June 6, 2011

To Tweet or Not To Tweet, Round II

For some reason, the matter of whether to tweet or not continues to polarize the blogosphere. Since my last post on  using twitter to cover and promote conferences , several other bloggers have weighed in. Adrian Dayton and Samantha Collier, legal marketers contend that lawyers can gain value from Twitter, while Tracey Coenen and Larry Bodine say that it's a waste of time and while conceding that it may generate some clients, it's not worth the time.

Meanwhile, on June 1, 2011, a new Pew Internet study reported that Twitter use continues to grow - up from 8 to 13 percent of Americans using Twitter. Interestingly, a quarter of African Americans use Twitter compared to just nine percent of usage by whites suggesting that if you target this market, Twitter might make sense.

As I said in my earlier post and still maintain, I find that Twitter works best when used for tightly circumscribed purposes, like conferences or building connections with media or simply chatting with friends. But if you hop on Twitter every day with the sole goal of getting clients, you'll probably be disappointed.
June 2, 2011

How NOT to Blog: My Top Ten Blogging Peeves

In spite of how much has been written about blogging, including my own posts here and here, I still see many lawyers blogging in a way that at best is highly annoying and at worst, is downright unprofessional and potentially unethical. That's why I've decided to share my top twelve blogging peeves, or tips on how NOT to blog.

One caveat before we begin: my views don't necessarily reflect those of professional marketing gurus, many of whom endorse some or all of my don'ts. I know that if they were to respond (which they won't), they'd say that my preferences as a lawyer doesn't necessarily reflect what consumers want. I disagree. For starters, I may be a lawyer but I'm a consumer of services too. I turn to the web to find professionals like doctors or CPAs, as well as for more consumer oriented suppliers like hair-dressers, dog-sitters and web designers. I can tell when a site has been "pimped out" with copy intended to lure me in and make me buy and frankly, I don't care for it. Moreover, I am fairly certain that most consumers can tell the difference as well - and while they may be willing to tolerate sales pitches for commercial products, they aren't likely to go for them coming from lawyers.

Having said that, here are ten blogging practices to avoid:

1. Recycling undated posts I realize that lawyers are busy and don't always have time to write new content - so they'll repost a few old chestnuts from a few years back. That's not a problem, so long as the post appears with the original publication date. Many times, however, bloggers recycle past posts and simply remove publication dates to make the content appear as if it's new. This practice of cleansing posts of their dates is frustrating for regular readers who may vaguely remember having read the same post before - but can't go back and check because the date isn't available. In addition, many times, older content may be superseded by new events and if a post isn't dated, that may not be clear.

2. Pimping to Search Engines Ever see those blog posts that repeatedly weave in how a "Boston employment lawyer" or "San Francisco bankruptcy lawyer" can assist you? That's not content; it's preening for search engines and it's annoying beyond belief. I'd never hire a lawyer who mucks up posts with sale-sy subtext, and neither should you. Bleh!

3. Ghostwriting Ever since I posted here on my aversion to ghost-blogging, I've become even more entrenched in my aversion for this practice. When lawyers blog in first the person, they create a relationship between themselves and a reader, just as they would if they met a referral source at a party or a client at their office. So betray the trust created through blogging by faking one's voice and one's words through ghostwriting reflects a lack of integrity and a deal breaker in hiring. Blogging isn't mandatory and if you're too busy to blog or hate writing, then don't do it - or hire a law student or contract lawyer to assist and give them a byline or credit.

4. Fake Re-tweets Sometimes, I'll visit a blog and notice that every post has been re-tweeted five or seven or sixteen times. Every post, irrespective of the quality of the content. Then I realized that these bloggers most likely have a twitter-protocol - a staple of regulars who loyally re-tweet every post. I've got no problem if a blogger wants to announce new posts on Twitter - in fact, that's how I learn about a lot of good stuff. But blog posts should be re-tweeted based on merit, and not because others are compelled to do it.

5. The Quote and Run Sometimes a blogger will post a snippet from a news article or another blog post with a bland comment like "look at this" or "thought this was interesting." Others may just lift the content from an article and post part of it, then link to the article. Fortunately, the practice of "quote and run, no comment" is being phased out by Facebook and Twitter which offer better mediums for referencing articles. So for those bloggers who continue to quote and run, please - either add original commentary or take your reference posts off your blog and put them on Twitter or Facebook.

