blockchain technology to establish a verified and public proof of ownership. Copies of the original file are not restricted to the owner of the NFT and can be copied and shared like any file. The lack of interchangeability (fungibility) distinguishes NFTs from blockchain cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin.”

So, key items to remember are that an NFT is a digital asset. It is a piece of software code that is entirely unique, yet transferable. That software code usually is a form of smart contract, and it is stored in a blockchain. NFTs typically have to do with digital media.

Let us use an analogy. Imagine a very famous photograph, taken back in the days before digital photography, where photos were still taken on celluloid film. Next, imagine that the original first print of the photograph or the original negative is being auctioned by the original photographer or somebody who acts on their behalf. You get an authentic piece of art, even authenticated by the artist. You can hang it in your house, or you can sell it. But that does not mean you get the copyrights on that piece of art. The original photographer still keeps the rights to reproduce, license, etc.

NFTs are something similar, but specifically created for digital media rather than physical media. The problem with digital media is that they can be infinitely copied and distributed without any loss of quality. NFTs were created as a way to make sure the original artists can benefit from their artwork. When you buy an NFT, you get an authenticated replica of a digital medium that is unique. It is a smart contract that contains certain terms and condition, e.g., to make sure that the original artists, e.g., gets a royalty when the NFT is sold. The smart contract is executed automatically each time there is a transaction that is registered in the blockchain, e.g., when an NFT is sold to a new owner. In other words, an NFT is a non-replicable digital certificate of ownership of a copy of a digital creative work.

It is worth repeating that while the NFT gives you ownership of a copy of a digital artwork, it does not transfer any intellectual property on the original digital artwork to the owner of the NFT, other than the license to own a copy of it. So, why do people by them? Because they are collector’s items that are authenticated and unique, that cannot be modified or amended, yet are transferable. As such, they can also be used as investments.

NFTs are fairly new, and legislation worldwide still has to catch up with the phenomenon. There are several legal issues that have to be considered.

Are NFTs legal? The answer to this question will vary from country to country. But, generally speaking, if there are no laws in place, they should be considered legal. Some countries have already enacted some legislation. Other are likely to follow, which may change what about NFTs is legal and what is not. But there are several caveats, discussed below.

Proof of ownership happens through the Blockchain. The combination of a public key and a private key allows the NFT to be decrypted and provide the necessary information.

Data hosting and storage: the NFT functions as a certificate of ownership of copy of a digital artwork that is stored somewhere, and typically the code of the NFT links to the stored copy. Problems can arise if the storage ends or the link to the storage changes because it is not possible to update a blockchain entry. So, the smart contract code has to explicitly allow transactions to modify the location of the digital artwork.

Smart Contracts: NFTs are smart contracts. The caveat here is that smart contracts usually only work on a specific platform. What about sales on a different platform?

Royalties: since an NFT is a smart contract, it is possible to include code that a fee is automatically paid to the original artist each time the NFT is sold. But, as mentioned above, what about sales on a different platform than the one where the smart contract originated?

Data Protection Laws: Exercising the personal rights to be erased or to modify or correct personal information appear to be incompatible with the immutable nature of the blockchain. In other words, NFTs that contain personal information may violate data protection laws. It may be wise to include non-executable code in the smart contract that clarifies that the people involved have agreed to have their personal information included as it is.

Intellectual Property Laws: as mentioned above, the buyer of an NFT by default does not acquire the intellectual property rights that are associated with the digital artwork. The buyer may not be fully aware of this or its implications. They may, e.g., not be aware that they are not allowed to make copies of the digital artwork or to use it in a publication, which may then constitute a potential intellectual property infringement liability.

Money Laundering: NFTs can be sold for exorbitant amounts of money. Add to that, that they may be sold using cryptocurrencies. There are valid concerns that the transactions of NFTs are being used to circumvent money laundering legislation.

Estate & succession: NFTs are typically linked to specific individuals. What happens to the NFT when the owner of the NFT dies? The immutable nature of the blockchain will not allow to recognize the heirs as new owners.

Unregistered securities: NFTs can be used as investments and there already are NFT marketplaces that allow several traders to take part simultaneously in the acquisition of NFTs. In other words, the new owners all get a share of the NFT. Some argue that in these circumstances, NFTs could be regarded as unregistered securities.

Taxation: the market for NFTs is worldwide. The artist may be in one country, the transaction may happen in another country, while the buyer may reside in yet another one. Transactions of NFTs may therefore be subject to double taxation.

The market of NFTs is expanding faster than anybody predicted. NFTs offer great opportunities, both for the creators of digital artwork, as well as for collectors and investors. But clearly, there still are multiple legal issues that need to be addressed.

 

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Knowledge Management for Lawyers

In today’s article, we will look at knowledge management for lawyers. The Wikipedia defines Knowledge Management (KM) as “the process of creating, sharing, using, and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multidisciplinary approach to achieve organisational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.”

Knowledge is different from information. It consists of information that is verified and that is highly structured, where the pieces of information have their place in a framework, and where attention is paid to the relationship between those pieces of information. One could say that knowledge consists of an architecture of verified information.

The Wikipedia is a good example of a knowledge management solution (KMS). It contains articles with the relevant information, and that information is structured. The information is also verified (by peer review). Apart from the articles on topics, it contains key words or tags, internal and external references, taxonomies, a thesaurus that keeps track of synonyms and ambiguities and uses redirects and disambiguation. It refers to related topics. The topics themselves are grouped in categories, etc. The knowledge is well-structured and can easily be shared and updated.

Often a distinction is made between two different types (or dimensions) of knowledge: there is explicit knowledge and there is tacit (or implicit) knowledge. Explicit knowledge is what we usually think of when we talk about knowledge. It is the knowledge that an individual consciously holds in a form that can easily be communicated to others. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, represents internalised knowledge that an individual may not consciously be aware of. (Lawyers may, e.g., know which judge will be more favourable to a certain case, but may not be able to express exactly all the reasons why that is the case). Tacit knowledge often consists of patterns that have been subconsciously identified but have not yet been expressed. As such, one of the challenges of knowledge management is to make tacit knowledge explicit.

