Last week, I had the pleasure of attending LexBlog’s webinar "Daily Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers" with Kevin O’Keefe (@kevinokeefe). Kevin kicked off the session by saying that there is no perfect way to blog, but that over the past ten years, he’d develop some habits that work for him.
The session covered:
- Essence of blogging
- Listening tools
- Complementary Social Media
- Habits of LexBloggers
Essence of Blogging
According to Kevin, blogging is a conversation. It’s not writing content, or writing to get page views. The internet is a communications tool, formed by the educational and military communities for communication purposes.
Because blogging is a conversation, you have to listen to what’s going on, and what other people are writing. Showing your prowess doesn’t get you anywhere – it’s like going to a networking event and just reading your content to people. Yes, you’ll become well known, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of trying to come up with something original (Kevin says that all the original ideas are already gone), he reads what’s out there, shares it, and offers his take.
In doing so, he is also careful to be real and authentic – he does his own blogging, and reads and responds to things himself. It’s not a real conversation if it doesn’t come from you. He admitted that authenticity in legal blogging can be a risk, but it’s an essential part of successful blogging. In a good blog post, what you’re doing is taking information that you’ve heard or read, referencing and citing it, and then engaging the party that you refer to.
Kevin suggested reading his post from the day before, "Can you be both authentic and sincere in your use of social media?" for more conversation on the topic of authenticity.
Before jumping into the actual tools for listening, Kevin talked about how to listen:
- Follow sources: These can be magazines, trade publications, other blogs, etc. Kevin noted that these will be different for everyone, depending on their area of expertise. Bloggers should look at who their sources are, and these won’t be clients and potential clients. The most important people to try to reach are influencers, such as influential blogs, trade publications and others. To best follow these sources, Kevin suggests using an RSS reader to bring them to you – he says that the only people not using RSS readers to get at this information are those with time on their hands.
- Monitor subjects: Subjects can often be more important than sources. Kevin suggested looking for terms of art that you use in your practice – make a list of the words that are most important. These may be broad, but you can then filter through Google by the most influential sources for these terms. Now you have subjects and searches coming to you, and all you have to do as a great blogger is to skim those feeds on the days you have time.
LexBlog ran a poll to see what tools the audience is using most for listening – social media, RSS, offline sources, content discovery, and LXBN. Of these, the most used were social media and offline sources, followed by RSS, LXBN and content discovery tools.
In the good old days, we had Google reader, but since Google got rid of it, the largest replacement has been Feedly. It has 100 million users, and it can be used on any device.
Kevin showed a screen shot of how Feedly looks on his desktop, and how to set up searches for keywords and subjects. The only blogs that will show up under Google News on Feedly are those who get into Google (Kevin added that although he rarely, if ever, checks his blog traffic, getting into Google News boosted his traffic by 50%).
Using Feedly, you can subscribe to different terms and look up what you want. He showed how you can scroll to the bottom of the page, and click that you want to get information on that term, and where you want that information to go.
Once this is set up, browse these stories to see what you might want to write about, and us those as inspiration. Kevin said to think of Feedly as your database for stories and subjects – as you write, you can refine what you include in Feedly, and add to it as needed.
Kevin shared the example of the NY Times RSS feed. Rather than subscribing to a paper copy, readers can choose which of the subjects that the Times writes about they are most interested in, and subscribe just to that subject using RSS. When something interests you enough to write about it, reference the reporter and reach out to them and let them know. Offer to have coffee the next time you’re in New York. The conversation begins with an article they’ve written – they talked, you listened and wrote about it, and now you’re going to engage with that person and share with other people.
Lawyers used to cut out articles for their clients and send those along with a note telling them why it was relevant to them. But the only person that saw that was the client. Now, everyone can see what you have to say, because you’re blogging it instead of sending one copy to one person.
Kevin added that the only people who think blogging is hard are those people who don’t have a passion for their subject, or they don’t understand how blogging works.
Flipboard is another listening tool, which also works on many devices. Kevin likened it to a personalized magazine comprised of subjects that you’re interested in. He showed a few slides for how to effectively use it as a blogger.
Flipboard will differ based on what you like and your preferences, and Kevin showed that when opening an individual article, you get a lot of options for sharing that content (email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). You don’t have to use these things, but it’s a way to think about making your notes for blogging, and how to get inspiration.
Mr. Reader has Feedly come into it – it has all of the same folders as are set up in Feedly, but looks a lot cleaner. For Kevin, this helps to keep him focused. It also offers a pop up when you’re sharing something that pre-populates, so if you don’t have the time to cut and paste the title, you can still share information easily. Kevin advised to remember to let the person know when you’ve shared their content.
For Kevin, Twitter is the place where he gets and takes his notes for blogging. If he wants ideas for blogs, he goes right to Twitter – he looks at what he shared that day that was interesting to him, and that is his inspiration for a post.
Twitter is also good for building social media activity, as long as you’re giving more than you’re asking other people for. Social media equity is built by sharing.
Zite is like the Pandora of content – it learns what you like based on what you tell it. Zite looks a little like Flipboard, but it’s different because it frames the information for you. You can stay in touch with leading writers in your area through Zite. Kevin showed how you can give it a search term, and it pulls in the information that you want. He added that all of the tools he had mentioned are also available on mobile devices.
Buffer "buffers" the things that you share (hence the name). You can set up the times that you want your information to come out (tweets, etc), and it schedule them for you. Kevin noted that he schedules his information to come out at the times he is present, so that he can engage with people.
When it comes to writing a blog, there are a few things that are important:
- Are you passionate?