6. Linkless It's bad enough to discuss a case based on a newspaper summery without having read the actual case. It's even worse not to link to the case at all and thereby prevent others from determining whether the analysis is accurate. With Google Scholar and Findlaw and Cornell LII and Thomas to name a few, there's simply no excuse for not linking to the source.

7. Running disaster feeds Kevin O'Keefe and other bloggers have already criticized the practice of running disaster feeds to grab the attention of family and friends of victims injured in accidents to induce them to call. It's a disgusting and sleazy practice that doesn't really warrant much more discussion.

8. Lack of Attribution Lots of bloggers fail to recognize that they're part of a wider community. Many bloggers write about topics without referencing other related posts. Of course, sometimes posts pass in publication but other times, a blogger lifts an idea from a colleague without attribution. That's not the kind of lawyer I'd want to work with.

9. Crowd-sourced blogs Offering respected colleagues an opportunity to guest post on an otherwise content-rich, well subscribed blog (like Christopher Hill of Construction Law Musings is a really nice gesture. By contrast, relying on others' content to make money or gain exposure for your blog - a practice commonly known as crowdsourcing is not.

10. Google ads on law firm blogs If your law firm blog is so popular that a vendor or respected company is willing to sponsor it (or a publication is willing to syndicate it) I say go for it. A sponsorship from a reputable company can add to a blog's cache. But as I wrote here, I draw the line at google ads, affiliate deals and tip jars which convey desperation.

So there you have it- my top ten blogging peeves. Avoid these, and you many not have the most heavily-trafficked blog on the web, but you'll have a tasteful, educational site that will appeal to referral sources and provide useful information to clients. And isn't that why you wanted to blog anyway?
May 27, 2011

Let the Message Match the Medium - Legal Marketing Blawg Update

For those who follow me here at my perch at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, you may have heard my webinar on niche practices, or read my post on specific niches such as representing Baby Boomers or African Americans or Latino business owners. Interesting enough, but how do you pitch your niche? In other words, how do you reach your target market of prospects that is most likely to hire you?

I can't answer that question specifically. Because...it depends on what your niche is and who your target clients are. In my case, I represent small renewable energy developers who find me online through blogging or hear me speak at conferences . For landowners whom I represent in siting cases, I've found online e-books highly effective because they objectively educate landowners about a complicated regulatory process, and in doing so make me a trusted information source.

Increasingly, though, smart phones are becoming an important tool for targeting certain populations who rely on mobile devices more than the average. I've noted that evidence shows high use of mobile devices by African Americans and moms. Now, a recent study shows another group - English-speaking Hispanics -who are more inclined to use cell phones than non-Hispanic whites. According to a Pew Study referenced in this CNN piece, not only do Hispanics use their cell phones more often (87 percent own cell phones versus 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites), they also use their cell phones more often and use more features. In fact, in Nevada, a cell phone text messaging campaign was used to organize an Hispanic voter registration drive. Based on these examples, lawyers targeting Hispanic clients might focus on mobile-optimized websites, delivery of information by text and phone apps.

As lawyers, we're natural communicators but often, we focus on what we say. But when you target a niche practice, how and where we communicate our message to clients - whether it's through a blog or an ebook or a smartphone - is just as important as what we say, perhaps even more so.
May 25, 2011

For Conferences, Nothing Beats Tweets

Ah, poor Twitter, the chronically misunderstood, black sheep of the social media family. And it's no wonder. For starters, many social media gurus who advise lawyers don't know how to use it themselves; focusing on quantity of followers rather than quality of contacts. Other lawyers dismiss Twitter because it didn't work for them, or worse, because they simply assume, without direct experience, that it won't work for them.

I'll admit, it can be tough to get the hang of Twitter - partly because the platform itself is as mercurial as its 140-character mode of interaction. Since my co-author Nicole Black (@nikiblack) and I published our book, Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, Twitter has morphed from a platform for sharing status updates (what are you doing now?) to serving many other functions: a traffic-driver for blogs and other online publications, a source of current events, a way for users to make themselves indispensable to followers with interesting news tidbits and a way to keep in touch with, or joke around with friends.