Why should law firms pay attention to knowledge management? Lawyers are knowledge experts. Their knowledge or expertise is their biggest asset. For law firms, this expertise can be their main selling point, and protecting it can be crucial for their survival. You do not want a situation where only one specific lawyer in a law firm knows how to deal with a specific problem. Ideally, the knowledge should be leveraged across the law firm, meaning that it should be available to everybody in the law firm. Making knowledge accessible to law firm members also increases productivity because you have access to solutions that have worked in the past. It also allows new lawyers to acquire the knowledge faster.

Other benefits are that it facilitates innovation and organizational learning. A decent knowledge management solution also makes it easier to manage and grow the intellectual capital and assets of the law firm. It typically also makes it easier to find new solutions for more complex problems as it is easier to draw on past expertise. Keeping track of best practices and past solutions that worked and those that did not work, also reduces the chance of professional liability issues.

Setting up a decent KMS involves different aspects and phases. These include:

  • knowledge mapping, where you create a map that details who in the law firm has expertise in what areas.
  • knowledge gathering or submission: once you know where to find the knowledge, it has to be entered into the KMS. For this, one can use push and/or pull strategies. In a push strategy, the people who have the knowledge submit that knowledge themselves. In a pull strategy, the people building and maintaining the KMS ask the experts and enter the information.
  • knowledge modelling / structuring. We mentioned above that knowledge is structured, that it is consists of an architecture of information. A KMS typically will use indexes, taxonomies, a thesaurus, categories, etc. This is an important aspect that should not be overlooked. It is largely what sets a KMS apart from a documentation system.

Knowledge management comes with its own set of challenges. We already mentioned tacit knowledge. Another challenge is getting people to share their knowledge. Often, people may be reluctant to share their expertise because they think it may make them more expendable. Or they believe it will benefit others more than them. Lawyers – and especially older lawyers – tend to see it as something where the efforts involved are not justified by the benefits. This can be addressed by a double-pronged approach. On the one hand, people should be educated about the benefits and encouraged to share knowledge. On the other hand, the processes of sharing knowledge can be made less tedious and can be integrated in existing practices: brainstorming sessions can be knowledge gathering sessions. Reviews of actions taken in cases, analysing which were more successful than others is another way. Law firms typically also employ interns and young lawyers, where older lawyers have an ethical duty to assist and supervise them. So, these interns and younger lawyers can add knowledge to the KMS each time they ask for advice.

SharePoint as a Knowledge Management system?

Many law firms these days are heavily invested in Microsoft-based solutions and use SharePoint to store their documents. So, could they use SharePoint as their Knowledge Management system? After all, many users are already familiar with it. It is secure and reliable, and all the information is available in a single system.

As it is, SharePoint only offers limited knowledge management functionality. It stores information, and you can perform queries on that information. But it cannot handle large data sets or more advanced queries. At best, one can add metadata, but these tags / key words must be added manually. There is no support for automation. It has limited functionality to filter the search results. Native SharePoint also does not offer any information architecture solutions: it does not have taxonomies or a thesaurus, etc. Its content is not indexed. As it is, SharePoint is more of a document management and documentation system than a knowledge management system.

In recent years, SharePoint has started offering limited wiki functionality, for which it uses wiki templates which must be configured separately. It is a step in the right direction. Realistically speaking, though, if you would like to use SharePoint as a knowledge management system, you will need a third-party add-on that provides all the additional required knowledge management functionality.

 

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Planning your social media activity

In this article, we will look at planning your social media activity, which is an essential part of your content strategy. In a previous article, we explained that your content strategy is the high-level vision that guides your future content development to deliver against a specific business objective. A quick recap: Defining a content strategy consists of three phases: identifying your business objective, identifying your target audience, and identifying the content that your target audience needs. So, the first thing to do is to identify your business objective. What does your law firm stand for, and what do you want to achieve with the content you provide? Be as specific as possible. Then learn as much as possible about your target audience and what you have to offer them that sets you apart from the competition. Analyse what information your clients need, and where they can be found. Researching all of this will provide you with the data that will show you what to write, for whom, how, and where.

Once you have your content strategy, you can start planning your social media activity. In this article, we will look at content plans and content calendars, at tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to help you manage your posting activity, and we will end with some practical tips and reminders.

A social media content plan is an advanced directive on how to manage your content on the evolving platforms in accordance with your content strategy. Once you have set your objectives and identified and located your target audience, you start selecting the appropriate channels where you will post your messages.

Choose your channels: Many people make the mistake of thinking that distributing content on as many platforms as possible is a good thing, but it is not. It does not keep in mind where your target audience resides. So, you are better off first locating where your target audience resides. Also keep in mind that different social media channels have different value propositions, which means you often should use different channels for different purposes: reposting memes, e g., is more appropriate on Twitter or Instagram than it is on LinkedIn or Medium. Posting a bibliography of your articles makes more sense in a LinkedIn profile or business page, or a Facebook business page than it does on Twitter or Instagram.

Choose your messages: Once you identified the channels you plan to use, you can start organizing your content and decide how to distribute it over the different channels. It makes sense to create a content library. If you provide professional content, you can categorize it, and make sure you keep a balance between the different types of topics.

Also keep in mind to not just use social media for self-promotion only. You also want to curate information (i.e., share content from others), as well as interact with other users and their content: like and/or comment on content, etc. The articles listed in the sources mention different ratios you can use for your posts for the ideal blend of content from you, content from others, personal updates, and responses and replies. They all use slightly different ratios. But the only rule everybody agrees on is that number of posts containing your personal content and updates should never exceed the number of posts sharing information from others.

Plan and schedule your posts. For this, you can use a content calendar. You can plan ahead on a daily basis, a weekly basis, a monthly basis, and a yearly basis. After all, some information may be more relevant at specific times. Take, e.g., articles on tax returns, or VAT declarations, or on renting out property during holidays, etc. It makes sense to schedule those well in advance, so you won’t have to start reorganizing your schedule later on. But make sure you also leave room for unscheduled daily updates. Create a workflow where you take out the necessary time for your planning activity as well as for crafting your messages.

It is never a bad idea to get feedback from your team members and/or associates on the content you are planning to post before you post them.

You can create your own content calendar starting from scratch, or you can use existing predefined templates. There are several good, free, templates for content calendars available on the Internet.

Planning and scheduling your posts in this way has many benefits.