- Is it fun?
- Engage source
- Engage target
- Flickr images
Passion & Fun
Kevin said that starting a blog is "magic wand time" – if you could have anything, what clients do you really want? What are you going to add to the conversation? What makes you fired up? Don’t have a blog just to have a blog.
Those blogs that fail only do so because the authors don’t have passion. If you blog about the things you’re passionate about, you’re giving of yourself in a way that you’re focused on helping, and you’re also learning.
Engage a Source
Kevin has talked about this a number of times, so he showed an example of a post her wrote where he engaged a source. Claire Cain Miller of the NY Times had written about using Google+, and in her article, she discussed talking with someone at Google and others. Kevin cited one of her quotes, and engaged her by linking to the article, including her twitter handle (another habit of his, so that it’s easy for him to reference her in a tweet), and let her know he’d written about her.
Engage a Target
When it comes to engaging a target, ask yourself who you want to meet. Maybe it’s a large legal company – so link to them when you’re writing about something that may be of interest to them. When Kevin does that, after publishing, all of those targets are engaging with each other about what he said in his post. Figure out who you want to meet, and reference them.
Kevin gets all of his images from Flickr, where he is careful to only search in the creative commons for images. He gets a 500×500 photo that looks great on Zite or Flipboard. Images are everything, Kevin noted (and I would agree). Here at Zen, we use iStockPhoto for all of our images, so that there’s no concern over copyright.
Kevin uses mobile for blogging almost exclusively – he blogs right from his iPad with an application for WordPress.
An audience question came in, asking how Kevin recognizes and separates out a good topic from a great one to blog about from current events. Kevin said that the key is being fired up to write the post. When there’s a timely issue or breaking news, there is an opportunity/window to cover it. He advised making the time to do it right away, or risk looking out of touch. Also, look at how you’re helping people, whether you’re learning something, and whether you’re passionate about it.
Another audience member commented that when a blog focuses on a serious topic, being fun may not serve the blogger or audience well.
Kevin clarified that his definition of "fun" focused more on how rewarding writing about a subject is for the author than on being flippant. He said that the word fun doesn’t demean the seriousness of the responsibility you have, but that you should enjoy it and find it rewarding.
LexBlog asked another poll question about where the audience members get their images – paid stock services, free stock images, Google images, other, or no images. Most of the audience answered that they use paid stock photo services, while 26% said they don’t use images at all. They cautioned the audience about using Google images, which can have associated copyrights, and suggested that those not using images consider them, since they have an impact across devices as to how the posts will look and be showcased.
Kevin expanded on the importance of images, saying that if someone is flipping through Feedly, the image will pop up, and often pop out at them. It can mean the difference between having your own page, with the image and text, or being listed with a group of other titles. Kevin asked the audience to consider the volume of people using mobile – it’s huge.
Pictures and video are what people want – the usage of Pinterest and Instagram confirm that. People might argue that the law doesn’t use images, and Kevin said to think about when newspapers said that it was okay to keep doing what they had always done, and now they’re suffering. You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done – it won’t always work.
Complementary Social Media
Although you don’t have to use all of these tools, you should at least be thinking about them:
- Twitter: Twitter is good for keeping notes, as Kevin described earlier.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most comfortable platform for lawyers. Kevin showed how LinkedIn looks on his iPad, which tells him who’s viewed his page, blog posts of his, and how people can share, like and comment on his posts. He can then reach out to those who have engaged with him that he’d like to know better.
- Facebook: Kevin uses Facebook for two things – he has a page for his bog, and also uses it to build relationships with people. People can be too quick to dismiss Facebook, which is foolish – most of the people who share his blog posts are his friends on Facebook. Facebook is where you find the stuff that life is made of.
- Google+: Kevin uses Google+ a lot, which is important for a couple of reasons. The first of these is having a Google Author ID – this is akin to having a driver’s license and passport for the internet. It helps to associate your content with you. To have a Google Author ID, you need a Google+ profile, which is not hard to get, and LexBlog can help set up the ID on your blog.
Kevin also shares content on Google+ – he may not be visiting there, but he’s sharing there daily, because it helps his influence.
Habits of LexBloggers
Kevin wrapped up by sharing a few habits of LexBlog authors, including one from yours truly!
- Editorial calendar (this was mine!)
- Blog ideas folder
- Google new alerts on your niche
- Legal subscriptions
- Regular routine (maybe only write Saturday mornings) – this is important that you need a routine.
- Email ideas to yourself
- Questions from clients – write down questions for clients on your blog idea pad.
- Blog to teach yourself – when you want to learn something, research it and write a blog about it.
- Spouse/child proofs
There was one more audience question that came in, asking how a legal marketer can encourage attorneys to manufacture content. Kevin said that there’s a special place in heaven for legal marketers (indeed), and that the biggest thing is to have a blog champion. Until there’s a champion, it’s impossible to get anywhere.
To find this person, ask yourself who you would want to deal with, and whether they want to achieve more in their practice. Then, empower them. You can’t blog for them, but you can educate them, and give them the tools and the opportunity to move forward.
There are other things you can do as well – lunch and learns on subjects will sometimes encourage lawyers to download things on the spot that they think are cool or neat, which will encourage them. You can also tie it to "what are we accomplishing" – lawyers will always want this to be revenue. If they can feel that blogging gets them revenue because it’s growing their reputation and relationships, that will work.
Thanks again to Kevin for a fabulous webinar, full of a lot of great information. I learned a few things that I plan to implement myself – what are your tips for blogging?