I use Twitter for all those purposes (don't ask me my ROI but I'm certainly having fun) - but it's probably been most useful for a very narrow and specific purpose: conferences. So for those of you who can't figure out how to get value out of Twitter, this post is for you.

But first, let's back up a bit and talk about conferences generally. I don't know about you but for me, conference attendance represents a huge cost. Even if the conference admission isn't particularly expensive, there are opportunity costs. When I'm at a conference, I'm out of the office and I'm not working. So if I don't make contacts at a conference, I'm not just out of pocket the cost-of-entry but foregone billable hours as well.

At the same time, getting the most out of conferences requires advance work (finding out who will be at the conference and setting up meetings) and follow-up (sending "nice to meet you cards or emails" and keeping in touch). Moreover, if I'm able to speak at the conference, I'm likely to have more visibility and make more contacts than if I simply attend. Pre and post-conference legwork can be time consuming, while snagging a speaking engagement is a crap-shoot. But Twitter can help with all of these activities. Here's how.


*Use Twitter to let others know that you'll be attending a conference and to find out who else might be attending. If you learn that one of your followers will be at the conference, DM (direct message) them and make arrangements to meet face to face. Or organize a Tweet-up for conference attendees and others you know at the conference destination.

*If you're able to get a list of attendees before the conference, start following a few of them before the conference. What you learn about other attendees through their tweets can serve as an icebreaker if you bump into them at the conference.

*If you're lucky enough to be speaking at the conference, try to arrange for someone to attend you session and tweet it. You'll get extra exposure from your talk.

*If you haven't been chosen as a speaker, or the conference is outside of your budget, approach one of the organizers and propose to tweet the conference sessions in exchange for complimentary or reduced-free admission. Most conference organizers would appreciate the on-going exposure provided by a stream of tweets. And you'll get to attend the conference for less, plus gain visibility by serving as one of the conference's real-time reporters.

During the Conference:

*If you decide to tweet the conference, first determine whether a "hashtag" (#) has been assigned to the conference. A hashtag is used to mark a topic so that all tweets about that topic - no matter who posts them -- can be easily located simply by following or searching the hashtagged term.

*If you're tweeting at the request of conference organizers, keep your tweets professional. Don't insult or criticize speakers or other attendees. By contrast, if you're tweeting on behalf of yourself, you can take more liberties in expressing your opinion or making jokes.

*Keep an eye out for other attendees tweeting the conference and track them down at the break. A great icebreaker.

*Though I can't say I agree, at least one of my colleagues has suggested giving out your Twitter handle (e.g., @carolynelefant) instead of a business card at conferences. At the events that I frequent in the energy industry, no one would have a clue what I'm talking about (I've met colleagues who still don't have email), but depending upon your target audience, it may be worth a shot.

*Don't limit your Twitter usage at the conference to business only. Use Twitpic or another similar service to post photos of the venue and surrounding location. If you're away from your home turf, tweet out questions seeking tips on not-to-be-missed bars or restaurants or the best way to get from one place to another.

Post Conference:

*Follow all of the new contacts you've met at the conference - and check in every so often with a DM or a phone call. It's a great low-key way to keep in touch.

*Throughout the year, look for opportunities to meet face to face with contacts you've met at the conference.

If you're going to go to the time and expense of attending a conference, you might as well get your money's worth. Twitter can help you do that - and it won't cost you anything at all. Though it may not work for all types of marketing, for conferences, nothing beats tweets.

Continue reading "For Conferences, Nothing Beats Tweets " »

May 18, 2011

YouTube video for Nolo's Lawyer Directory

We wanted to let you know that we've created a YouTube video that describes Nolo's Lawyer Directory.

The two and a half minute video explains our company's mission, takes you on a quick tour of our website (and how visitors come to Nolo.com), and describes the various member benefits for lawyers who join the Directory.

After watching the Lawyer Directory video, we hope you'll be inspired to contact us and become a member.  See what Nolo can do for you!

May 16, 2011

Seven Marketing Mistakes Most Start Up Law Firms Make

A recent Geekwire post by Matthew Heinz describes seven marketing mistakes that most start ups make. But the overall advice dispensed in the post applies just as readily to start up solo and small firm practices.