  1. You save time by being organized.
  2. There is more consistency in your posts.
  3. Experience shows that when you plan your posts rather than make them up at the spur of the moment, you make fewer typos, and reduce the risk of big
  4. You can get more ambitious with your social strategies.
  5. You don’t miss out on relevant moments
  6. You make higher-quality content
  7. You can track what works, and improve it

To make planning your social media activity easier, Hootsuite and Buffer are two very useful tools. They both are apps that make managing your social media activity a lot easier, by allowing you to post your content to the different channels in a centralized way. Their offerings are fairly similar, and you’ll only need one of them to meet your needs. Let’s do a quick comparison of what they have to offer.

  • Supported Social Networks: both offer access to the main channels, i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hootsuite also offers access to YouTube, which Buffer, at present does not. Hootsuite also can work with other channels, but typically you have to use paid add-ons for that.
  • Number of social media accounts available: both work with tiers where you pay a higher fee if you want access to more social media accounts, and if you want access for multiple users within your organization. They both have a limited free offer as well.
  • Overall ease-of-use: both programs have been around for several years and by now are both very user-friendly. Most users find Buffer slightly easier to use and get started with.
  • Post scheduling functionality: both offer excellent functionality when it comes to scheduling your posts.
  • Ad hoc posting options: this is integrated and easy in Buffer. In Hootsuite, you will at present need a browser add-on to do this.
  • Conversation management: Buffer has separate tool for this, called Buffer Reply, which costs extra, but it is more intuitive and complete than Hootsuite. Hootsuite has some conversation management functionality built in but is clunky.
  • Content approval features, i.e., where one user creates the posts that another user must approve. Both have the feature built in, but it works better in Hootsuite because it has a better management overview.
  • Reporting and dashboard views: while Buffer’s dashboard is lean and clean, Hootsuite’s dashboard and reporting are more advanced.
  • Content library: Buffer does not have a built-in content library, while Hootsuite does.
  • Tracking and Analytics: Hootsuite gives more analytics features away for free, but Buffer is cheaper for large business needs.
  • Third-party app integrations: both have many, though Hootsuite has slightly more. You will have to check what functionality you want. Some integrations are free, while others are not. Noteworthy is that Zapier has free predefined zaps for each, which can make automation even easier. As of August 2021, Buffer also can directly fetch graphics you created in Canva from your Canva account.
  • Extra products: we already mentioned Buffer Reply higher up, which is a paying app. Buffer also offers Pablo, for graphics, for free, and Analyze, which is a paid app for reporting and web metrics. Hootsuite has its own analysis tool built-in but more advanced features also come at an extra cost. It also has its own -albeit limited – conversation management built-in. It does not offer something similar to Pablo.
  • Team Management: Buffer works well for small teams, but for large organizations Hootsuite is the better option.
  • Advertising: only Hootsuite can create and manage ads.
  • Content Curation: Buffer more easily monitors RSS feeds, but Hootsuite is better at keeping an eye on social trends.
  • Pricing: as mentioned above, both work with a freemium tiered model for their prices. Overall, their prices are comparable.

So, what to choose? For smaller law firms, Buffer is probably the better option, while Hootsuite will generally better meet the needs of medium to large law firms.

Last, but not least, some reminders and tips. We are talking about social media, and it is important to not forget the social in social media! Do not use your social media mainly for self-promotion. And remember that you cannot plan everything in advance. Social media are about interaction, about building trust, about people getting to know you as a person they want to work with. It is also about becoming approachable. Use humour. Show aspects of your personal life. Spend time online daily to like posts, to give replies and make comments… Engage in conversations. Retweet posts you like, as you come across them.

 

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Improving the Quality of Sound and Video in Video Meetings

In previous articles, we gave an introduction and some tips on how to effectively use videoconferencing in your law firm. In today’s article, we focus on improving the quality of sound and video in your video meetings. Now, quality can be a subjective thing. Therefore, when assessing the quality of your video meetings, it may be more practical to keep your actual needs in mind. You will need more professional equipment, e.g., if you organize webinars that you charge for, than when you only have meetings to catch up and coordinate with co-workers.

Let us start with some general considerations with regard to your infrastructure. Apart from decent equipment, the environment from where you are making your video calls plays an important role. You want to reduce all sources of interference to a minimum. These interferences can include light sources which can be too bright, too dark, or placed in wrong positions. They can include sounds from your environment: equipment making noise, phones ringing, street noises, people talking, etc. You want a quiet location, with adequate lighting, and as little sound interference as possible. You may even consider installing a soundproof pod, if necessary. In this context, it should also be clear that making video calls while travelling is never a good idea.

You also want a fast and stable internet connection. As a rule, for a laptop or PC, you are better off with Ethernet network cables at the office than with wi-fi, as wi-fi is far more susceptible to interference. Even if you mainly use wi-fi, it makes sense to at least have one dedicated video conferencing machine that has a physical cable connection to the router.

In our previous article, we pointed out that the users’ sound experience is more important than their video experience while videoconferencing. So, how you can improve the sound of your meeting? The first thing to do is to calibrate the sound of your microphone. You may have to do this at the level of the operating system and/or of the video software that you are using. In the operating system, you typically will find this in the device manager. In the video software, you will find it in the settings. If you use your device in different locations (e.g., a laptop or smart phone that you use both at home and at the office), you may consider recalibrating each time you are in a different location. Even with stationary devices like PCs, it is a good practice to recalibrate on a regular basis.

We already mentioned reducing sound interference. This also applies to your sound equipment itself, where you want to avoid having an echo or other interferences like feedback from your loudspeakers. Typically, using a headset avoids both of these. These days, most laptops and smart phones with built in microphones also are calibrated to avoid echo and feedback.

For optimal sound quality, you need to find the ideal distance between your mouth and the microphone. Depending on the microphone you are using, this usually is between 10 and 30 cm. Do some tests to find the optimal distance. For many external microphones, it is around 15 cm.

Choose the right equipment for your needs. This applies to both microphones and loudspeakers. The microphones that are built-in into smart phones and laptops often offer decent quality but using a headset usually will already offer better quality. The loudspeakers of mobile devices typically are of lower quality, so, again a headset or ear buds or external loudspeakers will be a better option. If you are using a desktop PC, you will need an external microphone and external loudspeakers.

If you are organizing webinars and video blogs, you will need more professional microphones. These can go from simple USB microphones, to wired lavalier microphones (lavalier microphones are clip-on microphones), to wireless lavalier microphones, or even more professional microphones. As the purpose is to record your voice, you would prefer one-directional microphones as they do a better job at keeping out unwanted sounds from the environment. You also would want to go for a condenser microphone, which mainly focuses on the ranges of the human voice.

