As the remnants of Hurricane Isaac are sweeping through my little town today (just a big thunderstorm, fortunately!), my mind is on blogging. So let's jump into the second half of LexBlog's Blogging Best Practices for Lawyers webinar! (Check out the first half here)
Effective Editorial Content
The next topic that Colin and Helen covered was effective editorial content. Colin said that he looks over every post that comes through the LexBlog network, and as he does, he's looking for people who write like people. So often, bloggers just take their firm's legal alerts and put them on their blog - but it would be more effective to add some personality instead, because it makes the posts more readable.
He used Robin Shea from the Employment and Labor Insider as an example of someone who writes great, funny, easy to read posts, which are then easy to share. Another example of an exceptional writer is Nathan McMurray from Korea Law Today. Colin said that if your content is too dry to read, people won't seek you out for your expertise.
So what's the key here? One of my favorite buzzwords, of course - ENGAGEMENT. Write engaging content, and part of that is writing good content. How can you engage through your content? Cite other people - make an excuse to link out to someone else. No one reading your post will click on that link and suddenly forget that you're a good lawyer - instead, they'll keep coming back. If you cite other people - bloggers, journalists, etc, - people will notice.
When you cite someone in a post, drop them a personal line and share your link. Having these connections with journalists is worthwhile, and they may come back to you in the future as a source for certain expertise. If you're unsure how to do this effectively, check out what similar law firms on the LexBlog network are doing - LexBlog curates all of these posts.
As an additional means of engaging, Helen suggested that when there is someone you want to connect with, you can invite them to do a guest post on your blog, Colin added that you can also do an interview on your blog with them.
Further, you don't have to just focus on cases or current events in your writing - you can answer frequently asked questions, or write lists of things that you think everyone should know. Talk about what's in the news (outside of your area of expertise) and relate it to your topic area in a clever way.
But how about when you are commenting on a case? To be engaging, focus on the outcome, and why it might matter to your clients. Don't just summarize the case - everyone has done that. Explain your take on it, and bring in other people's opinions, cite journalists' opinions and stoke the debate - either disagree or agree. That's a great way to connect with other people. Make sure that you're adding something to the body of work out there on a subject, and not just regurgitating the news.
Colin mentioned Steve Burke from the Corporate Observer, and the ILN's very own Dale Van Demark of Epstein Becker & Green from the Hospital Deal blog, as good examples of this. He added that utilizing your expertise and adding your opinions to your posts doesn't have to upset your clients - just make sure to add your insight.
Sharing Your Posts
Another important part of engaging is sharing your content so that you can get people to come to your blog. If you're active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other social media networks, share your content there. On LinkedIn especially, the people you're connected to are often those that share your professional interests, and will be more interested in reading your content.
As I've said here before though, don't just share your own material - share others' too. People are more likely to pay attention when you're curating information in your area of expertise through your social networks - and, subsequently, they're more likely to pay attention to what you've written.
Many people have asked how they can sync their blog with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but the presenters (and I agree!) warn against this. The title that you've given your post to be most beneficial in searches might not be what you want to say to your social networks - on these, you can personalize it more. Additionally, when your blog is autosynced, you're not able to mention your connections on Twitter or Facebook and you might miss out on the opportunity to engage.
Next, Colin and Helen moved on to talk about having a strategy - Colin advised to always be thinking ahead. When you're writing a post, you may cover other points in the future that are related. While you don't need a long term vision, you should make note of ideas when you have them and keep them on a to-do list. When you see an interesting article that you'd like to write about, tweet it out and make that part of your research process. Editorial calendars can be useful, but don't create homework for yourself - turn your to-do list into a calendar.
Don't forget to publish at a good time for your audience - don't publish a post at 11:30 at night, because people won't read it.
If you are an author on a group blog, it's important to communicate with the other authors and to have some strategy - consider the blog to be your own little newsletter or magazine, and think ahead about what you want to cover.
Then, it was time for some audience questions!
- What's the ideal length? There is no ideal length, though between 250-500 words is generally acceptable. Helen said that posts don't have to be very long, and will generally be much shorter than what you're writing day to day. However, there's no hard and fast rule - if you're a longer writer (like me) but you're conversational (hopefully also like me), you can get away with it.
There are two keys:
If people can connect with the author and...
The author is always providing solid takeaways so reader can learn...
...People will keep coming back - voice, personality and tone are what will make this happen.
Colin added that authors should make sure that the length of their posts is appropriate for the subject - having a series of posts is ideal for larger subjects, and if you have a lot of points to make, make them in separate posts. If you have more than 400-500 words, break them up. Then you have a month's worth of content.
- Talk about images on Pinterest. Helen said that in terms of legal blogging, there hasn't been too much research done. For some niche subjects where images are critical (such as food), Pinterest can be a great source for driving new traffic, but only if your audience is on Pinterest. Typically, people aren't yet using Pinterest for professional legal purposes, but there is that personal element there that allows you to bond with people over other kinds of shared connections.
How do I market myself online? Colin's advice - just be yourself. Interact as you normally would - just because you're a lawyer doesn't mean that you can meet people only by talking about legal topics. For example, he maintains relationships with people on Instagram simply by liking their photos. Any tool can be used for networking as long as you use the tool for what it's meant to be used for.
- Is there a minimum number of posts you should publish each month? Helen said that 2-4 posts per month is fine - a blog should be more about the quality of the posts and not about the quantity. Some authors blog daily, while some blog only twice a month - both can be successful. If you put out one good post a week, that's a decent frequency. The more quality content you have, the more likelihood you have of getting people to read it - however, don't force yourself to put out content that isn't good. Additionally, don't rush - don't publish content just to have something published.
When inspiration strikes, get to it when you can and start writing. Sit down as you're thinking about it (if you can), or at least write down your idea somewhere - the idea might be gone before you know it. You won't get in trouble if you're posting too much - if you hit your stride, and it's rewarding, you'll get momentum and you'll keep going.
Thanks again to Colin and Helen for an excellent webinar, with a lot of great tips - do you have any questions for them (or me) about blogging that weren't answered with their suggestions?