According to the article, one mistake common to start-up companies is hiring a PR firm too early. Not only is a PR firm costly for a nascent company, but it's not as effective as enlisting employees, investors and customers to spread the word directly through blogs and social media. Because the company relies on its supporters to build its brand, it has no choice but to remain engaged and responsive to their needs, which in turn lays the foundation for future success.

Put another way, there are no shortcuts. And the same lesson applies to new solos and small firms. Most lawyers don't enjoy marketing but at the same time, they're hungry for business after hanging a shingle. So they drop a few thousand dollars on a marketing expert only to discover that the expert can't improve the lawyer's reputation with his referral sources. If lawyers spend the early days of their practice focused on their clients' needs and assisting and building relationships with their colleagues, the work will follow. Though building relationships requires in person face time, lawyers can also blog and interact on Twitter and Facebook to get to know their colleagues and to educate potential clients. As a lawyer, only you can build these relationships and establish a reputation. A marketing expert can't help you there.

A second mistake made by start-ups is over thinking brand. Lots of new companies spend time and resources figuring out the right color of their logo, rather than "empowering the sales team." As Heinz points out,"if you can't drive revenue and grow the business, the [brand] won't mean a thing." So too for lawyers starting out. I've seen some new solos held up for months creating a perfectly designed website and blog. Yet in the meantime, they lose out on business that an online presence could be generating. To be sure, your website and blog should be both reliable and professional, which is easy enough with today's tools. But leave the refinement - and the fancy design - until money starts coming in and you can afford it.

Interestingly, the third start up mistake identified by Heinz is starting with a marketing budget. Heinz explains:
Startups should have to earn their marketing budget. They should operate with the assumption that there's no money for marketing, and instead focus initially on the scrappy, organically-generated ways to drive customer awareness, demand and closed business.
Likewise, there are plenty of ways for lawyers to attract clients and referrals at no cost. They can get together with other lawyers in their practice area or take advantage of blogs, listserves and other social media tools. They can even create their own video on their own. As Heinz points out,
You may eventually start spending money to accelerate your opportunity. But if you start by spending money, there's little incentive or motivation to first figure out what can drive the same performance and results with far less investment.
Finally, start-ups should not try to follow lock-step with their competitors. What works for a competitor may not work for another company - plus the focus on what others are doing will distract start-ups from devoting time to improving their companies.

Lawyers are notorious copycats. In my industry, as soon as one firm sponsors a table at a conference, the following year, I'll see ten firms doing the same. Yet as Heinz points out, keeping up with the Jones isn't productive. For starters, your competitors may earn more revenue than you - and you'll jeopardize your firm's financial health if you burn through money as quickly as they do. In addition, lawyers' practices are very different, as are lawyers themselves. Sponsoring a table at an insurance defense dinner is not going to help a family law attorney. Likewise, attending an organization's weekly happy hours may not be effective if you have a shy personality and are constantly overlooked. You might be better off attending the happy hours monthly, and use the rest of the time to write articles or engage in other activities where you'll be portrayed in the best light.

Heinz lists three other mistakes - letting interns drive the social media plan, allowing adversarial relations between sales and biz development within the company and impressing the board instead of customers. Though these mistakes are not necessarily relevant to new solo or small firm lawyers, they make for an interesting read - so be sure to click here to read the article in full.
May 9, 2011

Expanding Your Networks for Business, Part II

Two weeks ago, I posted about how good old fashioned networking never goes out of style. This week, Business Pundit shares a list of 25 best places to network. The list is diverse enough that you're guaranteed to find at least a handful of activities that will serve your practice area, allow you to meet clients and referral sources in a comfortable environment and, most importantly, fit into a lawyer's busy schedule.

For example, joining a Meet Up group works well for lawyers who serve consumer populations as well as those who represent businesses and corporate interests since MeetUp groups are so diverse. Through Meet Up, you can also find speaking opportunities - which is another recommended networking activity.

There are also non-traditional networking opportunities for lawyers who feel awkward promoting themselves at a professional event. Volunteer activities - such as serving on a non-profit board, participating in a bar association's pro bono program, getting involved in religious activities or helping out with non-legal charitable work at soup kitchens or fundraisers - give others a chance to see your legal skills and work ethic in action in a non-pressured environment.