If there is sound interference from your environment, you can use noise-reducing applications that typically can be used as plug-ins for your video conferencing or recording software.

Finally, if you are in a video conference, it is a good practice to mute your microphone when you are not speaking. And remember to switch it back on when you do speak.

Moving on to improving your video quality. Most cameras self-calibrate when they are being used, so there is no need to calibrate your camera. If you are using a laptop or PC and have never calibrated the colours on your monitor, you may want to do that. It typically is something you only should do once.

Probably the most important aspect of video is lighting. In theory, natural light is best, but may often not be sufficient. There are many solutions with wide ranging price differences. Selfie rings, also called ring lights, are a good start, and will do for most purposes. For more professional setups, use 3-point lighting, with optional accent lighting on top of that for additional quality.

Your viewers will look at you and at what is behind you. Make sure you have your camera at eye height and in an appropriate angle. Do not sit too close or too far from the camera. Be aware of what is behind you. Get rid of distractions. Most videoconferencing software allows you to use a wallpaper or virtual background. It is a good practice to choose background that are neutral and not distracting.

When it comes to the equipment to use, you have plenty of choices. Most laptops and smart phones come with decent – and some even excellent – cameras. If those do not deliver sufficient quality, or if you are using a desktop PC, you will need an alternative. You could use a webcam. Often, if you have a digital camera or video camera, those may already offer better quality than a webcam. Several digital cameras and video cameras also allow to plug in an external microphone. Even more professional setups would involve an interchangeable lens camera and a fast lens.

Keep in mind, though, that high resolution video requires a fast, steady, and reliable Internet connection. It is a good practice to close down any other applications with access to the Internet that you will not be needing during your videoconference.

Also keep in mind, that even when your microphone is muted and/or you are not speaking, you are on screen and people can see you.

Finally, some additional considerations and best practices:

  • Keep it brief.
  • Do not use a videoconference if a telephone call would suffice.
  • Consider asynchronous meetings if you are working together with people in different time zones. (Meaning, it is better to have two meeting with fewer attendees at times that are convenient for them, than to have one meeting for everyone at a time that inconveniences part of your attendees).
  • If you are doing an online presentation, use engaging visuals.

Once again, happy videoconferencing.

 

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Introduction to Advertising on LinkedIn

This article will provide you with a first introduction to paid advertising on LinkedIn. If you are not familiar with it, advertising on LinkedIn can be at first confusing. The purpose of this article is to provide you with some necessary background on how LinkedIn advertisements work, and what types of advertisements you can use. The first three articles listed in the sources below provide a more in-depth introduction.

Now, why would you, as a lawyer, want to advertise on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a social media platform that is used by professionals, so it is an ideal way to reach businesses you want to offer your services to. LinkedIn allows you to target very specific groups of individuals. You could, e.g., do a campaign for business owners of small or medium sized businesses in your neighbourhood that specialize in certain products or services. Or you could target the heads of legal departments in bigger companies. LinkedIn also is a good place to advertise job offers. If you are looking for new clients, you can use the funnel approach and create specific ads for specific segments of your target audience based on where in the funnel they are. (More on that later). You can also do something like an email campaign by sending message ads, etc. Add to that, that LinkedIn provides you with the necessary metrics to see how your ads are performing. Given all of the above, it should not come as a surprise that LinkedIn is the preferred social media platform for lawyers to advertise on.

So, how do you get started? Before you can begin to advertise on LinkedIn, there are two prerequisites. First, you must have a company page for your law firm. You cannot advertise on LinkedIn if you only have a personal profile. You need a company page. Secondly, once you have a company page, you need to create at least one account in the Campaign Manager for your law firm. The campaign manager is where you organize your advertisement campaigns. It lets you define your objectives and goals and select your target audiences for each campaign. It lets you set a budget, choose from different types of ads, and set a timeline for your ads. The platform also includes several features designed to help you meet your advertising goals. It is also good to know that you can create more than one account in the campaign manager for your law firm.

Once you have your Campaign Manager account set up, you can start your ad campaign. Typically, this involves seven steps:

  1. Choosing your objective
  2. Defining your target audience
  3. Choosing an ad format
  4. Setting your budget and schedule
  5. Starting to build your ad
  6. If applicable, providing payment information
  7. Measuring and optimizing your campaign

Let us have a closer look at these seven steps.

Step 1: choose your objective. What is your ad for? Is it a job listing? Do you want to attract new clients, or do you want to find people to attend a webinar or seminar you are organizing? LinkedIn uses a funnel approach that is common in digital marketing that involves three stages: awareness, consideration, and conversion. To raise awareness, you typically want views, or impressions as LinkedIn calls them. For consideration and conversion, you typically want people to respond to a call to action, which is measured in clicks. To convince them to respond to your call to action, you may want them to view a video first, etc. The goal you choose will largely determine the rest of your campaign.

Step 2: define your target audience. Selecting the criteria to determine who should see your ad is the same across all objectives and ads that you choose. You have more than 20 different criteria that you can combine, which allows you to be very specific in who you target. These criteria include profession / job title, company size, company name, interests, skills (including languages), seniority, etc. Reaching the correct target audience is one of the most fundamental pillars of success for an ad campaign. In the sources, listed below, you will find an article to assist you in the process of targeting the audience that is right for your campaign.

Step 3: choose an ad format. LinkedIn uses different types and formats of ads that you can choose from. You can use Sponsored Content, Message Ads, Dynamic Ads, Text Ads, or a mix of all four. Sponsored Content appears directly in the LinkedIn feed of people you want to reach. They come in three formats: single image ads, video ads and carousel ads. As the name suggests, message ads send messages directly to LinkedIn Messaging. Dynamic ads are individualized ads that use data that are available in your target audience’s profile. They are available in three formats: follower ads, spotlight ads, and job ads. Text Ads are simple but compelling pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) ads (see below, in step 4).

