MoFo's 'Socially Aware' Insights Pay Off

Blogging was less popular as a content marketing practice among North American B2C companies last year -- down to 67% from 72% -- according to data cited in an infographic on social media marketing published by law firm Morrison & Foerster.

But for John Delaney, the MoFo partner who co-edits its Socially Aware blog, blogging continues to be a boon to the company’s own B2B practice.

“First, and most importantly, it’s brought in clients,” he says. “We’ve had a number of times where companies that we don’t otherwise work for have essentially cold-called us and said, ‘We read the blog…,’” he says.

And, contrary to what he would have expected, those new clients are mostly large firms -- not emerging tech startups -- concerned about running afoul of best practices. The regulatory landscape for social media remains relatively unclear, he says, so it’s an area Socially Aware’s 31 listed contributors keep a keen eye on.



Socially Aware has also exposed the law firm’s social media practice -- which Delaney runs from New York -- to existing clients for other services. And it has increased awareness of the firm not only within the profession, but also with marketers who normally have no idea of the difference between MoFo and any other AmLaw 100 firm.

Finally, Delaney says it has made him a better lawyer, by forcing him to keep on top of even seemingly minor developments and cases in the pursuit of material to publish.

Socially Aware is the digital extension of a newsletter Delaney and a former colleague launched in July 2010 after the powers that be at MoFo determined that a blog (Delaney first had to explain what a blog is) might be a little too “risky.” It won a Burton Award, the Pulitzer of the legal writing field, as the best law firm newsletter the following year.

“So the firm called me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we create a blog based on the newsletter?’” Delaney recounts. To be fair, with a couple of exceptions, none of its competitors had a blog four or five years ago, he points out. Most now have at least one; MoFo has several.

“From day one, we didn’t want it to be your father’s law firm newsletter,” Delaney says. Readership for “client alerts” that are written in a “pompous law-review style” tend to hover in the single digits. 

So Socially Aware has banned footnotes (except for crediting the sources of the top-line data in its infographics). “On a mobile app, how do you engage with footnotes?” Delaney asks with the incredulous voice of an editor keyed into the fact that 60% of his readership, and growing, is not sitting in front of a PC.

Delaney also tries to keep the writing “lively,” he says, so that his business readers, yes, “enjoy” the posts as much as its core target of attorneys might.

He regularly checks Google Analytics to see what’s resonating. And he acknowledges borrowing a page from the Buzzfeed playbook with “Top Five Things You…” headlines and listicles to insure that the posts are clicked on and read.

“There’s a lot of stuff that law firms put out that just gather dust,” as thoughtful and insightful as they may be, Delaney notes. “When you write something, you want it to be read.”

And, in MoFo’s experience, nothing gets read like an infographic. Google Analytics data spiked “like a hockey stick” when its 10-panel “Social Media Marketing” effort was posted on the Monday following Thanksgiving.

This is the fourth infographic Delaney and his team have compiled over the years. Each has generated more retweets, referrals and media coverage than most text pieces.

Indeed, an infographic on the growing impact of social media, published in Nov. 2012, went viral after being tweeted by Mashable and others, and it was posted on a lot of other blogs, Delaney says.

But it takes a long time to write short. This recent visualization, two years later, has been in the making since midsummer. Delaney first met with Janine Sagar of MoFo’s New York marketing department, who helped him identify and pull the relevant data. After several culls and edits over the months, they organized the material into a narrative. Then it was time for Eunice Lee, who works in the San Francisco graphics department, to make it all pop, as she had done with previous efforts.

Two weeks later, Delaney is ecstatic about the “amazing surge in traffic. It’s just a reminder that -- even for something that’s aimed at lawyers and businesspeople -- a picture is worth a thousand words."

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