Of course, lawyers are also very busy, and may resent sacrificing personal time to network. However, many recreational activities - exercise clubs, pet clubs, music groups and Toastmasters - give you a chance to enjoy yourself while building relationships with others who may refer cases or hire you directly. Most people want to work with those whom they like and trust - so getting to know people in a relaxed, enjoyable setting can lay the foundation for doing business together.

Take a look at the full list of activities - because you're sure to find at least one that will fit your needs.

April 26, 2011

Some Old Tips on Old Fashioned Networking

Much as I love to blog and participate in social media, I must confess that most of my clients still come the old-fashioned way: through personal referral. That doesn't mean that I'll stop blogging, Facebook or Twitter any time soon, since those activities reinforce my credibility and support my in-person networking. After all, it's much easier to simply toss out my Twitter handle when I meet a potential referral source instead of always carrying a stack of business cards.

Well maybe. Because many of the people whom I interact with still aren't on Twitter and won't be any time soon. In order to capture these prospects, it's still necessary to abide by conventional approaches even in a twenty-first century world. And with that said, below are some tips to help you brush up on your networking skills.

Don't Be Looking in All the Wrong Places
Selecting the appropriate venue for networking is critical as Los Angeles attorney Lee Rudnicki advises in the LA Times. Rudnicki, who practices entertainment law spent his networking time at bar association events, schmoozing with lawyers who were actually his competition. Rudnicki found better results when he attended parties with filmmakers and others in his target client base.

Time, Place and Manner Some venues - like funerals, for example, are simply off limits for networking. You'd think this would be obvious, but as a PR expert in this NJ.com article points out, she observed one colleague glad-handing at a funeral. Other common mistakes of networking includes focusing on yourself instead of inquiring about the other person's needs. And while it's good to follow up and keep in touch, many networkers make the mistake of asking for work - either a job or new business - as soon as they meet someone, which can make for an uncomfortable situation.

How the Meek May Inherit Business Through Networking Though networking comes naturally to some, for shy, introverted individuals, meet-and-greet parties can be a torture. LegalJob.com offers some suggestions, including getting involved in an association where the focus is on working together rather than small talk, following up to meet people one-on-one and using email to help schedule get togethers.

Never Eat Lunch Alone You've heard Keith Ferrazzi's famous book, never eat lunch alone. That advice still holds true, particularly for young lawyers like Michael Siri who offers this advice in the Daily Record.
The best way to network is to reach out to people, ask for assistance, offer assistance, and to not keep tabs of either. Go out and meet people. When you are going to an event, make sure you know who is going and do some research on the people you should meet (but not to the extent that it will be considered stalking). Build personal relationships.
Do you still network face to face? And what approaches work best for you?
April 20, 2011

LegalMarketing RoundUp

Here's a quick round-up of updates on earlier posts.

Easy Reading: Back in May, I posted on the importance of typography to legal marketing efforts. This month, the Harvard Business Journal Blog addresses the same topic, emphasizing that:
And good design gives you an edge. How big an edge? It's the difference between getting read or getting ignored. You don't have to understand Photoshop or other design programs to be able to create clean business communications. You just have to develop an eye for the difference between visual order and visual noise.
The post offers a number of basis tips for improving design, including keeping your materials simple, using pull quotes and preserving white space.

The Latino Niche Market: Last month, I posted on growing Latino population and its potential as a niche market. Now, there's an interesting article at Ocala.com that offers specific advice on how to serve the Hispanic population, which is projected to comprise one third of the U.S. population by 2050. From the article:
According to George San Jose, president of The San Jose Group of Chicago, owner of one of the top three Hispanic marketing companies in the U.S., "there are two trends entrepreneurs need to keep in mind as they begin to figure out how to tap the Hispanic marketplace. First, many Hispanics are still comfortable with Spanish as the language of choice. The grandparents may still speak Spanish exclusively; while their children may be bilingual, and the 20-something generation may speak primarily English while still being fluent in Spanish. The second factor to understand is how much family is integral to the Hispanic lifestyle. Not only does the burgeoning younger generation tend to have more children than the general U.S. population, making baby and family products a big seller, but many also have extended families throughout Latin America, offering even more opportunities." Another important factor noted by Helen Rodriguez-Burton, a Hispanic insurance professional who has spoken on the subject, is "Once you've acquired a Hispanic customer, don't overlook the importance of customer service. Offering bilingual service through a customer call center is not enough. Hispanics cherish personal contact, which leads to long-term loyalty. They're known to "talk" with their feet and never come back if they have a negative experience.
Person-to-Person Marketing Though online marketing has its advantages, personal marketing never goes out of style. That being the case, you ought to be prepared when you meet people at events - for example, by developing an elevator speech. Matt Homann offers a creative way to do to do it: using Haiku. Though haiku'ing your way to an elevator speech sounds crazy, it's a sensible approach if you follow the steps that Matt recommends:
• Who do I help? (Answer in Five Words)
• What do I do for them? (Answer in Seven Words)
• Why do they need me? (Answer in Five Words)
April 18, 2011