All in all, this means that at present, LinkedIn offers the following ad formats:

Step 4: set your budget and schedule. You determine the amount of money you want to spend. The cost of the campaign consists of three possible options:

  • Cost per Impression (CPM) refers to the cost of advertising where you pay for each time an ad is displayed. These ads are typically used to raise awareness.
  • Cost per Click (CPC) is where you pay for each time a person responds to a Call-To-Action by clicking on a link. These ads are typically used in lead generation or event registration.
  • Cost per Send (CPS) is used when you do a campaign with message ads, where you pay for each message that is sent. You only pay for messages that are successfully delivered.

Along with your budget, you can also determine the schedule of the ads. Keep in mind that setting your budget and schedule is an interactive process, called bidding, where LinkedIn will, e.g., offer a bundle of ads in a schedule at a certain price, and you can then modify that offer to better suit your needs.

Step 5: start building your ad. LinkedIn provides you with some tools to build your ads. For some ad formats, previews are available. For message ads, it is possible to send yourself a test message. Typically, though, you will want to build your ad outside of LinkedIn first, with professional tools.

Step 6: if applicable, provide payment information. If you are organizing a seminar, webinar or other paying event, you will have to provide payment modalities and information.

Step 7: measure and optimize your campaign. The Campaign Manager offers you a dashboard where you can follow-up on each one of your campaigns. You can review performance metrics, access charts and demographics, etc. It is possible to export these data as a CSV report.

With this information, running an ad campaign on LinkedIn should be less overwhelming.

 

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An Introduction to Web Analytics

In this article, we will have a look at web analytics: what they are, what they are good for, which ones to track, etc. For some of this, we will be using Google Analytics as a practical example.

What are web analytics?

The Wikipedia defines it as “the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of web data to understand and optimize web usage. Web analytics is not just a process for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research and assess and improve website effectiveness.” In other words, it is a way of collecting and analysing what is happening on your website: how many visitors you have, where they come from, what equipment they are using, what they are doing on your website, what pages they like, how many times each page is viewed, etc. Web analytics can tell you what is and what is not working on your website. They provide the scientific data that you can base your strategies on.

Google Analytics is the web analytics service that Google offers, and since 2019 is the most used tool for web analytics. The service was first launched in 2005, after Google acquired Urchin. Google Analytics is currently in its fourth version. Other analytics packages that are commonly used, e.g., are Adobe Analytics, Analog, AWStats, Mixpanel, etc. Social Media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, all offer analytics too to measure what is happening with your content – including ads – on their platforms.

Why use web analytics?

When you create a website, you do it for a reason. There are one or more major goals that outline why you have a website. For a law firm, e.g., you may want to attract potential new clients, educate the public about topics relating to your field of expertise, and have people sign up to webinars you organize. To reach these goals, you define some objectives, which help outline what it takes to achieve your goals. Increasing both the numbers of new and returning visitors for specific pages in your website, e.g., could be an objective. In this example, the number of visitors and returning visitors and whether they increase would also function as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). As part of your strategy to reach your goals, you can set specific targets.

Web analytics allow you to measure and analyse how your website is performing. They provide you the information to determine whether you are meeting your goals, objectives, KPIs, and targets. They allow you to assess how effective your strategies are. They tell you what is working and what is not. They show you what audience you are attracting and how they are behaving. They also reveal what equipment your visitors are using, like whether they are on mobile, tablet or PC. As such, they also allow you to adapt your strategies to create a better user experience for your website visitors. Because you get a clearer view of your audience, you can better accommodate their needs and expectations.

How does it work?

Basically, there are two different ways web analytics can be set up. The most common way is to use specific snippets of code that are inserted in web pages. Typically, the web analytics service provider provides you with a unique ID for each website, and you insert a customized snippet of code into each page of your website. That way, when a browser accesses a web page, information is sent to the web analytics service provider like Google Analytics. And then you can start monitoring your metrics. (It typically takes about a week of collecting data before you have a minimum of useful metrics). These snippets of code generally use JavaScript and tracking cookies, and are handled on the client side, i.e., by the browser of the website visitor.

A second way to track website behaviour is to have code executed on the server instead of in the browser. This approach is more and more being used to track behaviour of visitors using mobile devices. For pages to load faster on mobile devices, the use of external JavaScript is often omitted or kept to a minimum. Server-based web analytics often do use tracking cookies, too.

What to track?

For your website in general, Themisle recommends keeping track of five items: overall traffic, bounce rate, traffic sources, desktop vs mobile visits, and the numbers of new and returning visitors. Let us have a closer look at each of them.

The overall traffic is the number of visits your site gets over a specific period of time (day, week, month, year). New websites tend to attract fewer visitors because people have not discovered the website yet. Ideally, the number of visitors to your website keeps growing as your website grows older. When numbers start declining, that is a sign that you need to make changes because something is not right. Most packages for web analytics typically offer different views for specific periods. In Google Analytics 4, you will find these on the home page of each website you track. It offers an overview for the today, yesterday, the last 7, 28, or 90 days, etc. It is also possible to create custom views.

The bounce rate consists of the percentage of visitors that are leaving your website after visiting a page. The term is used in two ways, i.e., as the percentage that leaves a) after visiting just one page, i.e., any page on your website, without visiting any other pages, or b) after visiting specific pages. Imagine that the visitors, e.g., who go from your home page to the fields of expertise then go a third page, but those who go from your home page to the presentation of the lawyers then leave. Then you know the page with the expertise works as it should, but the one with the presentation of the lawyers does not.

There are some common reasons why visitors leave your website after viewing just one page. These include long loading time, navigation that is not accessible or clear, an unattractive web design, or pages not being optimized for mobile viewers.

The average bounce rate for websites is anywhere between 20 and 70%, where lower is better. As a rule of thumb, however, you do not want a bounce rate that is higher than 30%.

Mind you, a high bounce rate is not always a bad thing. If you do a campaign for a webinar, then the final thing you want your visitors to do, is sign up, and then you show them a confirmation page. That confirmation page will have a high bounce rate, but that is to be expected as there is no real need for your visitors to stay around any longer. Typically, pages with contact information, too, have a high bounce rate, because your visitors have found what they need.

As of version 4 of Google Analytics, the bounce rate has been replaced by a new set of metrics, which is found in the Engagement section. “For a session to qualify as Engaged, the user must be do at least one of the following during their session: a) actively engaged with your website or app in the foreground for at least 10 seconds, b) fire a conversion event, or c) fire 2 or more screen or page views. You will notice several new metrics in GA4 property that are built on top of this concept: Engagement Rate = (engaged sessions) / (sessions), Engaged Sessions per User = (engaged sessions) / (users), Engagement Time = sum (engagement time).” (Ken Williams).

