To satisfy new search algorithms: Use analytics to measure success

Part five of a five-part article:

“Take advantage of Google Analytics to collect data that can be used to improve the quality of your webpages – adding more of what works and eliminating what does not,” said Robinson.  “In Google Analytics, which is currently free, law firms can set up specific goals to study how users are entering and interacting with your website.”

Google Analytics lets a law firm know which content is most-viewed and acted upon, so that similar content can be added.  It lets the firm know which content is ignored, so that it can be eliminated or improves.  It lets a firm know the exact path users take through its site, so that adjustments can be made to create a better user experience.

If observation and analytics show that a law firm website is not getting the results it wants, an audit can help determine the source of the problem, take steps to fix the problem, measure the results of these steps, and look for any others areas that could be improved.

“Increasing inbound traffic to your website is not magic – it is a combination of art and science,” said Robinson.  “You should select any agency that makes you feel comfortable and uses language that is easy to understand.  You should never feel intimidated.

“At the same time, do not expect miracles,” said Robinson.  “Go into the process with reasonable expectations.   It takes time to make changes, add quality content and wait for the search engines to find and reward this content.  Each day, more than one million pieces of new content are posted to the Internet.  It takes time to rise above the fray.”

A law firm that has experienced worsening search engine results in the wake of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird can take positive steps to restore performance.   Google will continue to reward webpages with strong content marketing efforts, including answer-driven content.  It also rewards sites that generate social media buzz – especially an active presence on its proprietary YouTube and Google+ platforms. 

For the complete article:

 

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

To satisfy new search algorithms: Create relevant content

Part four of a five-part article:

Law firms that want to prevent or correct loss of search engine result page rankings and traffic should publish meaningful, original content on a regular basis.  The goal is content that will establish a firm, practice group or lawyer as a though leader in an area relevant to a user persona.

“Take the time to discover the common questions your clients have, and provide the answers to these questions,” said Davis.  “Relevant content can be written, but it also can and should be visual.  Video content posted on YouTube (which is owned by Google) is particularly powerful as ‘Google juice.’”

Instead of using keywords like “car accident,” use more specific terms like “car accident lawsuit” or “car accident insurance”, or better yet natural language terms like “What should I do if I am sued for a DUI car accident?” or “What should I look for when buying car insurance for an older vehicle?”  Think in terms of full-fledged questions that a person might ask Siri on a smartphone.

Once search brings users to a law firm’s site, there must be a way to create and nurture a relationship and convert the potential client into a real client over time.  Each item of posted content should contain a call to action – some way for the user to interact with the site so that the firm can capture data.  This could be a way to comment on a white paper or download information about an upcoming event.

For the complete article:

 

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

To satisfy new search algorithms: ID client personas and clarify their needs

Part three of a five-part article:

Before a law firm can create relevant content, it needs to know with whom it is communicating.  In marketing talk, this is called the “user persona” – or target market. 

“In user-centered design and marketing, personas are user types that might use a legal service in a similar way,” said Davis.  “A small law firm might target one user persona.  A large law firm will target numerous user personas.”

One law-firm user persona might be high-income individuals going through divorce.  Another might be small businesses in need of venture capital.  Another might be large medical equipment manufacturers facing product liability lawsuits.  The more specific the persona, the more specific a law firm’s content can be.  Relevant content will answer the questions these users are asking, using natural language.

A user personal is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users.  In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from user interviews.

“An effective law firm website will focus not on the firm’s capabilities, but on the identified needs of a persona or personas,” said Davis.  “It will use industry- or interest-specific terminology within a context familiar to the targeted persona.”

For the complete article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

 

To satisfy new search algorithms: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

Part two of a five-part article:

Panda and Penguin are two major changes to the existing Google algorithm made in 2011 and 2012, respectively.   In 2013, Google released a totally new algorithm called Hummingbird (which incorporates and enhances the updates made by Panda and Penguin).  These three developments have completely changed the way law firms must look at search.

“Law-firm sites that regularly showed up on page one now find themselves on page 20,” said Robinson.  “Since searchers rarely go beyond the second page of results in an online search, this is a real problem.”

Google Panda focuses on keywords.  Sites with keyword “stuffing” are demoted or flagged as spam.  Panda also penalizes low-quality content, thin content, duplicate content and the amount of advertising compared with the amount of useful content on a site.

Google Penguin focuses on links.  It focuses on “black hat” tactics like links that come from poor-quality sites, from sites that aren’t topically relevant to a target market, paid links, and links where the anchor text is overly optimized (exact-match anchor text).  Use natural language in your links, and vary it.

“Quality inbound links are not found at garage sales, “said Robinson.  “Steer clear of link farms.  A few high-quality, carefully developed links perform much better than a large number of weak, irrelevant links.  It takes time and perhaps a dedicated staff person to develop and nurture quality links.”

The new Google Hummingbird algorithm looks for a steady stream of high-quality, relevant content and natural language on webpages – and rewards those who provide it.  Hummingbird attempts to decipher a search engine query by using the context of a question rather than the specific keywords within the question.  Thin content, keyword stuffing and lack of relevant content will cause significant demotions.

“Content marketing is a technique that creates and distributes valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience,” said  Davis, “with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

For the full article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

 

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

The success of a law-firm website is determined by how many clients and potential clients visit the site, spend time there and take action based on what they discover.

Over the years, law-firm marketers focused on keyword and link strategies to enhance search engine results and increase traffic to their websites.  While these are still valuable tools, recent developments in the search universe have shifted the emphasis to content strategy.

Quality content includes well-written articles, blog posts, videos, webcasts, presentation slide decks, infographics, eBooks and white papers.  Quality content addresses client needs.

Sixty-seven percent of the time, online searchers use Google to find what they are looking for.  To provide the best results, Google is constantly tweaking its search algorithm. (An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be used by a computer in calculations or other problem-solving operations.)  These algorithms are designed to maintain search engine integrity and punish violators.

Sara Downey Robinson and Chris Davis discussed the changing landscape of digital marketing and search engine optimization at the monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held May 13 at Guard and Grace in LoDo Denver.

Davis is business development director at Burns Marketing, a full-service B2B marketing agency that combines traditional and digital marketing to help clients drive demand.   Robinson is marketing coordinator at Inflow, a top inbound-marketing firm specializing in search.

This is part one of a five-part article.  For the complete article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

LinkedIn for lawyers: Use it for research

“A well-crafted LinkedIn network is like a finely tuned sports car,” said Nugent.  “It’s really a waste if you just let it sit in the garage.  You should take it out for a spin as often as possible.  The more you ‘drive’ LinkedIn, the more you’ll discover its usefulness -- and the more you’ll realize what a powerful tool it can be on a daily basis.”

Your LinkedIn network is essential when conducting pre-interaction due diligence.  “You can search your network in order to find out useful information about prospects, their companies, clients, competitors, consultants, referral partners, media sources and employees,” said Nugent.  “The quality of your results will be determined by the quality of your contacts and the size of your network.

“LinkedIn can help provide answers to many important questions,” said Nugent.  “These include who is the right person to talk to in a particular organization?  What can I discover about this person prior to our meeting?  Who else is on their team?  Who might be able to provide me with background or an introduction?”

LinkedIn’s “advanced search” capability allows you to refine a search by relationship, location, current company, industry, past company, school and language.  Search can be further narrowed by groups, years of experience, function, seniority level, interests, company size, Fortune ranking and date joined.

Lawyers who want expanded search capabilities and additional functionality can try a premium membership on a monthly basis rather than sticking with the basic free membership.  However, the free membership provides plenty of power for most LinkedIn users.

“In just ten years, LinkedIn has gone from being a novelty embraced by techies to a must-have marketing tool for all professionals who hope to compete in today’s marketplace,” said Nugent.  “By creating a strong profile and a robust network, and by being an active user, any lawyer can vastly enhance his or her online visibility and reputation.”

This is part four of a four-part article.  For the entire article:

 

LinkedIn (or left out) for lawyers

LinkedIn for lawyers: Create a network

To support a strong LinkedIn profile, you need a strong network.  When it comes to building a network, you can pitch as well as catch.  This means that you shouldn’t rely only upon the invitations that you receive; you should proactively send invitations to those with whom you would like to be connected.

A LinkedIn network works like a big circle, with you in the middle.  First-degree connections are direct connections.  These are the people you have accepted and who have accepted you.  Second-degree connections are friends of these friends.  Third-degree connections are friends of second-degree connections.  Your level of visibility into third-degree connections is limited, and a request to connect must be routed through the second-degree connection that controls the relationship.