Mobile Mommy Marketing

Even if you don't serve female clients exclusively, you should be targeting women any time you pitch legal services to a couple or family - because they're the ones making important decisions. A recent study by Prudential Financial, highlighted at Blogher concluded that 95 percent of women are either making or influencing major financial decisions within the household. These results suggest that women's influence has grown; a 2008 study showed that for 43 percent of couples, women make more decisions at home, while in 31 percent of couples, decision-making responsibilities are equally divided.

So if women are the audience for legal services, how do you reach them? Perhaps a quarter of a century ago, you'd run an ad campaign on daytime television or talk shows, but no more. Today's women, and moms in particular, have gone mobile. According to a survey by BabyCenter, (summarized here, smartphone use among moms has risen 64 percent over the past two ears, with 51 percent of moms saying that they are addicted to their smartphones. Top smartphone activities by moms include reading social media newsfeeds, updating social media status and reading answers to posted questions. And moms are also using smartphones to research products and for health and wellness information.

As I've posted before, if you're targeting an audience that makes use of mobile devices, make sure that your message matches the medium.

In practical terms, what does that mean if you're marketing to moms? First, make sure that your website and blogs are optimized for mobile use. Second, since moms use smartphones to track social media, distribute blog posts or other news items through Twitter or Facebook. Finally, consider creating a useful app (such as a checklist of documents to compile for estate preparation or a list of laws relating to special education) that might interest moms, or assist them with legal issues that they may have.
April 11, 2011

Marketing: A Journey, Not a Destination

Marketing a law practice is an ongoing iterative process. Starting out, many lawyers make rookie mistakes - such as spending thousands of dollars on Yellow Pages ads because an older colleague told you this is how it's done. Or spending money to join the Chamber of Commerce only to discover that as a new lawyer, you're on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to consideration for referrals. These types of errors are easy to recognize and correct. If you've paid $5000 for a Yellow Pages ad and it's only yielded a $1000 client, then it's a waste of money. Ditto the Chamber of Commerce, which may not be as expensive but produced no results whatsoever.

It's more difficult to recognize a need for, and to change course in marketing when you've been practicing for a while. For starters, your revenue may be stable for several years and you won't realize that with some changes, you could earn more. You may have also fallen into a comfortable marketing routine comprised of a few favored activities, and so you figure that if it's not broken, don't fix it. Trouble is, if you don't constantly monitor your marketing results and keep track of your competitors and future trends, those old standby's that once performed so well now fall flat. For example:

1. You were an early adopter of Twitter, using it well before anyone else in your geographic or practice area. As a result, your initial returns from Twitter weren't very promising and so you stopped using it. But now, your competitors and target clients are coming on board. Thus, you may lose out on opportunities if you don't return.

2. As a new lawyer running a solo practice, you had plenty of time of your hands but little money for advertising. So you joined several bar associations and professional clubs, enthusiastically volunteering for whatever work was available. Two years later, your work has paid off and you're receiving several referrals a month from others in these organizations. Trouble is, now that your practice is so busy that you simply don't have thirty hours a month to devote to all of these organizations. In this situation, even though your bar association work doesn't cost money, it now represents an opportunity cost that may force you to turn down paying work. For now, you'll either need to drop the bar work, or perhaps use the revenue from your new work to hire an intern or associate who can help out.