How do your visitors find your website? That is the question the traffic sources answers. There are five common sources. Visitors can get to your website a) by clicking on a link they found on another website; b) by having done a search in a search engine; c) as a result of an email campaign; d) via links on social media; or e) by coming directly to your site. The latter mainly is the case for frequent visitors. In Google Analytics 4, you find this information in the Acquisition section.

A next item to monitor is the number of Desktop vs Mobile visits. These days, most visitors to websites use mobile devices. So, it is imperative to accommodate them. But mobile devices come with many different screen resolutions. Most statistics will give you an insight in the many different screen resolutions your visitors are using. Over time, the screen size on mobiles has gradually increased, so, you may no longer, e.g., need to accommodate the smallest resolutions. In Google Analytics 4, you find the relevant information in the Tech section.

The fifth type of statistics to monitor are the numbers of New and returning visitors. Your returning visitors are your core audience. Experts disagree on what constitutes a good ratio between new and returning visitors. Themisle propose as a rule of thumb that if less than 30% of your visitors are return visitors, it usually means something is wrong. In Google Analytics 4, this information is on the home page for each website you track, as well.

Limitations

While web analytics are very useful, it is important to keep certain limitations in mind. To keep track of your visitors, they use tracking cookies, and the ones that use client-side scripts typically also use JavaScript. Both of these technologies can be switched off in the browser or by third-party software like antivirus programs or programs that offer privacy protection. Users, too, can decide to delete cookies. And virtually all modern browsers offer tracking protection, either built-in, or as an optional add-on. Many browsers, like Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi, Tor, and others by default have tracking protection activated. The data you are presented with, can also be distorted other ways. If your visitors use, e.g., a VPN, then none of the location data for them is reliable either.

Furthermore, the GDPR applies. For websites hosted in the EU or targeting visitors from the EU, this implies you must get explicit consent from your visitors to track them.

What this means is that the numbers you are presented with in your web analytics reports only represent a percentage of your visitors. And sometimes, that percentage can be low. To give one example, for one of the websites we host, a comparison between the server logs (that keep track of every page that is presented to visitors) and the web analytics, showed that Google Analytics only included approximately 15% of the actual genuine visitors. (Meaning that robots and crawlers had already been excluded in the report based on the server logs). For most websites, that percentage will be higher, and web analytics will still provide you with many valuable insights.

 

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Digital marketing concepts you need to know

Digital marketing uses a terminology with many concepts that may sound confusing if you are not familiar with them. In this article, we will explain some core concepts by using a practical (but simplified) example to make things clearer. Imagine you want to do webinar, and you want people to sign up for it. From a digital marketing viewpoint, what needs to be done? The approach described below can be used for other digital marketing campaigns as well, e.g., to sell a book you wrote, etc.

People need to be able to sign up for your webinar, so you need a registration form. If it is a paying webinar, you will need to offer a payment option. So, you want people to get to that registration form and sign up. Before people will be willing to sign up, they will want to know more about the webinar, and they will have to be persuaded to do so. To accomplish that, you will use a landing page that provides them with the necessary information and invites them to sign up. And for them to find your landing page, you want to direct people to it by several means you have at your disposal, like social media, ads, an announcement on your website, a mailing to people who would be interested, etc. So, your digital marketing strategy looks something like this.

Conversion Funnel
Conversion Funnel

A first set of concepts you should get familiar with have to do with conversion. In the widest sense, you want to convert the people who see your ad or notification on your website, social media or in your email campaign into customers who sign up for your webinar. To get them to do that, we are using different steps, where each time we want them to take a specific action: click on the link that leads to your landing page, and then go to the registration form, and then sign up. The term conversion is also used for each one of these steps, when your prospect takes the action that you want them to take. (For convenience’s sake, we will use the term visitor below as a rubric term for all who visit your website, see your ad, see your social media posts, read your email campaign, etc.)

In electronic commerce, this approach is called conversion marketing. It is marketing with the intention of increasing conversions, i.e., converting visitors into (paying) customers. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that convert, i.e., take the desired action:

Conversion rate = (conversions / total visitors) * 100%

In our example, we have three successive actions we want them to take, and you want to guide them through that process: click on the link to the landing page, click on the link to register, and then sign up. Each time only a percentage will take the desired action. That is why this approach is often called a conversion funnel.

In this context, the concept of a bounce rate is relevant. The Wikipedia describes a bounce rate as “an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site.” If we take our example, for this campaign you would have three specific pages on your website: first an announcement, e.g., in the news section or in your blog, then the landing page, and finally the registration page. If the visitor leaves your website from the page with your announcement, from your landing page, or from the registration page before they register, that would be a bounce. The bounce rate allows you to keep track of how each step performs.

So, in our example, we want three successive conversions, and we want to be able to track the conversion rate for each one of these steps (which is called conversion rate tracking). Keeping track of the conversions rates for each one of these steps is done for conversion rate optimization (CRO) purposes. Conversion rate optimization is often defined as “the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action on a website. (…) Think of it as the process of focusing on understanding what drives, stops, and persuades your users, so you can give them the best user experience possible—and that, in turn, is what makes them convert and ultimately improves your website conversion rate.” (Hotjar.com).

It is worth noting that platforms that sell ads, as well as most social media offer built-in ways to track how your ad or post is doing. By default, websites do not have that facility built in, but is possible to install tools like Google Analytics or web log analyzers for tracking purposes. They, too, will provide you with the necessary information. (We will pay more attention to web traffic analyzers in a next article).

Crucial in this approach is your landing page. This is where you will provide your visitors with the necessary information to convince them to sign up. A landing page “is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign.” It is where a visitor ‘lands’ after they click on a link in an email, or your ad, or your post in social media, etc. “Unlike web pages, which typically have many goals and encourage exploration, landing pages are designed with a single focus or goal, known as a call to action (or CTA, for short).” (Unbounce.com).

Typically, your landing page will open with a short, positive, and empowering statement about your webinar that focuses on what the attendees will gain. Then, you can provide a short text that provides the necessary information about what and why. It is important to not just offer this information in text, but also as well as a visual – either an infographic or a short (2 to 3 minute) video. Make sure to include some social proof, i.e., testimonials of existing clients and/or people who have attended previous webinars. Then lastly, you have your call to action, which on your landing page is a button with a link to subscribe. Again, it is a good practice to make this call to action an empowering statement (e.g., “Yes, I want to know how to …”).

