I was sent an email over the weekend from a client asking if he should be advertising on Facebook. He sent along the following quote from a story on All Things D called “The Web Is Shrinking. Now What?“:
SEO’s strategic value is quickly fading as Google’s growth slows and its prominence in distribution slides away. In its place, Facebook has become the wiring hub of the connected Web — a new “home base” alternative to Google’s dominance of the last decade. Facebook began receiving as many visits as Google in March 2010, and already garners more than three times as many minutes as Google each month from users, according to comScore. Looking ahead, the best projections of U.S. online reach indicate that Facebook will surpass Google on that metric in less than a year, too.
While he didn’t explicitly ask if he should be advertising on Facebook instead of Google, the quote above certainly implies that Google is dying and Facebook is waiting in the wings to take its place. I think our client asked a very important question that many other lawyers might be wondering about so I decided to post my answer here for everyone to read.
Fun With Stats
“Statistics are like a drunk with a lampost: used more for support than illumination.”
– Sir Winston Churchill
The statistics given in the article above are misleading. Let’s take a closer look at the line “Facebook began receiving as many visits as Google in March 2010, and already garners more than three times as many minutes as Google each month from users, according to comScore.”
This quote is implying that the number of visits and the time spent on a website are the absolute measures of the usefulness of that site. This is simply a flawed way of looking at what is happening. Google is serving a different purpose than Facebook. Google’s main purpose is to give people access to searchable content on the web. Once an individual finds what they are looking for through Google, they are sent away from Google to their destination. Google is not inherently built to keep people milling around on their site.
Facebook on the other hand is like a massive, online water cooler. People login to Facebook, chat with friends, look at pictures, comment on status updates, etc. The entire culture at Facebook is built around “hanging out” and being social (ie: spending time on Facebook’s website).
When you take into account the relative “purposes” of these two sites, you can see that measuring their usefulness in terms of visits and time on site doesn’t mean a whole lot.
It Really Comes Down To Intent
Which brings us to the most important distinction and closer to answering the question, should your law firm be advertising on Facebook instead of Google?
The big difference between Facebook and Google, when looking at it from the perspective of a law firm looking for new clients, is one of intent. People are on Facebook to be social, interact with friends, check out interesting stories, post updates, etc. People are on Google seeking information to help them answer questions, perform research, locate services, etc. This is the reason that the search advertising channel has made Google a massive, multi-billion dollar company. When someone performs a search for “Chicago injury lawyer” there is a real good chance that the individual is looking to contact a personal injury lawyer in Chicago. The intent is there. You can put your offer, either via paid search or organic search marketing efforts, in front of an individual while they are in the act of looking for your services. This type of targeted advertising, to individuals with the right intent, leads to higher conversions and ultimately more revenue for the firm.
Facebook users, on the other hand, are not necessarily on Facebook with the intent of making a purchase or hiring a professional. They are there to browse around, hang out, and be social. There is no doubt that Facebook has a very large audience. When you run advertising on Facebook, you can select certain demographics, professions, likes, etc. in order to target your ads more effectively. In my mind, this makes Facebook a more targeted version of television-style advertising. You are blasting out your message to a certain demographic of users (or viewers in the case of television advertising) in the hopes that you catch a certain number of them at just the right time. The advertising is interruption marketing. You are “interrupting” the users from their socializing in order to present them with your offer. They were not actively seeking it out at the time. The result is that many, many more people need to see your message at just the right time in order for you to convert those people into new clients.
So Should I Advertise On Facebook Instead of Google?
To answer this question directly, no you should not ditch Google advertising in favor of Facebook.
My take is that Facebook has its place in your firm’s marketing mix but it serves a different purpose than Google. There is a lot of value in utilizing social channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as a component of your law firm marketing. In fact, these social channels are having more and more influence on your positioning in searches on Google and Bing.
While it might be worthwhile to try a Facebook advertising campaign and see the effects, doing so at the expense of marketing dollars devoted to the search channel would be a mistake.
What do you think? Can you share any success stories law firms have had with a Facebook advertising campaign?