3. You've been handling family law cases forever, and your business is generally steady. But you've noticed that a couple of new lawyers' practices are going like gangbusters. The reason? They've been tracking that new law in your state that legalizes gay marriage - and they've developed a niche that highlights that particular area. Now, they're swamped with gay and lesbian clients who want to get married seeking advice on prenuptial arrangements, adoption and other issues. Although this particular niche may already be saturated, you may want to start tracking trends to identify whether another niche could serve as an easy add on to your practice.

4. In a fit of enthusiasm, you signed up for a dozen different social media sites. You thought that this broad presence would generate SEO, but that hasn't worked and your left with a bunch of barren profiles scattered across the Internet. Here, identify the platforms that have been working best and remove your other profiles.

5. You've always written a monthly column for your local bar newsletter - and your colleagues have complimented it. But you'd like to get more "bang for the buck" out of the time you put in. Maybe it's time to turn those articles into an ebook - or to start a blog.

Roscoe Pound, a legal scholar once said "The law must be stable, but it cannot stand still." The same holds true for your marketing efforts: invest time regularly and strive for a consistent brand and message. But always reevaluate your results and what lies ahead, and make changes as necessary to stay at the head of the curve. In Roscoe Pound's words, don't ever let your marketing stand still.
April 5, 2011

How to Avoid Having Your Law Firm Contest Contested When It's Run Through Social Media

Though I'm not sure about their long-term effectiveness for attracting clients, most law firm contests are undeniably fun as well as a way for a firm to give back to the community. A recent sampling of contests that I culled from the news included a contest for high school students to create videos about the importance of bike safety, a contest celebrating March Madness with give-away of two free Jazz basketball tickets and a contest for best business pitch. Of course, some contests seems a bit tacky, such as the Valentine's Day divorce contest run by a West Virginia firm (it's not the divorce that's tacky, in my view - just the contest's timing).

As more firms adopt social media, expect contests to proliferate, for a couple of reasons. First, there's nothing like social media -- either a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter stream to build buzz and enthusiasm about a law firm contest. Second, many law firms may view contests as a way to generate more friends and followers by making prize eligibility contingent on "liking" the firm's Facebook page or following it on Twitter.

Regardless of their reasons for sponsoring a contest, when law firms use social media as a platform to conduct or publicize their contest, they must comply with three categories of rules: (1) Bar advertising rules (which I won't discuss here; suffice it to say, read your jurisdiction's rules in advance or contact bar counsel with questions), (2) laws governing sweepstakes and games of chance and and (3) platform-specific regulations regarding contests.

Laws on Online Contests Because online contests have been around for more than a decade, the basic legal principles are fairly well established. An excellent summary is available in this excellent online compliance guide for online contests and sweepstakes by Antone Johnson of Bottom Line Law.

As described in the guide, companies must avoid operating an illegal lottery which generally involves payment of an entry fee, a winner chosen by random chance and prize awarded. However, companies can run sweepstakes, which is a drawing for a prize by chance alone or contests which requires some kind of skill and judging and an entry fee is permissible. Contests must have official rules that specify eligibility requirements and disclose restrictions on receiving the prize.

Platform-Specific Rules But contests conducted on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter include an added twist. Not only must companies holding contests comply with the general rules just discussed, they must also adhere to the social media platform's contest policies. Failure to comply with these policies can result in removal of promotion materials or disabling of an account.

Twitter's contest guidelines are fairly simple and straightforward:Contest sponsors should encourage entrants to use Twitter conventions (@ sign to signify a reply and a hashtag(#) showing a subject) to communicate with each other, and discourage them from tweeting multiple entries. Finally, both the contest sponsor and participants are expected to abide by Twitter's use guidelines.

Facebook's contest rules are subject to frequent revision (the last revision was December 1, 2010) and are far more complicated. Facebook users are prohibited from using their wall or other pages to create a contest; instead, they must set it up through an application on the Facebook platform. Users can enter the promotion only via the application or a tab created on the Facebook page. The promotion must include certain disclosures.

Facebook also sets rules on what contest sponsors can ask of entrants. A sponsor can ask an entrant to like a page as a condition of entry, but cannot require any other action such as uploading a photo or writing a post or comment. (As an aside, seems that this contest, which required a wall post may have run afoul of Facebook's rules).