So, a Call to Action is an invitation for your visitor to do something. In our example, we will have a CTA in each step: a link in the ads, social media posts, web pages, etc.; a link to the registration page, and a button to actually register on the registration page. For a CTA to be as effective as possible, all links to other pages than the one you want to direct your visitor to, should be avoided. If you want to provide some optional additional information, use a pop-up screen instead.

Another term that sometimes pops up in this context is Key Performance Indicators (KPI). You probably already are familiar with the term from the software you use to manage your law firm, where you can, e.g., define how many billable hours per month each lawyer must generate. That is one example of a KPI. In our digital marketing context, the conversion rate also is a KPI. Conversion rate optimization can then be seen as a way to improve your KPI scores.

To keep track of what works best to improve your conversion rate, you can experiment with different versions of an ad, or a landing page, etc. A common practice is to do some A/B Testing. “A/B testing (also known as split testing) is a process of showing two variants of the same web page to different segments of website visitors at the same time and comparing which variant drives more conversions.” (vwo.com).

In future articles, we will focus more in depth on landing pages and on the metrics that help you evaluate your conversion rates.

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Instagram for Law Firms

In today’s article, we have a look at Instagram and at how it can be useful for lawyers and law firms. Surprisingly, only 25% of lawyers use Instagram for marketing purposes, even though for most young adults, it is the most important social media network.

Let us start by explaining what it is, for those of you who are not familiar with it. Instagram is social network service for sharing photos and short videos (of up to 60 seconds). It was launched as an app for smart phones in 2010. What made the app stand out, was that it allowed users to easily apply predefined filters to photos they had taken, and then share them either publicly or with their followers. It works with hashtags and locations, and users can browse other users’ public content via these hashtags and locations. Just as is the case with Twitter, hashtag topics can be trending. Users can like photos and videos, and they can comment on them. The app quickly became very popular and was bought by Facebook in 2012.

Why would a law firm consider having an Instagram account? The main reason is for marketing purposes. Instagram is the world’s third most used social media network, with over one billion monthly active users. (Only Facebook and YouTube have more, with 2.8 billion and 2 billion respectively). To put things in perspective, LinkedIn only has 260 million monthly active users, while Twitter has 187 million. More importantly, Instagram is the most used social media platform for consumers between the ages of 18 and 35. And with geolocation tagging, it is an easy way to reach local target audiences.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which are text-based social media, Instagram is primarily a visual medium. And that is one of the main reasons for its popularity: visuals are more appealing than text. And they also tend to evoke more responses: Instagram posts get more engagement than any other social media platforms. Furthermore, it is possible to link your Instagram account to your Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook account, so photos on Instagram are shared on those platforms as well.

Also worth mentioning, is that Instagram can effectively be used as a recruitment tool, as well. (As mentioned above, young adults are far more likely to be on Instagram than on LinkedIn).

So, what services does Instagram offer? It started as a service to share photos and short videos, and that still is what it is mainly used for. But it offers other services as well. Let us start with Instagram Stories. In his article for rankings.io, Chris Dryer explains that “Instagram Stories are photos and videos that you can share throughout the day in a vertical, slideshow format. Unlike regular photo and video posts, these do not appear in the regular Instagram newsfeed or in the grid on your Instagram profile. Instead, they appear at the top of the newsfeed for those who follow your Instagram account.” Important to know is that stories remain available for only 24 hours.

Next, we have Instagram Live. Instagram Live is technically a part of Instagram Stories, and allows you to broadcast a live stream from your phone. These livestreams can last up to one hour. Mind you, as they are a part of the Instagram Stories, they are by default only available for 24 hours after the livestream. It is however possible to save a livestream as a ‘highlight‘, which means it will be added to your user profile.

Another video service Instagram offers, is Instagram TV, usually shortened to IGTV. Whereas Instagram Live videos do not appear in a newsfeed and do automatically disappear, Instagram TV videos are posted to your newsfeed, where a copy of them – with its own URL – remains available. Videos of up to one hour can be uploaded if done so from a web browser. If directly uploaded as a video recorded on your phone, the length is limited to 15 minutes of video.

Instagram also offers Business Pages / Business Profiles. For these, a professional account is needed, but that is as simple as activating the account as a professional one in the settings. Once that is done, the option to fill out a business profile becomes available. Now, if your law firm already has a page on Facebook, it is possible to link your Instagram Business and Facebook pages. This has to be done from within Facebook and will make the information you have on your Facebook page available in Instagram too. It is also possible for the two to automatically share posts, meaning if something is posted on one, it appears on the other as well. So, this is the place to add all the local business details of your law firm. Especially if you know that more than 200 million Instagram users visit an Instagram Business Profile at least once a day.

An additional benefit of setting your Instagram account up as a professional account, is that you get access to Instagram Insights, which provide you with detailed engagement analytics. That makes it easy to follow up on Key Performance Indicators.

As is the case with other social media networks, Instagram also offers the ability to publish Ads. And just like in Facebook and LinkedIn, it is possible to very narrowly define the parameters to identify your target audience.

How do you get started? Setting up an account is easy, and can be done from a smart phone where you first have to download the app. Or you can just sign up using a browser. If you have a Facebook account, you can use your Facebook account to sign up and subsequently sign in. Keep in mind, however, that while signing up can be done from a PC with a browser, uploading photos and videos typically must be done through the app on your smart phone.

Then you start sharing photos. The aim here is to attract leads and to do that, you use your photos to build credibility, trust, and brand awareness among your followers. In her article for Law Firm Ambition, Becky Simms gives the following advice.

  • Build a persona, show your personality and the personality of your law firm. While doing this, focus on approachability.
  • Show the people in your firm, and make sure to post some “life behind the scenes” photographs.
  • Demonstrate community involvement.
  • Look for opportunities to illustrate your expertise, without giving legal advice. Post pictures of articles you have written, webinars you have given, conferences you spoke at or attended, etc.
  • Check whether your colleagues can provide content.
  • Avoid direct self-promotion.
  • Use the Instagram app on your mobile phone to take photos.
  • Aim for a relevant image with every social networking post.
  • Use hashtags on Instagram to make your images more visible / easier to find. Don’t be shy to use many hashtags.
  • Check what other lawyers are doing for inspiration.
  • Keep a watching brief to see how the Instagram platform develops.