“The quality of your network is important,” said Nugent.  “If you accept too many random invitations, your network, although large, may not be sufficiently useful.  If you accept (and send) too few invitations, you won’t be able to use the database as it was designed.

“Before accepting any invitation,” said Nugent, “ask yourself if this person is potentially a client or a source for the kind of work you really want to do. Strive for balance between the quantity and the quality of the invitations you accept.”

When vetting an invitation, check out the inviter’s profile.  Is the invitation from a real and (apparently) respectable individual?  Does the inviter have quality contacts that might prove valuable?  Does the inviter have a large number of contacts?  Did the inviter include a personal note with the invitation?  “Rely on these factors to determine if it makes good sense to connect,” said Nugent.

When sending out your own invitations, start with your existing contact list.  Include your firm’s partners, associates and staff; members of professional, business and industry groups that you belong to; and referral sources, clients and friends.

“Never allow your network to stagnate,” said Nugent.  “It should grow continuously.  When you meet a new contact, follow up within 48 hours with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn instead of (or in addition to) an email or a written note.  To facilitate this tactic among those you meet, consider including your LinkedIn address on your business card.”

This is part three of a four-part article.  For the entire article:

LinkedIn (or left out) for lawyers

LinkedIn for lawyers: Getting started

The creation and posting of a good profile is step one of a solid LinkedIn presence.  However, it should not be the same as a lawyer’s website bio.  Instead, it should be designed to satisfy the unique needs of LinkedIn’s search algorithm.

“LinkedIn’s algorithm uses a metric to quantify profile strength, which has a huge effect on search results,” said Nugent.  “Different areas of your LinkedIn profile carry different weights.  You should aim for a profile-strength of “all-star,” or as close to 100 percent as possible.”

Nugent discussed and gave specific recommendations regarding the algorithm’s weights.

Name and title (25 percent) -- Do not make the mistake of simply listing a generic job title in this very important space.  It should include carefully selected keywords – the keywords that those searching for someone like you are likely to use.  The title category can be as long as 120 characters, or about 18 words. 

Photo (5 percent) – A profile that includes a photo is seven times more likely to be viewed than one without a photo. Be sure that the photo is both professional and recent.

Summary (10 percent) – Use your summary to tell a compelling story about how you help clients solve their legal problems.  This section should include plenty of keywords.  It can include up to 2,000 characters, or about 350 words.  Spell check is always recommended.

Education (15 percent)

Previous two jobs (30 percent)

Three recommendations (15 percent) 

Another smart tactic for promotion of your LinkedIn presence is to customize your profile’s URL.  LinkedIn automatically generates a random URL, but this easily can be changed to a much shorter version featuring your name.  Additionally, you should be sure to add links to your website and blog.

On the “Edit Profile” page you can add content modules that include projects, publications, honors and awards, patents, certifications and languages.

“Throughout your LinkedIn profile, remember that content is king,” said Nugent.  “The copy should be compelling and should include plain-English keywords that are the same words that will be used by your target market or your ideal clients.  These keywords should indicate who you are and what you do.  Avoid ‘legalese’ -- unless your clients use it, too.”

Once you have prepared and posted a strong LinkedIn profile, you want to make sure that people can actually gain access to it.  Go to the “privacy controls” section of your profile and choose the settings that allow “everyone” to view your profile photo and visibility.

This is part two of a four-part article.  For the entire article:

 

LinkedIn (or left out) for lawyers

Linked in (or left out) for lawyers

Until recently, very few lawyers and corporate counsel had even heard of the social media site LinkedIn.  In fact, it surprises many to learn that LinkedIn was launched ten years ago.  How quickly things have changed!

Ninety-five percent of ABA members indicate that they have posted their profiles on LinkedIn. Seventy percent of corporate counsel indicate that they use LinkedIn regularly as a tool to find and vet outside counsel.  These statistics come from a 2012 ABA survey.

LinkedIn is now one of the world’s most popular websites.  If you would like to be found by potential clients, your LinkedIn profile has become even more important than your website biography.  If you are looking for networking opportunities, your LinkedIn presence and activity have become just as important as your face-to-face networking.

LinkedIn launched in May 2003.  “From the very start, LinkedIn differentiated itself as a site for business, business development and recruitment rather than a social site,” said Phil Nugent.

“In just ten years, LinkedIn has gained 225 million users around the world, including 80 million users in the United States,” said Nugent.  “More than 173,000 people join LinkedIn each day.  It is a great place for many attorneys, because the demographics of LinkedIn skew older, wealthier and more-educated than any of the other top social media sites.”

Nugent discussed effective use of LinkedIn by lawyers and law firms at the monthly educational meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held July 9 at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in LoDo Denver.  Nugent is a non-practicing attorney and principal at NCG Strategic Marketing.

“Successful use of LinkedIn as a business development tool has three steps,” said Nugent.  “First, you must post a complete and compelling profile.  All too many lawyers and law firms leave it at that, however, and then wonder why LinkedIn is not working as well as they had hoped.

“To achieve success on LinkedIn, you must build a strong network of connections in terms of both quality and quantity,” said Nugent.  “With this accomplished, you can leverage LinkedIn as a business development tool to find others, to get found and to conduct market research.”

This is part one of a four-part article.  For the complete article:

LinkedIn (or left out) for lawyers

Next gen law firm websites: Keep content fresh

This is the final part of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

 

Previously, law firm websites content consisted mainly of words and pictures.  Today, they include a vast range of content, from illustrations to webinars to video.

 

No matter what the type of content you are posting, however, one rule remains the same.  It must be kept fresh.  Each time you add new content to a law firm website, it “shakes” the web and attracts the search engine spiders to take a new look.

 

“Words will always be an important part of law firm websites,” said Walsh.  “We just have to be more careful how we use them.  On the Internet, people read 25 percent slower than they do on paper.  Plus, they scan rather than read.  You cannot present them with a dense block of grey text and expect them to read it carefully – or at all.

 

“Headlines and subheads are important for providing ‘clues’ to the busy reader,” said Walsh.  “Sentences and paragraphs should be kept short and active, with lots of white space.  Lists and bullet-points are good, as long as they are not too long.  Keywords should appear in headlines and subheads, and in the first paragraph of any text.

 

“Avoid abstract language about legal concepts,” said Walsh.  “Use concrete, engaging stories to keep readers interested.”

 

Attorney bios or profiles are a good place to introduce fresh content.  Most law firm bios consist of a dry list of accomplishments.  Instead, create bios and profiles that truly reflect an individual lawyer’s personality.  What makes him or her unique?  Supplement credentials with meaningful quotes and personal outside-the-office interests.  Support this message with meaningful graphics.

 

The best law firm websites do not sell, they teach.  They establish law firms as thought leaders in their targeted niches.  In addition to case stories, websites should provide links to a steady supply original work like the firm’s blog posts, e-alerts, newsletters, white papers, analysis and original research.

 

Law firms should know that more than 75 percent of potential clients will use the Internet to find and research them before making a call.  In the Internet age, your website has become extremely valuable real estate.  It should look and feel unique.  One way to do this and set yourselves apart from the competition is to adopt the look, feel and navigation techniques made popular by social media.  

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

 

Next gen law firm websites: Think outside the box

This is part six of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

 

“On the websites we design,” said Walsh, “we often use handwriting and drawings.  We create diagrams on whiteboards.  We arrange a collage of personal and professional items on a lawyer’s desk or on a bulletin board, and use that picture on the lawyer’s bio.”

 

In a website designed for a law firm composed of lawyer/scientists, Greenfield/Belser used the layout of the periodic table of the elements to organize information on the site.  “This resonates strongly with the firm’s clients in the scientific community,” said Walsh.

 

Color, motion and sound also grab attention.  “Online color is free,” said Walsh, “and yet many law firms fail to make full use of it.  In the age of YouTube, visitors to your website are used to video and animation.  Although eight minutes of a talking head can be deadly, 30 seconds of a professionally done video can be extremely effective.”

 

Webinars, seminars and presentations should be recorded and made available on a law firm’s website.  “We recommend building a ‘mini-site’ for a special event within the main law firm website,” said Walsh.  “This includes information about the benefits of the event, the presenters and the topic, as well as links to useful resource materials.”

 

Certain items lend themselves to be broken out or placed in sidebars as graphic elements for special emphasis.  These include case stories, client testimonials (print or video), fast facts, awards, accolades and rankings.  This sort of information disappears when it is buried in paragraphs of text.

