Now that it’s 2020, I think (read: I hope) that we’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s important to develop a strong plan that identifies the goals that we have for business development, and the tactics and strategies that we’ll use to develop those goals, right? I have a sneaking suspicion that there are still a few people out there who are throwing various ideas up at the wall with the hope that some of them stick, and this is the year to stop doing that. Really, I mean it.
In my post today, I’m going to talk a lot about content marketing, and yes, I know I’m using both the dreaded words “content” and “marketing” together, but stick with me, because we’re also going to look at how these tips impact the message that you’re sending out regardless of the activities that you’re pursuing. Why is that? Because no matter what you do, you’re offering a message about yourself. Talking to someone in line for coffee about how you help clients? I hate to tell you, but you’re marketing yourself (and by the way, that’s a good thing).
So let’s look at specifically how the content that you put out can be making a more substantial impact – after all, if you’re going to do the work of putting it together, you want it to have the greatest impact it can, right?
A few years ago, I read an article on content marketing that got me thinking. The most important part was this (and bear with me through the buzzwords):
[I]f the primary goal of your content is better SEO, then you’re an SEO practitioner, not a content marketer. If the primary goal of your content is to have something to put in your email newsletter, then you’re an email marketer, not a content marketer. And if the primary goal of your content is to attract more social media traffic, then you’re a social media marketer, not a content marketer.”
Of course, content marketers should still care about SEO, email, and social. But if you’re a content marketer, your content goals come first and everything else follows. The clue is in the name.”
I know all of these terms may give you hives, because what you’re really thinking is, “but I’m a LAWYER.” While that’s true, in addition to being a lawyer, you’re also in the business of selling legal services – that’s just how it is. So that’s where all of these other things that may give you hives to think about come into play.
Are you thinking that the idea of having a lot of traffic to your website sounds like a good idea? Or having a ton of people show up to your next seminar? Or having thousands of LinkedIn connections? Or attending a networking event with a huge list of attendees? More people checking out your website, or seminar, or profile means more people using your legal services, right? Not necessarily.
The article referenced above makes an important distinction when talking about sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy – “they have business models that rely on traffic, not sales.” You may think of “sales” as a dirty word, but it’s an important one, too.
So what does that mean in terms of content marketing (and your law practice, for that matter)?
[C]ontent marketers need to do far more than just persuade people to click. Traffic from social media only gets the reader to your content. After that, your content still has to be persuasive enough to achieve your broader marketing goals. The success of your strategy relies on the content being informative, memorable, and persuasive enough to convince the reader to do something else. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
This is the point at which lawyers should become more comfortable – as good content marketers (read this as “good business developers”), we don’t WANT to rely on sleazy, cheap curiosity-building techniques to drive people to your website or content or seminar, etc. The idea is not to become like a used car salesman here. It’s to start with intelligent, valuable, substantive content, and then to use the tools that are available to use to distribute and promote that content so that the people who will find it most relevant are able to find it, and then also have access to you as its author.
Bearing that in mind, let’s look at two tips today for how you can promote your content, and yourself, using social media in an effective way. We’re going to start with one assumption – that you have great, substantive content to begin with – as smart, talented lawyers, we’re calling that table stakes here. With that in mind, let’s look at two tips, inspired by the article referenced above, that you can use in promoting this content in social media (and elsewhere).
Tip One: Be Catchy with your Titles and Descriptions, but Be Specific
This is a huge pet peeve of mine, so I’m addressing it first. I see two BIG problems in this area happening over and over again, and typically starting with the title of articles or blog posts that lawyers are authoring:
- The title is extremely catchy and short, but it’s so vague that anyone not familiar with the blog’s subject or firm’s expertise will have no idea what it’s about. Secondarily, it’s almost impossible to find the post weeks or months later if someone wants to refer back to it, because there are no keywords in the title that aid in locating it.
- The title is TOO descriptive and ends up being so long and includes so much legalese and keywords that it’s not easily shared – this turns people off to sharing it, and they’re unlikely to do the work of shortening the title themselves.
These are two opposite ends of the spectrum here, but they’re not exaggerations – I see both of these almost daily when wading through content. And it goes back again to the most important lesson of content marketing: Focus on your audience.
If you put yourself into the shoes of your target audience, ask yourself, what would they want to learn from the title of the post or article that will get them to click on it? Here are some examples of titles that work:
- Cryptocurrency and OFAC: Beware of the Sanctions Risks
- Emerging Cyber-Security Threats for 2020: The Rise of Disruptionware and High-Impact Ransomware Attacks
- What happens to EU trade marks after Brexit?
- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s Impact on Cross-Border Transactions
- “OK, Boomer” – What Amounts to Actionable Age Discrimination?