In an article in Forbes Magazine, Jenna Gross recommends using the following marketing tactics:

  • Create a plan of action.
  • Elicit emotions.
  • Build a visual narrative.
  • Create conversations.
  • Simplify the path for potential clients to become clients.

Two more practical tips: there are third-party programs like Buffer and Hootsuite that allow you to schedule posts in advance. They both offer free and paying plans. You can start with the free version and upgrade if need be.

As mentioned above, uploading videos and photos must be done from a smart phone. There are mainly two solutions if you want to use your PC or laptop instead. The first one is to install Bluestack which will allow you to run Android Apps on your PC or laptop. Once Bluestack is installed, you install the Instagram for Android app, and you are ready to go. Alternatively, you can use the Vivaldi browser, which allows Instagram to run as a desktop application in a web panel from where photos can also be uploaded. (See https://vivaldi.com/blog/instagram-post-from-computer/ for an explanation).

So, go ahead, and give it your best shot.

 

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Using video in your law firm

Video has become the driving force of the Internet. While the actual numbers may vary from source to source, most estimate that 80% to 82% of Internet traffic in 2020 consisted of video, and that one third of online activity consisted of watching videos. In the US, e.g., 85% of people with Internet access watch videos online on a daily basis. In Saudi Arabia, that number is 98%. Most of the videos we watch are entertainment, which is not really a surprise. People love watching videos, and marketers have noticed. In 2018 already, 87% of online marketers used video content. What is important, is that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text. The articles listed in the sources below provide plenty more interesting statistics.

The American Bar Association’s annual Legal Technology Survey Report for 2020 noticed that law firms are hardly using video for anything else than videoconferencing. Only 3% of respondents create videos that provide content, compared to 85% of businesses in general. The report rightfully points out that law firms are missing out on important opportunities by not producing video content.

Because of the pandemic, by now most law firms in the US routinely use videoconferencing. 88% of lawyers have worked remotely in 2020, and for 48% of lawyers working remotely has become their default mode of operation. Rather than have face to face meetings, they will use videoconferencing as long as a physical presence is not required. This sharp increase in videoconferencing also means the most law firms have the necessary setup to start producing videos.

So, what can law firms use video for, other than videoconferencing? Video is commonly used for testimonials, informational videos, explainer videos, storytelling, webinars, and podcast videos. Let us have a closer look those.

Testimonials: legal consumers are online consumers and will check out the law firms online that they consider hiring. Online social proof plays an important part in that. It is the second most important way for legal consumers to decide which law firm they will hire, after direct personal referrals. Potential clients relate to other people sharing their stories and experiences. The Social Media Examiner website suggests the following steps. Start by creating a testimonial questionnaire, with the questions you believe your potential clients would like to see answered. Scout for an appropriate filming location. Set up your shoot and record the Interview. If necessary, edit the video. Put it on your website in a section dedicated to testimonials. Use social media to frequently post links to your testimonial videos.

Informational videos and explainer videos: many law firms already offer a blog or articles on their website that provide potential clients with some free advice on specific topics. This could also be done using video instead of written articles. You can ask local residents to send in some questions, and answer those in short videos, ideally of approximately 3 minutes. You can also create short videos in which you explain some concepts, or how new regulations will affect people. One advantage that these short videos have over written articles, is that they are more likely to be shared on social media. And if you already have a blog, it is a good strategy to repurpose the articles from your blog as short videos. There even are AI solutions (like lumen5.com) available to automate that process.

Storytelling: people like to be able to relate to the people they consider hiring. So, they like to know more about the individuals, and they prefer hearing stories to reading dry exposés. You can create videos about your law firm, the lawyers and staff in it, past successes, etc. Individual lawyers can talk about themselves and, e.g., explain why they chose to become lawyers, or why they decided to specialize in specific fields. The goal of these video stories is to establish a personal connection between the lawyers and their potential clients and to humanize the law firm.

Webinars and video podcasts: whereas webinars are educational workshops on specific topics, podcasts are more of an informal conversation. They typically are more in-depth and last longer than the short informational and explainer videos. It makes sense to record your webinar or podcast and then post the video either on your website or on a hosting platform. Once this is done, they can be shared on social media. You can even release sections of the video as shorter clips.

The Content Marketing Institute gives the following tips for best practices:

  • Invest in the process, not just the product: the videos you post must be an integral pillar of your content marketing strategy, not a side-product. So, determine the role and goals of your video content, and plan your content strategy accordingly.
  • Keep your end goal in mind – and determine how you will know when you have reached it: what do you want to achieve with your video, and what do you want your viewers to do after watching the video?
  • Write a script your audience will want to follow. Use a conversational tone. Speak in short, concise sentences to emphasize key points. Avoid jargon. Do a “table read” test run where you read it out loud before recording to discover where the script may need tweaking.
  • Know when to host and when to post. You can post your videos on your own website, or you can host them on available platforms. For webinars and podcasts, you can consider live streaming platforms and apps. There are dedicated services, but most social media platforms also offer the option these days. And shorter videos can also be posted directly themselves on social media.
  • Set the right stage for social plays: you may have to perform several tests to determine what to post where and when. Some content will, e.g., work better on a platform like LinkedIn, while other content may work better on channels like Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok.
  • Include a transcript: search engines are not good at finding content in videos, and your viewers may want to quickly reread something that was said in the video.
  • Tag your work: if you want your video to be found by new viewers, add the relevant tags, titles and descriptions to your videos.
  • Push your videos to influencers, subscribers, fans, and followers to expand your viewer base.
  • Track attention span to identify optimization opportunities: “Engagement data and other key performance indicators can provide important insights on your audience’s preferences and behaviors, which you can use to refine and customize your video strategy. For example, if you notice that prospects are dropping off 10 seconds into your videos, your intros might need to be trimmed.”
  • Monitor viewer reactions to gain additional consumer insights: on a platform like Facebook, e.g., you can not only keep track of the number of engagements, but also of the type of engagement: did they share your video? Did they “like” it, or did they respond with “love”, “sad”, or “angry”? Access to this type of metadata can help you determine whether you are getting the desired response to your video.

Keeping these best practices and tips in mind will help you optimize the success of your videos.

 

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