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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.
November 22, 2010

The Biology of Lawyer Bios

In the beginning, lawyers never had bio's - or so I suspect.  Back then, there simply wasn't a need. A lawyer would hang a shingle in the center of town, and get to know folks at houses of worship or stores or community activities. Lawyers' reputations preceded them, and clients never inquired about credentials.

But eventually the practice of law evolved. In 1868, the first lawyer directory, Martindale-Hubbell was born, and with it, the perception of a lawyer bio as serious, dignified and a little bit pompous.

That notion of the lawyer bio survived for nearly a century and a half. And while the traditional lawyer bio may have been appropriate for a post-Civil War businessman looking for a lawyer, it hasn't held up well in an Internet Age where potential clients are better informed and want more information about the their lawyers. Yet today's credential-laden bios don't tell clients what they really want to know, like whether a lawyer will return phone calls or what other clients think of the lawyer's work or whether the lawyer has even an ounce of personality.

Just as in Darwin's Origina of the Species, lawyers who cling to pallid, outdated bios will undoubtedly be rendered extinct. So to avoid this fate, lawyers need not only to adapt their bios, but like Darwin's finches, morph them into different variations appropriate for their target clients.

So, lawyers who practice family law, a field where trust is especially important, should forget about generic bios, and share some personal information to encourage clients to open up, suggests Lee Rosen. Pictures are also a way to personalize a blog, as are videos and lawyers who share their passion, advises Adrian Dayton. Lawyers might also include in their bios their philosophy of law practice, which is one of the features of the Nolo Directory bios and can help clients evaluate compatibility. Here's one example.  [Disclosure: My blog, MyShingle.com receives compensation from Nolo for advertising and content that I provide at this site]

Lawyer bios for corporate clients may have a different set of demands, observes Bob Ambrogi. To stand out from competitors, even bios aimed at more institutional clients must tell a compelling story.  But Bob suggests that they should also include credentials such as where the lawyer went to school, ratings and past matters since corporate clients often care about this kind of information.  Corporate blogs also raise the matter of bio-mutation, i.e., the result when lawyers inject too much personality into a professional profile (in colloquial parlance, it's called TMI) At Great Jakes blog, Dion Algeri cites two specimens that possess what in his view is TMI:  the lawyer bios at  Axiom (basically, a high-end contract lawyer placement group) and Chicago-based Edelston McGuire.  Algeri questions whether these bios would work for all clients, since they focus too heavily on the personal while neglecting the professional  (I didn't find this to be true of the EdelstonMcGuire site, because even though it shared quirky bits like how much coffee each lawyer likes to drink, it did also list some fairly impressive representative matters for the firm's principals).

The emergence of social media is pushing the evolution of bios even further, producing even more new species.  Now,  lawyers must develop a number of different bios - somewhat more formal bios for websites, more casual bios for Facebook and short, pithy variants for Twitter. As Jordan Furlong writes at Stem Legal, Twitter only allows 140 characters for a bio, and needs to be interesting enough to convince another user to follow. Jordan offers some examples of great Twitter bios, while Freelance Folder provides tips on writing a bio that will attract targeted followers.

So where's the bio headed? One possibility is the variant being developed by AboutMe, a one pager comprised of a user's photo which dominates the page, along with a Twitter-like description and links to other online presences. The site is still in beta, but here's an example of a bio created by California lawyer Brian Pedigo. All you need to know, all in one place, this universal bio may just be the perfect species in today's mobile, global world.
September 14, 2009

Legal Marketing: Social Media Trends

So, how many lawyers use online professional networking and social media tools and which ones do they favor?  Interesting questions to be sure, but you're probably wondering why you should care.  After all, as a lawyer you're probably more interested in where and how potential clients are using social media rather than what your colleagues are doing with it. 

However, turning a blind eye to how your colleagues are using social media is a mistake.  Because social media isn't just a static tool -- like a newspaper ad or a website -- for direct generation of clients.  Engaging social media is also a process that enables lawyers to build meaningful relationships with colleagues, which in turn will produce referrals.

A just released study by Leader Networks shows why social media is critical to generating business in the legal profession.  Of the 1474 lawyers surveyed as part of the study (764 private practice lawyers and 710 corporate counsel), 56 percent identified peer referrals or recommendations as the most effective method for finding business, followed by in person networking events (33 percent) and conferences and seminars (15 percent).  Only three percent believed that blogging, listservs or other social media tools helped to generate business.

