Over the last several months, we have partnered with the public relations firm Infinite Spada to provide data for their analysis of content marketing by leading law firms and accounting agencies. We’ve summarized the analysis here with some of our own insights.
And the winner is…
Accountants. Across the board, articles produced by US accounting firms were shared more often than the content produced by the leading law firms. And, the margin between the two industries’ content shares was huge. Accounting firms averaged 131 shares for their content while law firms grabbed only an average of 27 shares.
The accountants dominated shares of content even if the top four firms (and their in-house power marketing teams) were removed from the picture. With content from PWC and Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG excluded, accountants’ content still got 33% more shares than the content published by leading law firms.
Unless otherwise noted, this analysis compares content published between November of 2014 and November 2015 at the websites of the top 100 accounting and law firms in the United States. The top firms were those largest in size as determined by Inside Public Accounting and American Lawyer Media.
Why it matters
Answer A: It really doesn’t. The blog fairies deliver SEO optimized content, with images sized appropriately for each social network to your website every night. Every so often, you leave these lovely helpers a plate of cookies with milk. There’s no real cost, so you don’t really care about how many people respond to your content marketing. No ROI is no problem.
Answer B: It matters a great deal. The people who write your content are paid to do so. If the content they create doesn’t produce visitors to your website, add names to your mailing list, or deliver customers to your sales funnel, that money is lost. No ROI is not acceptable.
Most people probably identify more with Answer B. (We’re not opposed to leaving random plates of cookies around the office, but we have yet to meet a team of content marketing fairies working for free.)
For a law firm, the numbers can be quite staggering. According to the Infinite Spada research, firms of 300 partners and 700 associates could invest the equivalent of $25 million in content marketing per year, if each partner and associate spent 2 hours a month on non-billable writing.
There are various ways to measure the ROI of all of these non-billable writing hours. (Sujan Patel lays out various metrics for content marketing, and explains how to calculate dollar values for each in this post for Forbes.) But any measurement strategy should include a look at social shares, if for no other reason than their power to drive people to your site. Social networks now drive more traffic to websites than search engines do.
What content marketing is working for accountants
Multiple Social Channels
The accounting firms included in the Infinite Spada study appear to be leveraging a variety of social networks, while the legal firms appear to be concentrating their efforts primarily on LinkedIn.
While LinkedIn is a logical choice to promote professional services content, ignoring Facebook and the other networks may short circuit content discovery.
Of all the networks, Facebook drives more traffic to websites than all of the other social networks combined, and the big blue network recently overtook Google as the number one content discovery vehicle.
Let’s be clear: more people find websites through Facebook than Google.
While accounting firms’ content performed best on LinkedIn, they also outperformed the law firms in the Infinite Spada analysis on Facebook.
Action point: Pay attention to what works on Facebook; create those types of content.
Content that resonates with your audience
Analyzing the types of content that perform best in your industry, your sector and with your audience is an important part of content marketing.
At the end of 2015, BuzzSumo took a look back at the best B2B content marketing for the year. We concluded that the content types that got the most shares was:
- Research Content
- eBooks and Guides
- Updated Reference Content
- Trending & Hashtag/News Jacking Content
- ‘How to’ and Practical Content
- Provocative Content
- Curated and list content
- Product Launch Content
- Case Studies
The content created by the top accounting firms that got the most interactions on Facebook align with our B2B analysis.
The five articles from the top four accounting firms which got the most shares on Facebook are listed below:
Two of the top three pieces–Deloitte supports #MarriageEquality and the Digital Islamic Services Landscape — leverage trends or news items; the fifth is an infographic. Others in the top ten include an analysis of the economic outlook for global cities, which closely aligns with our research category; a second story about diversity (a trend); and an interactive dashboard dedicated to global human capital, which could be classified as updated reference content or research.
On the other side of the equation, the top 10 most shared articles from the four leading US law firms includes only one piece of content that aligns with our list–an announcement that a comprehensive guide to the oil and gas industry is available to download. The other content all appeared to align more clearly with a typical press release, announcing a company achievement.
The results are clear, content which falls into the categories outlined by BuzzSumo as high-performing types for 2015 in the B2B space also generated the most shares for the accounting industry. The top five posts ranged from 10,100 to 5900 shares.The top five articles published by the law firm websites did not align with our B2B suggested content types and got a substantially lower number of shares–a range of 1,100 to 663.
Action point: Identify content formats that work in your industry and write according.
When Infinite Spada looked at the top 30 most shared content pieces from accounting and law firms, they found that visual elements, especially photos, were a big part of of the picture.
Adding an image to your content is “low-hanging fruit,” said Helen Bertelli, vice-president at Infinite Spada. Adding an appropriate visual element to posts is an easy way to increase your content’s appeal and get more shares.
This point was borne out by a look at the most shared content from the websites of the four largest US law firms. Of the top ten most shared content pieces from skadden.com, dlapiper.com, lw.com and bakermckenzie.com, eight had no images at all. Two had pictures of art-directed downloadable content. The total shares for these top ten pieces ranged from a high of 1,100 to 510.
By contrast, the opposite was true for the top four accounting firms. Eight of the top ten most shared content pieces had an image or other visual element . Two did not. The total shares for these top ten pieces ranged from 210,000 to 4,900.
Action point: Use images in all of your content. Sites like Canva.com can make finding, sizing, and designing images much easier.
The accounting firms produced much more original research content–40% of their top performing posts, versus 6.7% for the top performing law firms’ posts.
We see this same trend for content from all industries in the studies conducted by BuzzSumo. There is simply no substitute for creating original, research-backed content. The cost is often high in terms of the time invested, but so is the payoff.
In an analysis of 100 million posts conducted by moz.com and BuzzSumo, researched-backed content had a strong correlation with both increased links and increased shares.
Another advantage to producing research-based content is its adaptability. A blog post produced from original research could be converted to an infographic, or converted to a webinar. The insights gained while creating research-backed content can often be used in other posts.
Action point: Produce at least one piece of research-backed content every quarter. Publish it in at least three formats.
Bonus action point: Share your research with influencers as part of a strategy to increase your content distribution channels and thought leadership.
This strategy was used in 20% of the top posts by accounting firms and in 6.7% of the top posts by law firms. Examples include joint webinars, case studies, blog posts co-written or co-published at more than one site, and research reports based on data provided by different companies.
Co-produced content can boost your marketing and your content distribution. When you work with another company on a content piece, you will benefit from any sharing that company does. Your brand will also gain exposure as your partner’s audience reads the content.
Steps forward for law firms and others to improve social shares
- Use images
- Leverage Facebook and other social networks–not just LinkedIn
- Do research and publish the results
- Co-produce content with influencers to increase distribution channels
- Identify and use popular content formats
The complete analysis by Infinite Spada is available here.
Were you surprised by these results? What experience have you had with marketing accounting and legal professional services?