Many firms may be tempted to hand off administration of contests on social media to PR reps or marketing gurus. Don't. It's you or your firm that will wind up with the suspended account on Twitter or Facebook if the contest isn't run properly - and further, many face the embarrassment of e-shaming if competitors learn of your missteps.

Law firm contests can be a fun, as well as a way for a firm to show its appreciation for clients and the surrounding community. But having someone contest your firm's contest because you didn't follow the rules will take the fun right out of it.
March 29, 2011

Online Video Now First Stop For Consumers

Video has always been a powerful tool for marketing on the web, and I've posted about its potential for lawyers several times over the past two years. But whereas I'd always viewed video as a tool to personalize a website and help encourage more trusted relationships, now, video is becoming a first stop for consumers seeking information, reports The New York Times. Companies are responding to the demand, and using video to demonstrate products or offer instructions on how to fix electronic parts. One grill company is building demand for its grill and other outside cooking products by posting videos on how to fry turkeys or smoke a beef brisket.

Video's value isn't limited to educating customers about consumer products, though. It's equally useful for professionals, as I learned first hand myself earlier this year, when I was involved in making a decision about a pacemaker for a family member. Because I didn't know much about pacemakers, naturally, I turned to the Internet. I saw lots of complicated diagrams as well as brief articles about the procedure but what I found most useful were a series of videos by a doctor, describing how a pacemaker is installed as well as the risks of surgery.

Many lawyers already have videos posted on YouTube, but many of these videos are what I would consider "vanity pieces," telling about the lawyer rather than providing useful information. So even though video has been around for a while, there's still a wide open field for lawyers willing to create informative videos to help potential clients understand the issues involved in their legal matter.
March 28, 2011

A Business Niche for Your Business

As you probably know by know, I'm an aficionado of niche practice. So I'm always looking for the next emerging niche to share, and with this month's release of the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, I've stumbled on a treasure trove.

In 2010, Latinos experienced the largest entrepreneurial activity increase of all race demographics. In addition, the latest Census data also shows that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of the United States grew from 13 to 16 percent - or 35 million to 50 million. Thus, a niche law practice that caters to Latino businesses, or serves the Latino population may have strong potential.

The Kauffman study also found that certain states enjoyed higher entrepreneurial activity in 2010 than others. Nevada and Georgia ranked first, followed by California, Louisiana and Colorado. So if you're interested in representing new businesses and start-ups and have some flexibility in where you can locate, these are the states to target.
March 25, 2011

Free NOLO Webinar - Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys

Do you struggle to find quality leads? Does it seem equally hard to convert your prospects into paid clients? Then you'll benefit from our free webinar, Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys. In this dynamic presentation with law firm marketing expert and best-selling author Stephen Fairley, you'll discover proven tactics used by first-rate lawyers across the country who consistently generate more quality leads than their competitors.

Sign up for Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys and learn how to:

  • Attract more qualified prospects immediately.
  •  Implement cutting edge legal marketing strategies to build your practice.
  • Reduce your Cost Per Client Acquisition (CPCA).
  • Increase referrals from current and former clients.

In addition, you'll learn the secrets of Direct Response Marketing and hear about the case study of a small law firm that doubled their leads in 90 days!

This webinar is ideal for:

  • Solo practitioners and principal attorneys at small law firms.
  • Marketing professionals at small law firms.

Meet Your Presenter
Stephen Fairley is the CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation's largest law firm marketing company specializing in lead conversion for small law firms and solo practitioners. Over 7,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven marketing and lead conversion strategies taught by The Rainmaker Institute. In addition, Stephen is a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert and international best-selling author.

Meet the Organizer
Nolo is passionate about making the law accessible to everyone. Since 1971, our high-quality books, software, legal forms, and online lawyer directory have helped millions of people find answers to their everyday legal and business questions. Nolo's online lawyer directory is a unique tool for attorneys to demonstrate their expertise online and grow their business. To learn more about being listed in Nolo's Lawyer Directory, visit Nolo.com/lawyers/.

Webinar Details
When: March 30, 2011, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: Via computer and/or phone
Cost: Free

There will be a 10-minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the webinar.
Please note that CLE credit is not available for this webinar.

Register now!

If you have any questions, please call 1-877-NOLO-LAW (665-6529).

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Berkeley, CA 94710