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

Next gen law firm websites: All about graphics

This is part five of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

 

Today’s online news, content and social media sites are rich in graphics.  Take a look at Facebook, Flickr or Pinterest.  Carefully consider USA Today, or the homepages of CNN.com or MSN.com.  Today’s effective law firm website should also use graphics.

 

Photos are an important element, as long as they are original (not stock) and reflect the firm’s unique message.  Imagery is central and defining.  Photos should do more than simply break up blocks of words. 

 

Also, photos are a good way to demonstrate client-orientation.  Make ample use of photos of clients, their businesses and their industries.  Photos of lawyers that appear on their bios are often stiff headshots.  Instead, use a less-formal photo that provides additional information about the lawyer’s personality and interests.

 

“But don’t limit yourself to photos,” said Walsh.  “There are many interesting ways that other types of graphics can be used to display information.  Why present a dense page of unreadable text when a list, chart, table, map, diagram or illustration could present the same information in a much more interesting and compelling way?

 

Online elements like surveys, questionnaires and “games” invite user interaction.

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

Next gen law firm websites: Think like a client

This is part four of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

 

Too many law firm websites function as online brochures, talking on and on about the firm and its “features” – its history, its practice areas, its attorneys and its news.  Research shows, this is not what visitors are interested in.

 

Potential clients are interested in “benefits” rather than features.  They want to know that you have solved problems like theirs, for businesses in their industry, successfully in the past.  They want to know that you will answer their phone calls, staff their matters correctly, provide them with ongoing education and bill them appropriately.

 

“Organize your website around client industry and client needs, not your law firm organization chart,” said Walsh.

 

“Potential clients also want to work with a law firm that is a good cultural fit,” said Walsh.  “After all, law is relationship-based.  Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through on your website, and don’t confine personality to the careers or bio section.  Let potential clients know what it would be like to work with you over the long term.”

 

One great way to demonstrate client-orientation is through the use of client matter or case stories.  “Use short, vibrant stories to showcase your firm’s professional values and the way you solve problems,” said Walsh.  “These can appear in many places – in bios, in practice area descriptions, on industry pages and in dedicated ‘experience’ sections.”

 

Of course, you must get client permission to use these stories.

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

 

 

Next gen law firm websites: Stand and deliver

This is part three of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

“Most existing law firm websites are based on similar templates,” said Walsh.  “Most often, this consists of some version of a large horizontal photo, with three columns of content underneath.  Navigation runs along the top and bottom.

 

“They all look pretty much the same and say the same thing,” said Walsh.  “In my opinion, they are wasted pixels.  How is a potential client supposed to use this information to choose you over another firm that looks and sounds exactly the same?

 

“Break out of this mold,” said Walsh.  “Stand and declare.  Toss away the templates and have the courage to try something completely original and different.  Your home page can look any way you like, and say anything you want it to say.”

 

Your home page should make you stand out from the crowd.  “Too often, law firms get bogged down in text on their homepages,” said Walsh.  “Determine what makes your firm unique.  State it prominently.  In fact, make this just about the only text on your home page.  Repeat this brand message on every page (even search pages).

 

“Any graphics used for your homepage and elsewhere in your site should also reflect your uniqueness,” said Walsh.  “This automatically rules out stock photos and other stock images, like globes, courthouse pillars, and striding businesspeople carrying suitcases.  It rules out the use of models instead of your own lawyers and staff.

 

“Especially, you want to rule out photos of skylines, buildings, lobbies and conference rooms,” said Walsh.  “Do you think that the fact that you are in a city, in a building, have a lobby and offer a furnished conference room in any way makes you unique?  It doesn’t.  Don’t waste your valuable homepage or website space on clichés.”

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

Next gen law firm websites: Social media set the pace

This is part two of a seven-part article on innovative law firm websites.  Link to entire article below.

 

The most-popular social media sites offer users a “mash up” up different applications and a strong graphic navigation system.  These elements are migrating to websites.  So, too, are social media themselves.

 

Social media “buttons,” with links to the firm’s content on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, should appear on every page.  The firm should consistently post fresh content to these social media sites as well as the firm’s own website.

 

“Navigation, or how you get around on a law firm website, need not be limited to the usual navigation bar or internal links,” said Walsh.  “Navigation presents a wonderful opportunity for creativity, especially when links are incorporated into graphics.

 

“In an illustration, for example, you can click on a graphic and be taken to more information about that subject,” said Walsh.  “An industry page can present with a page-full of client logos.  When you click on the logo, it revolves and the case story appears.  The bio page can present with interesting pictures of lawyers.  When you click on the picture, the bio appears or the lawyer steps forward and talks to you.”

 

Even Microsoft is betting on image-oriented navigation for its new operating system, Windows 8.  Instead of the usual menu-based navigation, it is using clickable “live tiles” on the home page, which are not only links but also stream new information.

 

Also carried over from social media is an increased comfort with scrolling.  Until now, web designers aimed at creating short pages that precluded the need to scroll.  Because of social media, users are now much more comfortable using scrolling.  This opens up new design opportunities.

 

“Finally, within the next 18 months, mobile devices will be used more often than computers to access the Internet,” said Walsh.  “Law firms must create mobile versions of their websites with layouts that look equally good on smartphones and tablets.”

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

 

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

The best law firm websites have an entirely new look and feel.  Propelling these dramatic changes are the user interfaces and content delivery systems popularized by smartphones and tablets, as well as online usage preferences and habits created by social media.

 

In light of these changes, your law firm website is more important than ever before.

 

Research conducted by Greenfield/Belser and the Brand Research Company shows that more than 75 percent of potential clients locate and vet lawyers online, and that these clients are profoundly influenced by the quality of your website.  Amazingly, it takes users only about 1/20 of a second to form an initial impression of your firm.

 

“Your website must convey your message strongly, succinctly and in very little time,” said Joe Walsh.  “In the old days, when first meetings took place in your office, law firms invested a lot of money in attractive office space.  Today, these meetings take place online.  Your online space must create a strong impression.”

 

Walsh is a principal and creative director at Greenfield/Belser, a national leader in brand research, strategy and design for professional services firms.  He discussed website trends and best practice before the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association.  The presentation took place Oct. 9 at Fogo de Chao in LoDo, Denver.

 

This is the introduction to a seven-part article on law firm websites.  For the complete article:

Next generation of law firm websites influenced by social media

Strategic content marketing and web analytics for law firms

This is part four of a four-part article.  For complete article, see link below.

“Web analytics programs are capable of generating a vast amount of information,” said Casey.  “There are far too many metrics for users to process and interpret.  Measurement tools are only useful when there is something specific to measure.

 

“The challenge is not to get more data, which can needlessly complicate your decision-making,” said Casey, “but to get better data.  Be strategic.  What is the purpose of this online content campaign (within the context of our business goals), and which select measurements will indicate progress towards achieving this goal?”

 

Let’s go back to that article on patent reform.  You post it on your website.  You reference it in your blog.  You e-mail it to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources.  You post it (with links back to your site) on a variety of social media sites and content syndication sites.

 

On your website, analytics will let you know who visited the page and how they got there.  In addition, you will discover if they stayed a while, read the article and downloaded a copy.

 

“If no one comes or if visitors take a quick look and ‘bounce,’ you know that there is something wrong with the content,” said Casey.  “The subject is not newsworthy.  The headline or keywords need work.  The article is too long or too short.  It is too dense and needs shorter lines and subheads, to encourage skimming.  It is too casual or too filled with legal jargon.  In other words, it needs work.”

 

An e-mail analytics program will let you know who opens the e-mail and clicks on the link.  Other analytics programs will indicate how your article fares in the blogosphere or is shared or re-tweeted on social media and content syndication sites. 

The information generated by web analytics is a valuable tool to help lawyers and law firms plan -- and continuously improve -- their content and their online content distribution campaigns.

Content marketing and web analytics: The yin and yang of any successful law firm marketing campaign

Web analytics for law firms

This is part three of a four-part article.  For complete article, see link below.

“Not only does the Internet facilitate the wide distribution of content,” said Casey, “it also allows lawyers and law firms to closely track distribution – to know how many visitors click on the content; how much time they spend reading, listening or viewing the content; and where (your website, search or some other site) they found the content.”

 

Web analytics is a process for collecting visitor or consumer data, analyzing those data and generating reports on the overall performance of these different channels.  It extends well beyond your website into virtually every online channel your law firm might be using.