But here's the rub.  Despite recognizing the importance of networking with peers to generate referrals, most lawyers said that they simply don't have the time to leverage opportunities to network with peers.  And that's where social media can fill the gap.  Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, the ABA's Legally Minded, Martindale Connected or Legal OnRamp, serve as a virtual water cooler, giving lawyers opportunities to exchange quick pleasantries, update colleagues on recent accomplishments ("speaking at national conference" or "just won SJ hearing") and share news of current events or developments in their respective practice areas.   As relationships evolve, you might find yourself consulting with a colleague on another matter or eventually passing on a case -- and vice versa. 

So not surprisingly, more lawyers are joining social networking sites.  According to the Leader Networks Study, 78 percent of lawyers polled reported membership in an online social network, up substantially from 59 percent in 2008.  And participation runs across all age groups, with 86 percent of lawyers aged 25-35 belonging to social networks, followed by 76 percent of those 36-45 and 66 percent of those in the 46-55+ category. 

Still, even though social networking can be less time consuming than traveling to a conference four hours away, it can easily become a time-sink unless lawyers are disciplined about participation.  So here are a few tips to engage social media tools efficiently so that you won't begrudge your participation if referrals don't come as quickly as you'd like.

1.  Choose your weapons

If this is your first foray into social media, you may want to proceed with some caution.  You are better off signing up for two sites and creating a robust presence rather than spreading yourself thin on eight or ten sites. 

However, with so many social media tools available, how can you pick the one that's right for you?  The decision depends largely on your intended targets.  If you're looking to build relationships with other lawyers, here's how various social media sites stack up according to the Leader Network report:

Linked-In - (used by 58% private counsel, 52% corporate counsel);

Martindale-Hubbell Connected, reading and commenting on blogs (42 % private counsel,
35 % corporate counsel);

Public social networks (Facebook, MySpace)  (37% private counsel, 25% corporate counsel);

Online Q&A and expert search services (e.g., WikiHow or Yahoo Answers) (13% private counsel, 19% corporate counsel);

Twitter (6% private counsel, 4% corporate counsel)

Other considerations in choosing a site include:

--Your personality.  If you tend to be shy or reserved, a site like Facebook, which is most interesting when colored by photos or light banter, may not be appropriate.  Instead, you may feel more comfortable at a more sites like Linked-In or Martindale Hubbell Connect, where the interactions are more focused on professional matters.

--Your schedule.  Some types of social media - such as blogging or regularly responding to online questions and answers may be too time consuming to fit into your schedule or to justify based on the resulting returns.  If you're busy, choose social media sites that don't require a large time investment.

--Your markets.  Are your competitors engaged in, or gaining stature at certain social media sites?  If so, you may want to dive in if only to keep an eye on them.  At the same time, don't avoid a social media site just because it's not populated with other lawyers from your practice area.  There's something to be said for gaining a first mover advantage.

2.  Recognize the process for building relationships

Because this post is focused primarily on use of social media as a way to build connections and generate referrals and business from other lawyers (as opposed to directly from clients), I'm going to assume that as your goal.  So how do you reach the point where you establish a relationship that encourages referrals?

In many ways, the stages of relationship building on social media parallel those in a traditional office environment.  For example, if you ever worked in an office, recall how you went about establishing relationships with colleagues.  During the first few weeks, you likely exchanged greetings and perhaps emailed each other about work related projects.  As you grew more comfortable, perhaps you went to lunch together or out for a cup of coffee and chatted about personal matters like your vacation plans or girlfriend or kids.  Finally, after more time, you may have gotten together outside of the office for a ball game or a tennis match.  Having established this level of camaraderie, you most likely tried to help your colleague professionally by referring him clients or making sure to sing his praises to management.

The same process takes place in the online world as well.  Initially, you may exchange greetings with a colleague whom you've "friended" on Facebook.  After a few weeks, you may comment on photos she's posted of family or offer some sympathy after she's posted about a bad day.  Finally, if you learn that your Facebook colleague will be visiting your city or speaking at a conference that you plan to attend, you might try to schedule an offline, in person meeting which will solidify the relationship.  Once you've grown comfortable with each other, your colleague will trust you enough to send contacts.  Plus, because you have a personal friendship, your colleague will make an effort to help you out, and vice versa.

