Today, I have the pleasure of sharing a special guest post with you from one of the ILN’s partners, Washington University School of Law’s online LLM program. We’re honored that they’ve partnered with us, and this post from Chelsea Wilson, their Community Relations Manager, has some excellent tips for positioning yourself as a subject matter expert – be sure to take notes!
A wonderful long-term strategy for marketing yourself and your law practice online is to gain a reputation as a “subject matter expert.” The blogs, websites, and social media profiles of subject matter experts are hubs of information and analysis, and can become go-to outlets for peers, the public, and the press whenever news breaks on a given topic. For that reason, it can be a valuable strategy for raising your profile, and can be an excellent tool for earning new business.
The following seven tips will aid you in your efforts to become a leader in your practice area. If you are dedicated, and you regularly share valuable content, your efforts will pay dividends for many years to come.
1. Create a blog
Having a blog is a huge help in growing your reputation online. Whenever something significant happens in your practice area, your blog is where you should discuss it.
Blogging on current events gives you a chance to demonstrate that you are not only aware of what’s going on in your practice area, but that you are a meaningful part of the conversation about new developments. If you regularly post to your blog, readers (including peers) may eventually come to your blog first to hear the latest news. And if you manage to achieve that, your opinion will become a driver of the discussion in your practice area.
2. Join social networks (and be active!)
Subject matter experts can’t get enough of their chosen topic—they’re always talking about it! And this doesn’t just mean publishing blog post after blog post. Instead, comment on the posts of others and be social on Facebook and Twitter. Tweet new articles, follow esteemed colleagues, participate in chats, and try to answer questions from other users (while being careful about attorney-client relationships and ethical rules).
In essence, be a part of the conversation.
3. Build relationships
You aren’t in this alone. There are others in your field, including attorneys and members of the press that follow your practice area. Cultivate relationships with reporters and other thought leaders—share their posts, interact with them on various outlets, and add your own meaningful insights. Not only will you learn more about your topic, you will appear in more online locations than just the ones you control, raising your profile.
4. Be a player
Those that are truly dedicated to a particular subject tend to participate in firm, bar association, or governmental committees on the topic. While being aware of new developments is great, being at the forefront of them is ideal.
5. Take time to create worthwhile content
When you create content, don’t rush your piece out. Take the time to produce something that is insightful, offers practical advice, or is otherwise truly worthy of being read. Regularity is key, but if too many of your posts are “thin” on useful information, or merely repeat what is already out there, you won’t develop a meaningful readership.
6. Focus on a specific topic
You’ll get the most value out of your efforts if you are in the lead of a small topic, versus being in the middle of the pack on a larger topic. Focus your attention on a particular issue, and become a master of it. For example, “IP” is probably too broad of a subject to tackle and lead. A smaller slice of the topic, such as “International trademark law” might be a better, more manageable niche area that you can climb to the top of.
7. Don’t over-promote
You aren’t online to request business directly—save that for advertisements. Becoming a subject matter expert is about having a deep knowledge of a particular topic and sharing it with others in order to demonstrate thought leadership. Begging for new clients will severely undermine these efforts. Put your work out there, and if it generates leads, consider them bonuses!
Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s online LL.M. degree program, @WashULaw, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Masters in Law degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world. Join the @WashULaw Community on Twitter.