All lawyers and law firms use the Internet for marketing and business development.
Websites, SEO (search engine optimization), directories, ratings, content marketing, email newsletters and more. Lawyers spend a lot of money and, in most cases, a lot of time, here.
But do lawyers know how these forms of Internet marketing work? Do they know if these forms of Internet marketing work at all for lawyers like them?
Most lawyers marketing on the Internet focus on the easy to measure (traffic, clicks, views, likes and subscribers).
Rather than measuring the easy, widely respected author, speaker and blogger, Seth Godin suggests a different focus.
What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build?
Focus on the real goal – where do you want to be at the end of the day.
An easy but inaccurate measurement will only distract you. It might be easy to calibrate, arbitrary and do-able, but is that the purpose of your work?
I know that there’s a long history of a certain metric being a stand-in for what you really want, but perhaps that metric, even though it’s tried, might not be true. Perhaps those clicks, views, likes and groups are only there because they’re easy, not relevant.
Good lawyers have always generated their best work by word of mouth and relationships. That’s what good lawyers value, that’s what they measure — and of course, the business and revenue generated thereby.
Nothing has changed with the Internet. A lawyer’s word of mouth reputation and relationships remain the lynchpins of business development.
What has changed is how lawyers build relationships and their word of mouth reputation. What took decades before the Internet can be accomplished in a fraction of the time by networking through the Internet.
As you would offline, focus on an area of the law, industry or locale.
You cannot network with an audience that’s comprised of everyone. You can only network with people with similar topical interests – clients, prospective clients, referral sources, association leaders, bloggers and the mainstream media.
Now, just like you would offline, listen.
You would never walk into a room and start reading off content through a bullhorn, push articles at people or announce where you went to law school, what you do and why you’re good at it.
It would be viewed as rude. Same with the Internet – if not by lawyers, at least by the people lawyers are trying to reach.
Listening on the Internet requires tools, none of which are complicated to use.
The first is a news aggregator, of which the most widely used is Feedly. Feedly, available for free for desktop and mobile devices, enables you to subscribe to sources (news sites, digital publications, blogs) and subjects (terms of art, case names, companies etc).
Imagine estate planning on a statewide basis is the niche you are looking to grow. You would subscribe to leading estate planning blogs written by lawyers and financial planners around the country and terms and phrases such as estate planning, types of trusts, tax provisions and the like.
The articles you’ll see represent the conversation in the room in which you will network. Rather than talking first, by publishing content and hoping the right people see it or putting up a website and hoping people look at it after you pay for SEO, you listen.
Next, you engage in the conversation. Reference what others are saying, so that they hear you, and offer your take – your insight.
How so? By blogging and using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Blogging is not just about content, blogging is about engaging in a conversation.
Reference a blog post by another estate planning lawyer by linking to their post in your blog, include a block quote or two from their blog post and share your take, with your intent throughout to offer valuable information to the people of your state or city.
The lawyer you referenced, no matter where they are in the country, will see you what you blogged. They’ll be intrigued that you cited something they wrote. They’re apt to follow your blog and reference what you write on their blog and social media.
The same happens when you reference the writings of associations of estate planning lawyers, financial planners and reporters (state, national, trade) writing on financial planning and estate planning matters.
Blogging in this fashion raises your influence, builds your reputation and grows relationships.
Your referral sources will grow, people who search your name on Google will view you as a trusted and reliable authority in your field (as someone who stays up to speed in their field and who is cited nationally), you’ll be invited to speak and your blog posts will rank high on Google searches because the posts are viewed as important by Google because of the incoming links to your blog posts from citations and social shares..
Twitter can be used to engage your target audience by sharing items you read from Feedly.
“Tweet” the title or an excerpt of what you read. Include the Twitter handle of the author and/or the subject of the piece. This way the author of the piece and the subject will see that you shared their story or a story in which they were referenced.
By engaging the sources and subjects like this you are building relationships in no less an effective way than reaching out to shake their hand.
Overtime, you will be viewed as an intelligence agent in your area of the law, someone others on Twitter should follow if they wish to stay abreast of relevant news and information.
It is one small step from being seen as a trusted source of information to being seen as a trusted and reliable authority in your field.
Twitter is also used for “listening” by following leading authorities and influencers – bloggers, reporters and associations. By sharing and commenting on their tweets in your “retweets,” they will see you and in turn like and share items that you share on Twitter.
Linkedin and Facebook can be used much the same way as blogging – as a means of engagement, networking, building a name and nurturing relationships.
On LinkedIn, share your blog posts with enough of an excerpt so that people can get the gist of your post. LinkedIn’s algorithms will surface the post in the LinkedIn feeds of those who have a relevant interest.
You will be notified on LinkedIn when people like or comment on your post. Connect with them and, as appropriate, drop them a note through LinkedIn – perhaps suggesting that “we should catch up some time.”
You may share others’ articles and blog posts on LinkedIn as well, though they don’t often draw as much engagement as a blog post of yours.
Many lawyers are opposed to using Facebook, others will only use it personally. Such a position is untenable if you want to engage and network with your target audience.
70% of American adults are Facebook users with three-quarters of those users accessing Facebook on a daily basis. Facebook demographics favor lawyers, with users being college educated, affluent and older.
As on Facebook, share your blog posts and articles from others. Not to worry about your personal Facebook friends being bothered by your professional sharing. Facebook algorithms work to put items people want to see in their Facebook News Feed.
Look for opportunities to become a “Facebook friend” with referral sources and influencers of your target audience – bloggers, reporters, community leaders, association leaders and conference coordinators.
Engaging these Facebook friends, even as to personal events as simple as a family vacation, a youth sporting event or a local charitable event breeds trust and relationships.
Relationships and a word of reputation may not be easy to measure, but they are what you hope to accomplish from business development as a lawyer.
Web stats, analytics, followers and subscribers are an easy, but inaccurate measurement that will only distract you. They may be easy to calibrate and achievable, but are they the purpose of your business development as a good lawyer.
Originally written for the Wyoming State Bar Association.