3.  Don't dive in too quickly

You want social media relationships to evolve offline, but at the same time, you don't want to jump in too quickly.  Avoid friending 400 people whom you barely know all at once and then sharing 40 items with them daily.  Likewise, don't bombard Twitter with self-promotional posts or you'll just turn off followers.  You wouldn't like it if an office mate barged in to your conversation with a co-worker and began gabbing away, would you?  Turns out, social etiquette in social media isn't all that different.

4.  Set up a social media schedule

Some social media tools, particularly Facebook and Twitter can quickly become addictive.  If you spend too much time online, you won't get any work done - and worse, you'll create the impression that you're not very busy.  A realistic schedule might include (1) blocking off thirty minutes early  in the morning to log on to your social media accounts and return messages, send messages and tend to any updates and then (2) repeating the process sometime during the late afternoon or evening.   Or you might block out three to four 15 minute segments throughout the day to come online.  Of course, during really busy periods, you may not have any time for social media - so try to stick to the schedule when you can to establish a reasonably consistent presence.

5.  Do not outsource your social media! 

You don't need to read any further than my last post here to understand the dangers of outsourcing social media campaigns.

Conclusion:  Increasingly, lawyers are joining social media - but there's still time to get on board.   You just need to keep an open mind about the possibilities that social media holds to  build meaningful and lasting connections with colleagues that will provide both financial and personal rewards.

For more detailed information on how lawyers can use social media, take a look at my ebook on Social Media for Lawyers.  

June 5, 2009

Legal Marketing Round-Up

Once again, it's time for a round-up post, updating information that I covered in earlier posts.

1. Lawyer-Bloggers All A-Twitter About the Value of Twitter 

Back in February 2009, I considered whether lawyers should be using Twitter, ultimately concluding that at the very least, they ought to give it a try.  Last month, however, lawyer marketing expert Larry Bodine stirred up a controversy with this piece contending that Twitter isn't a very effective tool for lawyer marketing.  Bodine highlighted Twitter's high churn rate, with 60 percent of users dropping off after just a few months' use and pointed out that other tools such as email promotions and blogs were more effective ways to drive traffic to a website.  Most significantly, Bodine argued that Twitter was a time sink -- a distraction from getting real marketing work done that didn't lead to serious business.

Bodine's post earned him lots of criticism in the blogosphere, which David Barrett exhaustively summarizes at Linked In Lawyer.  Most of the commentary emphasizes that Twitter isn't an end in itself, but a supplement to other marketing tools, such as creating an introduction to warm up a cold call or other personal connection, or helping lawyers reinforce their personal brand.

2.  Are Listservs Obsolete?

Back in December, I made the point that the new generation of social media still hadn't rendered listservs obsolete.  Fast forward six months... and is that still the case?  Via the Legal History Blog, I came across this interesting article, Where Do Legal Listservs Fit in A Social Media World? by law librarian Greg Lambert.  Lambert notes that while listservs still remain a great way to build relationships, network, and discover new resources, at the same time, they have drawbacks such as "lazy research" (obvious questions sent out to 2500 members) and a tendency to generate flame wars if left unmoderated.  Lambert favors Ning (which I'll post about on Monday) as his tool of choice for combining the ease of use and spontaneity of listservs without the drawbacks.  I checked out the Law Librarian Ning that Lambert referenced -- and while it's a nice looking site, it lacks the fluid interaction of a listserv.  At the same time, the participants have all filled out bios, which can facilitate connections and networking.
April 29, 2009

Updates on Previous Topics

As I did a few weeks back, here are a couple of updates to topics that I covered previously:

For Twitter, which I posted about here, there are two great blog posts on usage.  At Law21, Jordan Furlong focuses on Twitter as a business tool, while Steve Matthews of Stem Legal shares the most comprehensive list of dos and don'ts that I've seen to date.

Meanwhile, relevant to my earlier post on eBooks is a classic by marketing guru Trey Ryder explaining education-based marketing.  Since eBooks are a great example of education-based marketing, Ryder's post may give you added motivation to try an eBook campaign.
April 13, 2009

Updates on Posts

Since the world of Internet marketing and social media changes so rapidly, I've decided to offer routine updates on earlier posts so that you can stay current on the latest and greatest.  So without further fanfare, here's the first round-up:

1. Two weeks ago, I posted about how lawyers can use eBooks for marketing.  However, as Amanda Fazani points out at this April 6 post at BloggingTips.com, eBooks are also a great tool for building traffic to your blog, which in turn can generate business for your firm.  If you can't come up with topics, Fazani suggests several ideas, including:

  • Collect your 10 most popular posts and repackage with a little extra commentary.
  • Expand on the concept of your most popular blog post.
  • Create a directory of resources which are useful for your target audience.
  • Write an FAQ to answer popular questions from readers of your site.
Fazani also recommends using a Creative Commons license for your eBook so that you can retain some control over the way in which the book is redistributed by others. 