 

“In the early days, web analytics programs focused on the simple measurement of activity on a law firm’s web site,” said Casey.  “Today, a good law firm website still contains useful information about the firm and its services, but the site functions more like an interactive hub to which all of the firm’s online content distribution efforts are tied.”

 

In addition, most social media sites have their own built-in analytics programs that can be accessed for more details about activity on your accounts on those sites.

 

The popular Google Analytics program is free and yields information about site visitors, including number of visitors (unique, new and repeat), page views, repeat rate, visit length, page view length, page view per visit, bounce rate (those who leave quickly from a given page), entry pages (where visitors enter you site), exit pages (where visitors leave your site) and referral sources (direct traffic, search engines and other referral sites).

 

Among other things, Google Analytics can chart data over time, compare data month-by-month or year-by-year, and internally compare different sets of results.

 

“Other commercial web analytics programs allow the site administrator to ‘dig deeper’ into the data,” said Casey.  “Most analytics programs will record detailed information at the user level, allowing administrators to track the number of times a given user came to the site, which pages he or she viewed and, in some cases, the location from which that user is connecting.”

 

“At Tenrec, we combine basic Google Analytics with a program called Urchin (essentially, Google’s commercial analytics product) to obtain different levels of results for our clients,” said Casey.  “There are many programs out there.  The one you select should be determined by how you plan to use the results.”

 

It is important to remember that no performance metric is inherently bad or good.  A limited number of the right kind of people visiting your content and reaching out to your firm is a better result than hundreds of visitors who take no action.

Content marketing and web analytics: The yin and yang of any successful law firm marketing campaign

Online content marketing for law firms

This is part two of a four-part article.  For a link to the complete article, see below.

Online content marketing involves publishing content (like the article on patent law) on your law firm’s website (including mobile website version), client extranet sites or blogs.  It involves the e-mailing of your article (or newsletter) to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources.

 

“An integrated online marketing program is an essential part of a law firm’s marketing program,” said Casey.  “Content marketing involves distribution of your content using popular social media sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) as well as successful content syndication sites (like JD Supra, LegalOnRamp and Scribd).”

 

Each time your keyword-rich patent law article is published on one of these sites, it is indexed by Google and other search engines – enhancing results for searches on terms like your name, your law firm’s name, your geographic area and the relevant subject area.

 

“The term ‘content’ applies to almost any kind of material your firm is publishing,” said Casey.  “It applies to documents like press releases, experience descriptions, attorney biographies (profiles), client alerts, blog post, white papers, email campaigns and e-books on legal subjects.

 

“Content also includes non-written files, like an online ad campaign, courtroom graphics, a PowerPoint deck, or photos of an open house or employee charity event,” said Casey.  “It includes online surveys along with survey results.  And it definitely includes audio or video recordings of a presentation, a seminar or a webinar.”

 

All types of reputation-demonstrating content can be posted not only on your own website, but also to a wide range of (mostly free) social media and content syndication sites.  Once posted, this informative content is available 24/7 and around the world.

Content marketing and web analytics: The yin and yang of any successful law firm marketing campaign

Content marketing and web analytics: The yin and yang of any successful law firm marketing campaign

Good content has always been one of the best ways for a lawyer to establish and maintain a professional reputation.  In the hands of potential clients, good content demonstrates your understanding of the law and your ability to do what you claim to do.

 

Let’s say you write an excellent article on the recently signed patent reform act.

 

Prior to the Internet, your options for distribution of that article would be limited.  You could submit it to print publishers who could decide whether or not to publish it and how to edit it.  By the time it appeared on a client’s desk, it might be three months out of date.

 

In addition, you could snail mail a copy of your article with a cover letter directly to your list of clients, potential clients and referral sources.  You could include it in the firm’s print newsletter. You could mail it to reporters covering the patent law beat and hope that they give you a call next time they are writing a story on that topic.

 

And that was about it.  You really had no way of knowing what happened to that hard copy – if the publication was read or if the envelope or newsletter was even opened.

 

Today, thanks to the Internet, the options for distributing a well-written and informative article (and all kinds of content) to a wide range of interested parties are vastly expanded.  So, too, are the options for finding out if the article was opened, was read and prompted further action on the part of the reader.

 

“In the Internet age, online content marketing is the best way for lawyers and law firms to establish their reputations and attract new business,” said Per Casey.  “And web traffic analysis is the best way for lawyers and law firms to measure the success of a content marketing campaign and move forward based on that information.  Content marketing and web analytics are inseparable parts of the same strategic process.”

 

Casey discussed strategic content marketing and web analytics at the monthly educational program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held Oct. 11 at Fogo de Chao Restaurant in Lower Downtown Denver.

 

Casey is founder of Tenrec, a web technology consulting firm that focuses on the legal industry.  Over the years, he has collaborated with dozens of well-known law firms on successful web technology projects.  Casey also serves as member-at-large on the LMA International Board of Directors and as co-chair of the LMA Technology Committee.

 

This is part one of a four-part article.  For the entire article, see:

 

Content marketing and web analytics: The yin and yang of any successful law firm marketing campaign.

LMA Conference Synopsis: Improving Visibility

The Legal Marketing Association provides guidance on marketing, business development and communications within the legal profession.  This article summarizes a presentation by Betsi Roach, executive director of the LMA, on important themes that emerged at the 25th annual LMA Conference held last month, as well as recent LMA developments.  This excerpt covered the third of four conference tracks:  Improving visibility.  This ia part four of a six-part article.  For a link to the entire article, see below.

“As professional marketers, we devote much of our time to improving the visibility of a lawyer, an industry or practice group, or a law firm within a targeted market,” said Roach

 

“The first session in this track focused on social media – and how to use these robust yet cost-effective tools to distribute content, raise visibility and build a network of new leads.  Also covered were social media policies and ethical concerns,” said Roach.

 

Winners of the 2011 LMA Your Honor awards participated in a panel to discuss the strategy and tactics of their cutting-edge campaigns.  Other sessions discussed the processes and value of various legal directories, rankings and “pay to play” opportunities; ways in which law firm professionals can assist the firm’s clients manage negative publicity and maximize positive publicity; and how small and mid-sized law firms can “do more with less” in their marketing budgets.

For the full article:  LMA Conference Synopsis: Improving Visibility

New survey: How in-house counsel research outside counsel

In a recent survey that is getting a lot of online attention, 164 in-house counsel were asked about their use of new media.  As part of this survey, in-house counsel ranked the following activities as "most important" for helping them research and hire outside counsel:

1.  Recommendations from sources you trust -- 73 percent

2.  Articles and speeches the lawyer has authored -- 38 percent

3.  Bios on the firm's Web site -- 30 percent

4.  Blogs published by lawyers on relevant topics -- 27 percent

The Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey was conducted by Greentarget Strategic Communications, ALM Legal Intelligence and Zeughauser Group.  There is a lot of good stuff there.  Go to those sites to download a copy for yourself!  (By the way, a survey counts as "content.")

Three of these four results involve content produced by lawyers and law firms -- which the survey calls "credentialing" or "demonstration of thought leadership."

In fact, the concept of credentialing among providers and purchasers of legal services is evolving almost as rapidly as the technology that is driving the change.  What does it mean to be credentialed in today's legal marketplace -- a marketplace in which real-time communication is critical, true dialogue is expected, and traditional sources of information are under constant pressure from emerging media?

It means that to a greater degree than they currently may realize, law firms have the potential to hasten the inevitable assimilation of new media tools by recognizing their value as information-delivery and marketing tools -- and by crafting content for them that is authentic and relevant.

While the more traditional marketing channels for law firm credentialing continue to dominate -- publishing articles in trade journals, speaking at industry conferences and being quoted in the press -- in-house attorneys now are using new media platforms to deepen their professional networks; to obtain their legal, business, and industry news and information; and to enrich their social and personal lives.  Most importantly, they expect that trend to accelerate in the future.

 

A constant stream of quality content -- the best way to establish the credentials of a lawyer or law firm.

David Freedman: How to leverage bylined articles for business development

Nothing lends third-party credibility like getting one of your articles published in a respected publication -- print or online.

David Freedman, a writer in Chicago, recently published a good article at RainToday.com on "How to leverage bylined articles for business development"."  The article iincludes sections on publication, distribution and Web optimization.

Once you get an article published under your byline, you can expand the readership by:

-- Revising, adapting and updating it for other publications;

-- Repurposing it as a speech, website content or siminar handout; or

-- Expanding it (or aggregating more than one) into a white paper or book.