As you can see, each of these posts tells the person clicking on it exactly what they should expect to get from the blog itself. They’re clever, without being vague, and they’re also short enough that they’re easy to share even on Twitter. The Content Marketing Institute article points out that some people may worry that a headline that’s too specific will keep people from clicking to find out more. But…
Stuff the curiosity gap. Let me be very clear about this. If you really think you can give too much away in 140 [now 280] characters (including link) to make the content itself redundant, then you probably need to rethink the depth and substance of your content.”
Your content is far more than a fluffy distraction. You don’t want to attract readers who are merely curious to find out what you’re about. You want to attract an audience with an interest in your chosen topic area that cannot be sated in 10 words or less. Otherwise, your content marketing strategy is targeting the wrong people with the wrong content.”
This should be a great relief to lawyers – that’s EXACTLY what you want. People who are interested in your topic area enough to come to your blog, article, presentation, or even shake your hand directly, and want to learn more, share your words, engage with you there and on social media, and either refer you to those that need your services, or avail themselves of them directly.
So make sure that your titles, and also the way that you’re describing your content when you share your own content on social media, are both descriptive and relevant, without including too much “legalese” so that you’re properly supporting your content efforts.
This doesn’t just relate to sharing online either – this is about any “content” that you’re sharing too.
- What are the titles that you’re using when you present? Are they descriptive and to the point? What draws people to want to see the sessions or panels that you’re participating in?
- What is your “elevator speech” when you meet someone? Do you tell them that you’re a lawyer, or do you tell them about the problems that you solve for clients?
- Same with your social bios – when someone comes to your LinkedIn bio, for example, does it say that you’re a lawyer at x firm, or does it say the type of lawyer that you are, the types of solutions that you offer? What is the reason that clients or potential clients want to click to connect with you, AND will make you more memorable in the future?
Again, the idea here is not just to get eyeballs, regardless of where your audience is – face to face, or virtually. It’s about connecting with the right people, who are genuinely interested in you and what you do, AND have a need for your legal services. And then you can deliver on that need by talking to them about how you solve the problems that they have, first in more general terms, and then once they form that official client/attorney relationship, more specifically.
Tip Two: Add Context to your Social Sharing
I will admit, this is something I’m guilty of – I take the title of my posts and share that along with my shortened link, and that’s it (however, that’s why I think having descriptive titles is essential!). But every time you share content, no matter which platform you’re using (Twitter, LinkedIn, or in person etc.), it’s an opportunity to engage people in conversation with you.
And when you engage them in conversation, they’re going to feel a sense of loyalty that will make them not only interested in this content, but also future content, and will make them more likely to share your work with their connections, thus broadening your audience. So as the Content Marketing Institute suggests:
If space allows, add a little context. Avoid generic, cut-and-paste phrases such as ‘Here’s our latest post’ or ‘This week’s edition of the Brand X newsletter is out.’ These are wasted characters that could be used far more effectively. I write every update from scratch so it always feels spontaneous, fresh, and relevant.”
CMI mentions another pet peeve of mine in their tip there, and that is the use of generic phrases – this goes back to our Tip One, and wanting to avoid titles that are too vague. When you share content on social media and the context that you’re providing is too vague, you’re inviting people to ignore it.
We all see FAR too much noise each day to actively seek out useful information. We have to be smacked in the face with it. You may think that your latest employment newsletter is full of relevant and valuable information, and it may very well be. But if your audience is full of HR managers who are following a number of employment lawyers on twitter, and every one of them puts out an employment newsletter, what are they more likely to click on?
- Summer edition of our employment newsletter
- Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest employment law news
- Employment Law Newsletter time!
- A new amendment in #Alabama provides clarity for employers on restrictive covenants
- Employment Law Newsletter (July Edition) now available
These were all taken from actual tweets on Twitter. When you see them together in that way, it’s easy to see why it’s important to offer some descriptive context, from the point of view of your audience, that will encourage them to click on the link that you’ve also included to learn more. You’re providing value. And you’re making them want to share that value with others, which extends your reach further. This isn’t about who is a great lawyer, or who provides better value – this is about who can stand out. You may be the smartest person in the room, and you may have written the smartest article on your area of practice. Why sell yourself short with a lackluster title and no context? We’re all busy people – don’t give your potential clients any more work to do than absolutely necessary, because I promise you, they’re not going to do it.
The same goes for any other type of interaction – you want to spend time with people who make you feel interested and engaged (usually the people who ask you a lot of questions about yourself, and let you do most of the talking). You want to go to conference sessions that sound really interesting and informative, and that will leave you with a takeaway that will actually help your business when you return to the office. Not only do all of those things leave you with a positive impression of the person who is engaging and presenting and authoring them, but you’re more likely to remember that person, and associate them with the positive feelings you had about that topic, reach out when you need them for work in that area, and recommend them to your friends and colleagues when they need someone.
You’re doing the work anyway – help it stand out.