There was a time when we talked about blogging as a better alternative than a static websites, but with the advent of social media sites, apps, smart phones and more advanced search engines we moved on to other topics. I am thinking we need to revisit the issue of blogging for a moment or two because it is not irrelevant but, in fact, a good blog is more relevant than ever for lawyers and law firms.
I do not seek to denigrate the other online resources, as I use most of them. I just tend to believe that developing a great blog as a hub to which you can drive traffic from these other sources is best. At least this seems to work best for me.
I do not have a lot of love for static websites because I just believe it is harder for such sites to do the job everybody wants done. Static websites are easier. They tend to be like Ron Popeli's Rotisserie Oven, where "set it and forget it".
The problem is that with law firm marketing of any kind I have never found where you can set up some form of advertising and marketing and just forget about. At least you cannot expect it to consistently bring new clients or cases in your front door. A web presence does not need to represent a full time job, but it is one that requires constant tinkering and consistent changes and oversight to work well. Therefore, most law firms and lawyers fail at the web presence task.
A static website might be helpful to those that have already decided to look you up as the specific lawyer or law firm they have in mind. It is certainly better than the old fashion white pages in basic information it can provide. But most, sadly, can do, and do not do, any heavy lifting for the firm. In short, this kind of online presence might help those who have already decided to go with a particular firm, but it is of little help in bring others to your site. By and large a static website is not marketing in this day and age. It represents mainly law firm information much like a glorified business card.
Marketing requires a buzz worthy web presence, and the backbone of this still is a blog site. Now, just because you have a blog does not mean it will work as you want. Like a good farmer you are not going to bring in a crop if you do not plant and nurture the seeds, but it is better than a static web presence.
Now there are a lot of companies out there that are willing to help you design a web presence for a big fee. I am not saying not to use them. But, many of them talk in terms of the need for "eye candy" or the packaging (look and feel) of the website or blog. No doubt designers are better promoters of these services than those that are more technologically minded, but I am not sure they are good for you. This is because we all like pretty pictures. We like to look at the packaging ourselves. But, this attitude is what stops most attorneys from developing and promoting their own web presence. They do not see themselves as delivering good eye candy.
I personally think packaging and eye candy is overrated on the web. Sure your web presence does not need to be a train wreck. It probably needs to be a little more than a overused template, but think about most successful web locations. They are pretty minimal. Google, Facebook, Myspace, for example, are all pretty bland. They are, however, comfortable to read and follow.
Eye candy, I would argue in fact, probably detracts or scares off most consumers. So, I am not sure you want to be too pretty or slick. It can make you look prohibitively expensive or hard to get.
What you want to be able to accomplish is to hold someone's attention once they click on your site. You need a good user experience. You do this by anticipating your visitors' needs. But, you do not do this using slick stock photos arranged in a particular order. You do this with content, and content takes time and thought. Content really takes blogging.
What you want is compelling, original content that people want to follow, on which they want to comment, and which is buzz worthy. The operative word here, I believe, is "original". Unlike many social media sites that tend to be just aggregators of stuff (I would not call most of it news) or fleeting off the hand comments, you need to blog about what is important to you, in your practice area or subject matter in long form, free of legalese and you need to cover the practical aspects of the law as opposed to technical stuff.
Then what about the other social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Twitter, Digg and the like? They are all good in their own way, but a blog is the place to bring all of these pieces together in a way to promote the lawyer and law firm. Each can help drive traffic to your site. Just because you peak someone's interest on a social media site does not mean they do not need a place to find you and meet you free of all of the other distractions.