Freedman recommends posting your article online and submitting a link to a variety of social media -- including social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook, discussion groups and blogs.  He also recommends supercharging syndication by using plug-ins like Digg, Delicious and Share This on the online page where your article is published.

If you do not have strong writing skills, or do not have time to write articles and don't have writing expertise on staff, you can hire a freelance journalist, editor or ghostwriter -- one who has experience in your area of expertise -- to help you compose articles and get them published.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Larry Bodine: Turning your bio into a magnet for business

As my regular readers know, I believe that most attorney biographies are a waste of valuable online real estate that only hit on one persuasive cylinder -- and not very well at that.

Marketing tools (and I include bios in this category) work best when they demonstrate three qualities (first outlined by Aristotle in his Rhetoric)  -- intelligence, good character (shared values) and friendliness (concern for the client).

Most attorney bios attempt to demonstrate intelligence through a boring list of credentials, and totally ignore shared values and client-centricity.  Intelligence can be further enhanced and client-centricity demonstrated by the use of good "case stories" (more than simple case citations) that show how you solve problems for clients.  Shared values can be demonstrated by personal quotes that demonstrate your personal and professional character.

Lawyer and consultant Larry Bodine elaborates on this subject in an excellent recent article, "Turning your bio into a magnet for business."

Smart lawyers turns their bios into a marketing magnet that generates leads, as opposed to a mere resume or a CV, which recites only your education and epxerience.  The trick is to turn a feature of yourself into a benefit to the client.

Bodine continues:

You may have a great resume, but it will just list all the place that you worked.  But when you go into practice, your bio should answer these questions:  What have you done for people?  What have you accomplished?  How have you helped people?  Can you give me some examples?  Writing a bio is completely different from a resume.  it really requires a mental shift.

I agree completely.  Invest in the re-writing of your attorney bio as a persuasive marketing document -- and then post this "profile" not only on your firm Web site, but also on the full range of relevant social networking and content sites.  By doing this, you can easily and inexpensively "own" the first page of search results for your name.

Fleischman: Eleven reasons why content is king

As a writer of copy and content for lawyers and law firms, I couldn't have said it better myself.  Jay Fleischman, author of the Legal Practice Pro blog, has posted an excellent article -- 11 reasons why content is king -- on the value on content in online legal marketing efforts.  He states:

Online legal marketing, if it's going to be effective, must be formed around a content-based strategy.  That's anathema to most lawyers because there's still that annoying voice in their heads that says:  If you give prospective clients a ton of information for free, why would they pay you for it?

Fleischman continues:

My law practice has engaged in online legal marketing using a content strategy for five years, and it's paid off in myriad ways:  people come to me with more information under their belt, a sense of confidence in my abilities and, to a large extent, a level of preparation I'd never seen before I started marketing my law firm with content.

Take a few minutes to read his post!  Each of the 11 reasons makes a lot of sense.

 

The Public Apology of Tom Goldstein: Legal marketing on YouTube

A just came across Tom Goldstein's latest video on YouTube -- "The Public Apology of Tom Goldstein" -- which riffs on some very highly publicized recent apologies.  It is hysterical!  The link is to his entire opus on YouTube.  The new video is the fourth one down (but don't pass up on the others if you haven't seen them).

Goldstein puts the lie to what you "can" and "cannot" do to market a legal practice.

Goldstein is co-chair of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump.  He is also founder of SCOTUSblog and SCOTUSwiki.  He is a master of the use of social media tools to propel a highly sophisticated legal career (from solo to prominent in a little more than a decade).  I blogged earlier about a report that NBC is considering a TV show based on his career.

"Pitching" to the traditional broadcast media

“Pitching” to the traditional broadcast media

 

Here is part two of my article on broadcast journalism for lawyers and law firms:

When “pitching” news to the traditional broadcast media, remember that it has to be real news – and not self-promotion.  News is information that a station’s viewers or listeners need to know in order to make good decisions about their personal and business lives.  Always emphasize how your story will be of value to viewers or listeners.

 

In other words, news is important to people outside the law firm – not inside the firm. It often contains an additional element of new, first, best or most.

 

News that an associate has made partner, for example, is not likely to generate coverage.  That happens all the time.  News that the new partner is a deaf, orphaned, immigrant associate who worked his or her way through college and law school in the mail room at your firm might generate interest.

 

Make the story as easy as possible for the reporter.  Never mail a press release.  Call or email the right reporter with your story idea.  If the reporter expresses interest, send additional information.  New on the scene is the electronic press release, which includes not only background, but also direct email links to your experts as well as online links to photos, audio, video and other related news stories and Web sites.  Imagine how helpful this material can be to a reporter rushing to complete a story on deadline!

 

Broadcast news directors and reporters like to produce exclusives – stories that none of the competitors can cover.  Offer exclusives – and honor them.

 

Once the station has expressed interest in your pitch, time is of the essence.  Broadcast news directors and reporters face multiple deadlines each and every day (with Internet publishing, the deadline has become “right now”), and are driven to feature their stories in a timely fashion – preferably sooner than anyone else.  Make sure that you are actually available, at work or at home, in person or by phone (in the case of radio) to do the interview on deadline.

 

Think like a broadcast reporter.  Television stations like stories that offer more than “talking heads.”  They can be attracted to a story that includes a good visual setting, physical activity and interesting props.  Radio stations find “value added” in stories with interesting sound effects (like an IP case involving recorded music).

 

Finally, know what you are going to say and who is going to say it – even before “pitching” the broadcast media.  Practice in advance the 30-second “sound bites” you will use.  Videotape and review them.  Work with a media expert if necessary.

Here is a link to the complete article:

Lawyers and law firms:  Broadcast your expertise, build your reputation

Lawyers and law firms: Broadcast your expertise

Recently, I posted an article on broadcast journalism in the Internet age.  The article was based on a panel discussion and I felt, after I'd written it, that I wanted to expand the article to include points not made by the panelists.  So I wrote another article on the subject of lawyers, law firms and broadcast journalism.  Here is the introduction (the entire article will appear over the next few days):

“Hey, you’re that lawyer!  The lawyer from the TV news about that case last night!  The lawyer who was interviewed on public radio regarding that issue last week!  The lawyer on the podcast about pending industry regulation that I downloaded and listened to last month!  You’re obviously the expert.  Let’s talk.”

 

Under national and state bar ethics rules, lawyers usually cannot call themselves experts in a given subject area.  But they can use broadcast media to position themselves as experts in the eyes of consumers of legal services.

 

Until recently, it took a lot of work with a public relations expert for a lawyer to appear on television or radio as an expert.  Broadcasters owned and controlled the airwaves, and access was limited.

 

Over the past ten years, with the advent of the Internet, the rules of the game have changed completely.  Today, users own and control the Internet, and access is unlimited.  There are many more opportunities to “broadcast” your expertise than ever before.

Upcoming sections include:

       "Pitching" to the traditional broadcast media

       "Catching" from the traditional broadcast media

       "Self-broadcasting" in the world of social media

For the impatient, here's a link to the entire article:

Lawyers and law firms:  Broadcast your expertise, build your reputation

More social media stats for law firms

When it comes to the latest developments in social media usage, Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog is one of the best resources around.  Go to his blog and subcribe to his feed!  Just this weekend, he added two posts that are must-reads for anyone in the legal marketing profession.

And he's not afraid to evolve with the times and trends.  Last year, O'Keefe advised his lawyer/clients to stick with the "big three" of blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn.  On Saturday, based on the latest stats on the meteoric growth of Facebook, he noted that "more people are hanging out on Facebook than any other place on the net" and added Facebook to this list.  "With the world going to Facebook, how can I ignore it and survive as a successul business leader?"

Today, O'Keefe reported on a recently released social media study from the Nielsen Company, which states that the time spent by Americans on social media sites increased 210 percent in 2009 (the increase was 82 percent for global users).  The top U.S. social media sites are Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Classmates and LinkedIn.

O'Keefe concludes his post by questioning the fact that -- in spite of these statistics -- 45 percent of US law firms continue to block the use of social media and social networking sites.

I agree completely.  Law firms need to trust their lawyers to act appropriately in "public."  You don't ask them to stay home from "real world" business networking opportunities on the off chance that they'll say something inappropriate.  Social networking sites are no different.

More data: Reporters rely on socia media

According to a post by Larry Bodine, an overwhelming majority of reporters and editors now depend on social media sources when researching their stories.  Larry gets his data from a national survey conducted by Cision and Don Bates of George Washington University.