Also,  if you're looking for ways to broaden distribution of your eBook, consider the options for distributing articles discussed in this blog post at Stephen Fairley's Rainmaker Institute. Fairley explains that you should submit articles you've written to re-distribution sites like  Article Marketer, isnare.com, or SubmitYourArticle.com and there's no reason why you couldn't also submit portions of your eBook to gain further visibility.

2.  About six weeks ago, I posted here about
how lawyers are using Twitter.  Last week, Simon Chester asked that question of his readers at Canadian law blog Slaw.com and some of the responses are illuminating.  Also at Slaw.com, I learned that Jim Calloway, Practice Management Advisor of the Oklahoma Bar offers his own take on Twitter in this article,  Twitter: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly.

In the meantime, whether lawyers are using Twitter or not, there's no dispute that this social media tool is gaining traction.  According to this recent Mac World article:

Twitter traffic is up 700 percent over last year, and it's all thanks to the old-timers. That's according to the latest numbers from ComScore, which says Twitter drew almost 10 million visitors worldwide in February 2009. In the past two months alone, Twitter traffic has grown by 5 million worldwide visitors, while U.S. Twitter traffic accounted for 4 million visitors in February 2009 -- a 1000 percent jump over last year.
What's most interesting is that the average age for Twitter users is in the 25- to 54-year-old range, with the over-45 set comprising the bulk of users.  So if you're in that age category and previously considered other social media tools too childish, you may want to explore Twitter some more.
February 23, 2009

To Twitter or Not To Twitter? That Is the Question for Lawyers

Over the past nine months or so, Twitter, a micro-blogging service that enables users to communicate with each other in 140-character spurts has steadily gained traction with lawyers.  Some lawyers regard Twitter as a bit of time-sink in an age of information overload, while others revere its immediacy and use it largely for business purposes.  I'll admit that initially, I too was was skeptical of certain aspects of Twitter, though it's since grown on me as I've become a regular user.

But that's just me.  As for you, to Twitter or not to Twitter? That is the question that I'll address in this post.  But before I evaluate the pros and cons, I'll begin with a quick description of what Twitter is, how it works, and how lawyers are using it for marketing and other purposes.

1.  What is Twitter?

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is "a social neworking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length."  Users can find out what others are doing by signing up to "follow" their tweets and can comment by sending a reply.  You can keep messages private (by direct messaging) or posting them to all your followers (the default).  If you're interested in seeing what the Twitter interface looks like, take a look at this Legal Tech presentation by Chris Winfield.

Users employ Twitter in a variety of ways.  Lawyer Bob Ambrogi summarized sixteen "reasons to embrace the Tweet" -- which include sharing information (such as links to recent blog posts or news items of interest) -- like monitoring buzz by finding out what topics are of interest to lawyers, making introductions to lawyers whom you're following and would like to meet and even finding clients by responding to inquiries for legal assistance that sometimes crop up in the conversation.

More recently, Twitter has helped build communities of lawyers.  Two sites, LexTweet and Justia Legal Birds list lawyers with Twitter accounts along with information on where they're located and how many followers they have.  If you're ever heading out to a law-related conference, chances are it will feature a "tweet-up," i.e., a casual, in-person get together of fellow 'tweeps.

2.  Getting Started

The only way to get started on Twitter is to dive right in.  After registering for the site, you can check your email to determine whether you already know folks on Twitter -- because you can sign up to follow them.  After that, you may choose to follow some of their followers or identify other lawyers from LexTweet or Justia Legal Birds whom you might want to follow as well.  If you're interested in expanding your inner circle, use Twellow or Summize  to search for specific topics that interest you and find people within those groups to follow.  Feel free to introduce yourself, but thereafter, you can jump into a conversation.

You can use Twitter through the web, but most power users rely on applications like Tweetdeck to keep track of tweets and replies.

3.  So, is Twitter for me?

Continue reading "To Twitter or Not To Twitter? That Is the Question for Lawyers" »