January/February 2021

Marketing

Live Video Streaming’s Time as a Marketing Tool Has Arrived

Greg Siskind

While hunkering down in COVID-land, we’ve all become a lot more comfortable with live video. It’s likely the rare lawyer who doesn’t have several Zoom calls a week. For most, it’s about meeting with clients or having organizational meetings. But for some firms, getting comfortable with live video has also changed the way they market their legal services. And I’m not talking about the professionally produced videos firms have had on their webpages for years. Those are valuable and worth discussing another day. What I’m talking about in this column is livestreamed, interactive content. That live content can be recorded and embedded on your website or social media page so it’s not a one-off. In fact, it can pay dividends long after the recording is made.

Readers of this column know I often write about what I’m thinking with respect to my own law practice’s marketing. Pre-COVID, I had a lot of skepticism regarding live video streaming. The skepticism wasn’t based on logic or data; I just had a personal discomfort being on camera and managed to talk myself out of seriously considering it. But I’ve come full circle and, with practice, am a lot more relaxed in front of the camera. Our firm has embraced it and it’s now proving to be one of the most important marketing tools we have at our disposal. The value of video has been well documented by various studies that show people engage with it at a higher rate than other content, and search engines also reward the content. My anecdotal experience is consistent with this.

Immigration law, my practice area, has been white hot during the Trump years, and my social media audience, like other immigration lawyers, has grown. During COVID, the appetite for information on immigration law and policy has expanded dramatically. My Twitter following has jumped from 15,000 to more than 45,000 (as of writing) in the last few months.

The larger audience prompted me to consider new ways to engage with followers and it seemed a natural to explore live video. I’m now hosting a solo stream on weekends, and every Tuesday night our firm hosts what is, more or less, a streamed show where we usually have a couple of lawyers chatting about the week’s immigration news, doing a deep dive on a topic of interest and then answering questions from the audience. None of it is rehearsed or scripted, and it’s usually a light atmosphere where the lawyers are enjoying themselves and hopefully the viewers are as well.

A bit about the tools we’re using.

Tool #1—Periscope. 

It’s owned by Twitter and has a good integration with that platform. It’s for Android and iOS operating systems (versus PCs and Macs). I do my weekend streaming using Periscope on my iPhone. The equipment is minimal—just a tripod to keep the iPhone steady and at the right height and angle and a ring light to make the lighting more even and reduce shadows.

Tool #2—Zoom. 

You probably have it installed on your computer. If you have a Pro account ($14.99 a month), you can record your sessions and simulcast to Facebook Live or YouTube. Because you can’t show multiple speakers on Facebook Live or YouTube Live, pushing a Zoom broadcast through is a solution. StreamYard is also great for pushing out video to social media channels.

Tool #3—Facebook Live. 

Most people have Facebook and if your firm has its own Facebook page, you can embed these videos there and also edit and embed them on your website.

For our Tuesday night show, we promote it on Twitter and LinkedIn, invite attendees to submit questions in advance by completing a form that then helps us build our Constant Contact mail database and then people are invited to watch via Zoom. We also simulcast the show on Facebook Live and provide the link to watch there as well. Both weekly events usually have a sizable audience (usually a couple of hundred people), but then will have several thousand later views of the recordings.

Incidentally, these aren’t the only tools available. We use them because they’re generally reliable, affordable and relatively easy to use. You might also check apps like Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram Live and LinkedIn Live.

After you choose the platform you’ll use, you’ll need to think about your format. Are you interested in going totally solo, interacting with viewers and potentially having guests? Maybe you want to provide a behind-the-scenes look at your practice or your typical day or go out in the field with camera (your phone) in tow. Or maybe you will be regularly changing it up. As for content, we talk a lot about news developments and answer questions because of the nature of our practice area. If you’re in a practice area that is not as ever changing as mine, you may want to talk at length about the common questions people ask (essentially, video FAQs) and offer other tips.

While you don’t want to have a script, you ought to have an outline of what you’re going to cover so your audience knows what to expect and you’re not just rambling. And ideally, you’ll have a format that encourages audience engagement. For Facebook, if you expect your video streams to rise up and be seen in the news feeds of your firm’s page followers, audience engagement is a key factor in ensuring that happens. Make sure your background looks professional, you have decent bandwidth Wi-Fi and you have a quality microphone and camera. For Periscope, it works fine on late-model phones. I ended up upgrading to a new iMac with a 4K built-in camera and a Blue Snowball USB microphone (a great investment at about $50).

As for getting people to tune in, I rely heavily on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn and the firm’s Facebook page) to publicize and make sure my colleagues do the same. If you use a sign-up page for people to submit questions ahead of time, you can build up an email list to send reminders of your upcoming events to people. I also will post a tweet the day of the program reminding followers when and where they can watch and letting them know they can post a question as a reply to the tweet that will potentially be addressed in the program.

Remember to repeat questions out loud for the audience and because people often tune in late, remind people periodically what you’ve already covered and where you are in the program. And, always tell people how to contact your office, how to submit questions for future broadcasts, and to please share the link to your broadcasts on their own social networks.

Once the streaming is finished, you’ll want to consider making it easier for people watching it later. You can edit into shorter segments and repost them, or at least post a description of what’s in the video and maybe what minute certain subjects come up so people can find what they want more quickly. And you can again post to social media the links to the recorded content as well as embed the content on your website.

Live video streaming isn’t for everybody. On the other hand, you may be surprised how much you like it.

Greg Siskind

Attorney

Greg Siskind is an immigration lawyer and a co-author of the Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, Third Edition. gsiskind@visalaw.com

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