89 percent use blogs for story research

65 percent use social networks for story research

61 percent use Wikipedia for story research

52 percent use microblogs like Twitter for story research

Mainstream media have clearly hit a tipping point in their reliance on social media for research and reporting.  What do reporters and editors find out about you when they search these sources while researching and writing an article?

Have you populated blogs, social networks, content sites, Wikis and Twitter with the kind of informative, useful content that positions you as a reputable source for a reporter or editor?

Create good content.  Post it on sites that accept user-generated content.

 

TV show based on remarkable career of SCOTUS expert Tom Goldstein?

Any time I talk to a lawyer who questions the value (or the propriety) of social media marketing, I bring up the story of Tom Goldstein -- who went from solo to head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump using social media like his SCOTUS Blog and SCOTUS Wiki to make a name for himself in this very exclusive area of the law.  He has also made a number of non-self-important videos that he has posted on YouTube.

In today's Wall Street Journal Law blog, Ashby Jones reports on a Variety story  that NBC is developing a TV show based on Goldstein's remarkable success story.  The working title is Tommy Supreme -- "depicting a likeable guy in an unlikeable profession."

Now I have even more ammunition to use when attempting to persuade  lawyers and law firms who think that social media are too undignified for the law or their particular practice!  What is more dignified than a Supreme Court practice?

Your clients are using social media. Are you?

Kevin O'Keefe of LexBlog posts that social media are being used by nearly all Inc. 500 companies

If you're a law firm not using social media,  how are you to engage and network with corporations who are effectively  using blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like to build relationships?  Aren't you going to be viewed as an outsider looking in?  To leaders of America's fastest-growing companies, isn't your law firm going to look behind the times?

Amen, Kevin.

Marketing forum on Mardindale-Hubbell Connected

Martindale-Hubbell recently launched a social network that includes both public and private groups for marketing professionals.  This week, I am guest-hosting forum conversations on this site on the subject of the use of persuasive content marketing to position lawyers and law firms as experts on the Internet.  So far, I've started threads on ghostblogging and attorney biographies/profiles.  For those of you who are already members of MH Connected, check it out and join the conversation.  If you have not yet joined, give it a try.  You might have to wait a day or two to be approved.

Using social media to engage with mainstream media

Reporters, editors and publishers from the mainstream media now rely on social media to learn about breaking news -- and to locate resources for the stories they write and publish.  In this Sept. 24 Webinar, Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblog discusses how lawyers and law firms can use social media to create and nurture relationships with mainstream media. 

In this Webinar, O'Keefe discusses how to use social media to listen -- to clients, prospective clients, referral sources and influencers (reporters, bloggers, associations and publishers).

Once you have listened carefully and know what interests these parties, you can use social media to create a relationship and give reporters, editors and publishers the information they need to know in order to do their jobs.  If you've done your homework, they will appreciate your input.

In addition, O'Keefe discusses the correct way to cite and build upon the work of others in your own blog and in social networks -- and let them know how your efforts have increased their circulation.  He also discusses the role played by Twitter in "getting out the news" about your practice or firm.

Lawyers embracing social media

According to research conducted for LexisNexis, 86 percent of lawyers under the age of 35 are members of social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace.  Among lawyers age 46 and older, a surprising 66 percent are members of social media.  Obviously, the role of social networks in marketing a law practice cannot be ignored.

These stats were cited in an article that appeared in Sunday's The New York Times.  The article has received a lot of attention because it discusses the situation of a lawyer who was reprimanded and fined by the Florida Bar Association for an intemperate blog post.

All of those lawyers -- younger and older -- who are now using social media would to well to remember that publishing is publishing.  The ethics requirements governing the conduct of lawyers don't change just because you are online.  Use social media -- but do not publish anything there that you would not publish in a magazine or newspaper.

What is the worth of a ghost-blogger?

The good news is, lawyers and law firms seem to be increasingly aware of the value of blogs and other social media when it comes to establishing themselves as thought-leaders within a given legal practice area -- and showing up well in search engine results for these keywords.

The bad news is, many lawyers are having a hard time creating and posting the amount of content they need in order to maximize social media.

As a result, I am getting a lot of requests lately to "ghost-blog" -- requests that go nowhere once the lawyers realize the cost of creating a steady stream of good blog posts.  I counsel these would-be clients that it is almost always more time- and cost-effective for them to write and post their own blog posts.  It is also, in the spirit of social media, much more authenic.

I'm not saying I won't do it if the right project comes along.  I am just saying it won't be cheap.

Think of blog posts as poetry.  Fiction writers like to say that writing novels is hard, writing short stories is harder, and writing poetry is hardest of all.  I think that non-ficture writers would agree that writing books is hard, writing articles is harder, and writing good Web content is hardest of all.

To be a good ghost-blogger you have to be a good writer -- and know how to write for social media sites and search engines.

You have to take the time to know the client in order to "channel" his or her voice and values. 

You have to work with the client to develop a list of topics that will resonate with a target audience. 

You have to take the time to understand the subject matter and industry that the client is targeting. 

You have to create an aggregator to follow experts in these subjects and industries online so that you can comment on and link to their posts in your own posts.

You have to create at least one (and preferably more) posts each week, gain approval from the "author," post the content (including Tweets and social network links announcing new content) and monitor the post for any comments.

That's a lot of work for what might end up being relatively few words.  The traditional formula of charging "by the word" for books and articles falls apart when a writer is asked to come up with an estimate for ghost-blogging.  Lawyers and law firms should not be taken aback.

Pulitzers lost, what a cost

My friend John Temple is now blogging about journalism and the media at Temple Talk.  John is the former editor, president and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, which printed its final edition -- after nearly 150 years -- earlier this year.

John blogs about online journalism and its impact (positive and negative) on traditional media.  Recent posts include "Pulitzers lost, what a cost," which explores the impact on public discourse when thousands of professional journalists lose their jobs.  In this series, he interviews winners of the Pulitzer Prize who are no longer at a newspaper -- for their reflections on what happened to their careers and how they view the future of journalism.  Thought-provoking stuff.

United Breaks Guitars

Anyone who questions the value of social media in the realm of reputation management should ask United Airlines.  A Canadian musician who had a bad experience with United created a music video and posted it earlier this month on YouTube -- "United Breaks Guitars."  So far, it has been viewed by more than 4.3 million people.  Within four days of posting, United's stock had declined by ten percent.  Cause and effect or random coincidence?  It remains to be seen.

In the era of social media, anyone can be a publisher or producer.  There is no longer a need to go through the editors of print or electronic publications or the gatekeepers of public events in order to have your say.  Not only can you produce and publish your own unfiltered content, but you need be aware of content published about you by others.  After this video came out, United offered (finally) to replace the musician's guitar.  By then, the damage had already been done.

Todd Defren on Content Marketing

Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications just posted an nice video (just short of 15 minutes) on his blog (www.pr-squared.com), in which he discusses the value of content marketing.  He describes content marketing as what you bring to the neighborhood pot luck.  If your neighbors are all lean vegetarians, you won't make a very positive impression showing up with a big platter of meat.  Do your research and provide a dish (content) that appeals to your neighbors (target audience).  He also discusses how social media allow entities -- like law firms -- to present content directly to the interested end-user -- completely bypassing the gatekeepers of the mainstream media.  The video itself is also a good example of how easy it is to record and post a presentation.  Here's the link:

Content Marketing

Kevin O'Keefe (LexBlog) webinars always helpful

When it comes to blogs and other social media for lawyers and law firms, Kevin O'Keefe and his team at LexBlog are recognized as the industry experts.  Because LexBlog designed and hosts my Constant Content Blog, I am invited to participate in LexBlog's regular online Webinars.

Over the years, we've all been snookered into worthless Webinars -- where presenters drone on endlessly about concepts that are obvious to 95 percent of the audience.  Or simply read their slides.  Not so with the LexBlog series.  I consider myself pretty "cutting edge" when it comes to social media, but I always come away from these sessions with a number of good ideas that I can easily put into action myself.  Each one is an hour well spent.

The June 28 LexBlog Webinar was Creating effective blog posts and engaging in online discussions to enhance your online reputation. 

The month before, the subject was Twitter:  What is it?  Why should I use it?  How do I use it?

And there are many more.  A recording of each Webinar is posted online.  Try them.  You'll like them.

Any place. Any Time. Any size. Any age.

When lawyers and other professional services providers are asked  to develop more business, they often respond with a list of obstacles.

I'm in the wrong place.  I don't have enough time.  My firm is too small to compete.  I'm too young/old to be taken seriously.

Social media tools help you demolish these obstacles and move ahead.

In social media, place is no longer an obstacle.  The Internet operates around the world -- so your content can end up anywhere.  Let's say you are a lawyer in Denver.  Not so long ago, your article might appear in one print issue of The Denver Business Journal or your speech take place one time before a local business group.  Today, using social media, your article or a podcast of your speech can be accessed by interested parties anywhere around the world -- spreading your reputation far beyong the boundaries of your geographic location.  Plus, you can contribute and search content as easily from your home office or on the road as you can from the 45th floor.

In social media, time is no longer an obstacle.  The Internet operates 24/7, so you can contribute or search for useful content around the clock, in any time zone, any day of the week.   When you leave the office at the end of the day, on weekends or for a vacation, your online reputation is still on the job -- working hard to win new clients.  With an investment of little time you can use the Internet to achieve expansive results.  It takes much less time to write a blog post or a Twitter update, after all,  than it takes to research and write a legal article.

In social media, size is no longer an obstacle.  On the Internet, no one can tell how big you are.  A savvy solo or a small firm can easily build an "online reputation" that rivals the reputations of much larger competitors -- at very little cost.  Tom Goldstein -- as a solo -- created SCOTUSblog and used it to build his reputation as an appellate attorney.  A decade later, he is head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump.  One lawyer I interviewed went from anonymous third-year associate to national expert the field of Canadian timber law -- in just one year of blogging.

Finally, in social media, age is no longer an obstacle.  Not so long ago, young professionals were expected to stay in the office and leave business development to the partners.  Today, now that place is no longer an obstacle, a young professional can jumpstart his or her career by using social media (from the office or from home) to build an online reputation.  On the flip side of that equation, an older professional who understands how to use social media for business development can easily appear "ageless" and intellectually vigorous on the Internet.

Use social media to overcome the business development obstacles of place, time, size and age.

The bee that gets the honey doesn't hang around the hive

I didn't post a "fresh" blog entry last week because I am currently devoting one hour a day to tedious -- but extremely important -- blog housekeeping tasks.  I have 115 blogs and Web sites on my aggregator.  Each day, I am methodically adding ten links to those blogs to this relatively new blog of mine -- and then individually contacting the authors to let them known that I subscribe to their blogs and have added a link to them on my own blog.  I am then requesting that they take a look at my blog and, if they find it useful, subscribe and link in return.

I am halfway through this process and it seems to be working well!  My site statistics continue to improve each day, as do the Google results for my blog.  The blog itself has finanlly surpassed my LinkedIn profile (although not yet JDSupra).

When it comes to blogging, "The bee that gets the honey doesn't hang around the hive" is a much better slogan than "If you build it, they will come."  They won't come unless they know you are there.

If you want good results for your blog or other social media site, you have to "work" it -- making sure that links to your site appear on other sites and making sure that other prominent bloggers know that you exist and are regularly monitoring (and perhaps commenting on) your posts.  You want to return the favor by mentioning and commenting on their posts as well.

Time for online spring cleaning!

Best bios: Complete your social media profiles

Once you have created a bio/profile that works as a persuasive marketing piece on your Web site, be sure to add that content to the full range of social networking and media sites.  I am constantly amazed at the results these sites -- with their robust RSS -- generate in search engines.  I write and blog constantly, and post my articles to a wide variety of online content sites, but my social media profiles still show up higher in search engine results than any other catetory of content.

When I Googled my name earlier this week, the top two results were my JDSupra and LinkedIn profiles -- which consistently rank even higher than this well-tended blog.  Making a surprising showing at Number Ten was my Facebook profile -- which has long been a secondary effort.  Even so -- it shows up in the first page of Google results for "Janet Ellen Raasch."

According to an article in Sunday's The New York Times business section, Facebook expects to register its 200 millionth user this week:  "This saggering growth rate -- doubling in size in just eight months -- suggests Facebook is rapidly becoming the Web's dominant social ecosystem and an essential personal and business networking tool in much of the wired world."

Anecdotally, I would have to agree.  I have received more requests to "friend" old acquaintances on Facebook in the past month than in the past two years.  Something is happening here.  I am going to pay much closer attention to "working" that profile.  So should you.

Lawyers should Google their names to see what shows up on the first page of results and make every effort to "own" that first page of results.  Post high-qualify, professional profiles on LinkedIn, JDSupra, LegalOnRamp -- and even Facebook.  If you focus on personal injury, estate or family law, you should probably be on MySpace. 

Look in your search engine results for directories like AVVO that have created pages for all of the lawyers in quite a few states -- entries that often include nothing more than your name and address.  There is a lot of debate over the propriety of AVVO's tactics (especially its ranking feature), but an empty entry looks bad -- plain and simple.  It looks like you are inactive.  Complete AVVO and any other blank directory pages to include the profile that appears on your Web site and other sites.

More ideas from the Met: Be user-friendly

Last Saturday, I attended the Metropolitan Opera's live broadcast performance of Madama Butterfly at my local movie theater.  I've seen my share of live productions of Madama Butterly over the years and, at this point, it takes a lot to persuade me to see a new one.  In this case, the production is by film director Anthony Minghella, the costumes by Han Feng and the child Trouble is played by a Bunraku puppet.  Reason enough.

I've written before about how these broadcasts are a magnificant marketing move by the Met.  New York Magazine sums it up nicely:  "The aloof old Met, which once deemed promotion unnecessary, has suddently turned positively manic about reaching out and becoming user-friendly."

My friend John, who is a media executive, was blown away by the concept of the live broadcast:  "It just seems like common sense that everyone would do this."  Common sense, indeed.

Lawyers and law firms are comfortable with the use of traditional "aloof" spoken and print venues for demonstration of their expertise and thought-leadership -- but traditional venues are limited to a single audience and a single readership.  Social media, in comparison, are user-friendly and offer access to an unlimited audience and an unlimited readership. 

Print content can be posted to blogs and user-contributed content sites and linked to social networking sites -- but so can audio and visual content!  If you give a speech, record it, edit it and link it to these sites -- and post it to YouTube.  Post photos of attorneys and law firm activities on Flickr and other photo sites.  All of these contributions will be picked up in a Google search. 

Don't be an "aloof old" law firm.  Use new tools to reach out and become user-friendly.

For opera buffs, there will be a re-broadcast of the Met's Madama Butterfly Wednesday evening, March 18, 2009.  Check your local movie theater!

Hang your content on a "news peg"

One of the best ways to get publicity for yourself or you law firm is to insert your story idea into the context of something that already has the attention of the news media -- print as well as electronic.  In the parlance of journalism, this is called using a "news peg."

This week alone, there has been a lot of publicity about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Wyeth v. Levine, which rules that federal law does not protect drug companies from product liability suits in state courts.  Today's The New York Times features a front page article on current layoffs and the WARN Act, which requires a 60-day notice of layoffs.

Most local media will be interested in interpreting this national news through the filter of "local impact."  If you practice pharmaceutical or mass torts law, or employment law, you should get busy contacting the media to let them know that you are available to comment on either of these two emerging news stories.  If your local business journal has a "professional services" special section coming up, you should contact the publication with a proposal to write an article for the special section.  If you belong to a trade group, you should offer to write an article for the newsletter -- or make a presentation at the next meeting.

When a subject has been in the news, people think it is important and want to hear more about it -- so any publication will be more receptive to a story idea along those lines.

You can also hang your online content onto this "news peg" by creating and posting articles and comments on these subjects to social media.  Clients will be looking for legal advice about how these changes/trends will affect them and their busiinesses.  The media will be conducting research for follow-on stories.  Both will use the Internet to search for resources -- using relevant keywords.  Your keyword-rich content and comments on Wyeth v. Levine or the WARN Act -- or any other emerging legal topic of national importance -- can lead them right to you.

Achieve publicity with a local or regional slant on breaking national news.

 

Reporters rely on social media

When researching and writing articles -- and looking for experts to quote in those articles -- most reporters have come to rely on Internet sources, including social media.  If a lawyer's name does not show up in a reporter's search for particular key words, he or she is missing the opportunity to be quoted in the story as an expert.

I 've always preached this principle, and this morning I got  personal proof of  how this works!

Denver is currently debating the pros and cons of the Blue Mustang -- a controversial piece of public art that is located on the approach to Denver International Airport.  Personally, I love the Blue Mustang!  Short-sighted opponents of the sculpture have launched a Facebook group called www.byebyebluemustang.com.  I recently added a "pro mustang" comment to that site -- a comment that  was picked up by Jim Stingl, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and included in an article yesterday on the subject of controversial public art.  Here's the link.  A shout out to my brother Steve Raasch, an architect in Milwaukee, who sent me the link!

The Blue Mustang must be viewed within the context of regional magical realism.  If it is demonic at all, it is a protective demon -- like a gargoyle.  After all, when a plane went off the runway here in Denver a few months ago, there were no fatalities.  Go Blue Mustang!

How NOT to use Twitter

The blogosphere is currently abuzz with an object lesson in how NOT to use Twitter (or any other social medium, for that matter) for business development purposes.

An account executive from a large PR firm in Atlanta flew to Memphis to make a presentation to his big client -- FedEx.  Upon landing at the Memphis airport, he made the following Tweet:  "True confession but I'm in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, 'I would die if I had to live here.'"

The Tweet was instantly picked up and circulated by a senior executive at FedEx, who was also using Twitter.  Turns out, the people at FedEx are quite fond of their home town.  The consultant's Tweet was immediately and publicly denounced as "inappropriate" by the FedEx corporate communications team -- before he had even arrived at the front door of this very important client.  Just try to imagine the reception!  And it is now all over the Internet.  Apologies have been issued.

What is the lesson here for lawyers and other professional services providers?  Social media are great tools -- but never, never, never post anything on a social network or other social media site that you would not want a client, a potential client or a reporter to read.  Social media are instantaneous and, because of the viral nature of the Internet, can rarely be completely recalled.  Think twice before you Tweet.

For more details about this incident, see David Henderson's blog.

Best bios: Biographies are the most underutilized space on your Web site

Lawyer biographies are the most underutilized real estate on any law firm's Web site.  According to Web site analytics studies, bio pages are the "most visited" pages on any site - and yet they are often thrown together as an afterthought, rarely updated and rarely enhanced with an RSS feed to atttract the attention of search engines.  This is a serious mistake!  Most lawyer bios will rank far below the same lawyer's profile on sites like LinkedIn, JDSupra or LegalOnRamp.

There is no better way to differentiate you and your firm from your competitors than a persuasive  Web site bio.  The best new bios will function almost like mini-Web-sites for the lawyer involved -- offering a wealth of links to text, audio and visual samples of that lawyer's actual work product.

This is the first in a series of posts on Web site bios for professional services providers.  In this post, I would like to discuss the bio as a persuasive document.  According to Aristotle (and all modern advertisers), effective persuasion relies on three factors:  logos (logic), ethos (values) and pathos (feelings).

Most lawyer bios consist of a long, dry list of qualifications.   In other words, these bios are using only "logos" to persuade -- and not very well -- completely ignoring  the persuasive value of client values and client feelings.  In the courtroom, any trial lawyer knows how to use values and feelings as well as logic in order to persuade a judge or jury.  Why do they forget this lesson when it comes to persuading clients via their bios?

A good bio is interesting -- putting the compelling "news" about a particular lawyer up top rather than a dull list of areas of practice.  A good bio includes brief, interesting case studies that engage the reader and demontrate how a lawyer solves problems for clients.  A good bio lets you know what kind of person the lawyer is -- by including outside interests and first-person quotes.

I like to call this the "bumper sticker effect."  When you are caught in traffic behind another vehicle, you can tell a lot about the person in front of you by the vehicle's bumper stickers.  You can pretty much tell if you could have a civil conversation -- much less a relationship -- with that person.

Law is a relationship-based profession.  Your bio is your vehicle.  What do your bumper stickers tell a potential client about what it would be like to work with you?

Market your practice with content in 2009

Social media are based on user-contributed content.  A social site provides an online framework and then opens it up to anyone (like you!) who would like to contribute content -- usually for free at an entry level and for an additional fee for additonal enhancements or privileges.  But always at a far less expensive cost than print alternatives like advertising.

What does this mean for you as you market your legal practice?  It means that you can post your own profile and work product on the Internet for everyone -- clients, potential clients, the media -- to see when they search for information about you or a particular legal subject area or issue.  You can add your profile and content to existing social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook -- and participate in legal groups on these sites.  You can add content to legal-specific sites like JDSupra or LegalOnRamp.  You can create your own site to host your content (a blog, for example) and post comments on the blogs of others.

Posting original samples of your work product is a great and inexpensive way to establish your reputation as a thought leader on the Internet -- and to improve your results in the seach engines.

In 2009, resolve to post at least one new item of content each month on the Internet.

An ongoing course for citizen journalists: Headline writing

The world of journalism has been revitalized by the input of enthusiatic citizen journalists writing for new online media.  This world will never be the same.  However, there are a few "tricks of the traditional trade" that would help these writers improve their posts.  One of these is headline-writing.

Back in the day (I taught journalism for ten years), "how to write a good headline" was part of the curriculum at any j-school.  Headline writers were the poets of the journalism world.  It was their job to condense the gist of of story into a certain number of characters that would fit meaningfully into an allotted amount of print space -- in a way that would attract the attention of the reader. 

The same rules apply to the headlines we write for blog posts and online articles (usually 160 characters) -- and especially posts on Twitter (140 characters)!  Many of these headlines appear in aggregators -- where they are skimmed by readers who make an instantaneous judgment about whether or not to open the headline and read further.  I have more than 100 blogs in my Bloglines aggregator -- which I use as a daily "newspaper" for my work-related news.  I can't tell you how many headlines I skim over each day (rather than opening and reading them) because the headline does not catch my attention as "something I need to know in order to do business."

Generic writing does not work in a headline -- in print or online.  Good headlines should let the reader know why they need to read further.  What is the news or value proposition you are offering in exchange for their time?  Use important nouns (keywords) and active verbs.

Bad:  New law takes effect in 2009

Good:  ADAAA takes effect Jan. 1:  Employers with disabled workers must make changes

 

Linked in or left out: Software and the Internet supercharge social networking

Social networking sites like LinkedIn bring the kind of interaction that lawyers and other professionals enjoy in "live" business, industry, professional, civic, religious, charitable and personal interest groups onto the Internet -- and supercharge it.  In this September 2007 article, commissioned by the Canadian Bar Association, Janet Ellen Raasch interviews lawyers, law firms and legal consultants about the legal marketing uses of online social networks.

Linked in or left out:  Software and the Internet supercharge social networking

Sidebar:  For the truly adventurous:  Law practice in Second Life

Write about it? Blog about it? Broadcast it! Podcasts are the latest addition to the legal marketing toolkit

Podcasting is a means of publishing and distributing digital audio (and increasingly video) files over the Internet.  They are becoming increasingly popular with lawyers and law firms -- as a tool to showcase expertise in an established and credible format.  In this January 2006 article, which was commissioned by the Canadian Bar Association, Janet Ellen Raasch discusses the successful use of podcasts by law firms in Canada.

Write about it?  Blog about it?  Broadcast it!

On beyond blogs: RSS supercharges legal communications for Web 2.0

The term "RSS" draws a blank stare from most lawyers and many of the administrators who work with them.    RSS is the technology that has fueled the amazing success of blogs on the Internet.  In fact, RSS feeds can propel much more than blogs.  In this January 2006 article, which was commissioned by the Canadian Bar Association, Janet Ellen Raasch discuses the marketing applications of RSS feeds and aggregators.

On beyond blogs:  RSS supercharges legal communciations for Web 2.0

Sidebar:  Different flavors of syndication

Web logs help lawyers establish themselves -- quickly and inexpensively -- as thought leaders in a niche market

In the modern marketplace, savvy businesses and law firms are adopting weblog technology as a useful and proactive tool -- to promote products and services and to manage their images.  In this November 2005 article for the Canadian Bar Association, Janet Ellen Raasch discusses the use of weblogs by forward-looking law firms in Canada.

Web logs help lawyers estalbish themselves -- quickly and inexpensively -- as thought leaders in a niche market

RSS feeds, blogs and podcasts -- oh my! New media marketing makes sense for lawyers

Today's audiences are active and interactive consumers of business information.  Increasingly, they expect their lawyers and law firms to communicate with them interactively, using the next generation of electronic communications tools.  In this September 2005 article, a panel of public relations specialists discusses new-media tools like RSS feeds, blogs and podcasts.

RSS feeds, blogs and podcasts -- oh my!  New media marketing tools