Who’s Using Social Media?

Lawyers ask me all of the time whether they should get involved in social media platforms, and whether those platforms really do anything to help them build their practices or attract potential clients and referral sources.

When answering this question (or similar questions about any particular marketing endeavor), I encourage lawyers to first determine two things: first, what is their purpose or intended outcome (for example, do they want to get in front of a wider audience, have a platform for distributing content, build relationships with existing clients, or attract potential new clients, etc.?) and second, depending on that purpose, is the audience they are seeking involved in that particular activity?

If you’re seeking to target a specifically male or specifically female audience, for example, his infographic from InternetServiceProviders.org,  may help you to determine if your audience is participating on social media:


Social Gender Infographic

As I discussed in a recent post on Slaw.ca, if you have a business to business practice and in-house counsel play a role in selecting or retaining outside counsel, LinkedIn might be a good platform for you to consider. As I discussed in that post, the 2013 In-house Counsel New Media Engagement Survey revealed that more and more in-house counsel are influenced by blogs and social media, with LinkedIn’s “professional network” being the one they use most for their professional contacts.

Don’t forget that even if your audience is participating on a particular platform, you’ll need to ensure that your content fits with the culture of that particular site. It’s great to have an opportunity to communicate with your intended audience, but you’ve also got to make sure that your message will resonate, and not turn them off. For example, if your audience is on LinkedIn, don’t ignore the culture, which is one of professionalism and business-oriented discussion, rather than the more personal sharing that may occur on other platforms (such as Facebook, for example).

Google Plus for Lawyers

Google PlusI’ve been getting a lot of questions from lawyers lately about Google Plus – do they really need yet another social network to concern themselves with? The answer may depend on why you’re considering Google Plus for yourself or your law firm. Many lawyers evaluate social media platforms based on whether their clients use them. But if that describes you, at least in the case of Google Plus, you may want to adjust your thinking.

Google Plus is Google. You know – the search engine – the one everyone is always trying to ‘game,’ to pay “SEO experts” to ‘get to the top’ of, the one you may be paying for adwords or pay per click campaigns to boost your visibility or drive traffic to your website. If you’re serious about online visibility, you need to pay attention to Google Plus and Google’s related services. Google “favors” content from Google+ in its search results, and if you use Gmail and Google Contacts, they integrate with Google+, making for an easier user experience.

Finally, it’s FREE. Why ignore the free option and throw money at the paid services? And what are the chances that you will be found in organic Google search results in the future if you don’t have a presence on Google? Why take that chance?

Google+

Google+ is similar to other social networks; you create a personal (or business) profile, follow others ( by placing them in “circles”), and post content including links, photos, videos and other media. It has over 500 million registered users, of whom about 235 million are active monthly.

As with anything else, you will want to make sure your profile is credible, authoritative and contains good content and information about you.

Google+ Circles

Circles work like Friend Lists on Facebook, except that on Google+, you must add people to at least one circle (on Facebook, you can ‘friend’ someone without adding them to a specific friend list). Just as you do when choosing an audience for posts on Facebook, you can choose which Circles to share specific information with on Google Plus.

Unlike Facebook, you can add someone to a Circle without them having to add you back – it is a one-way, rather than a two way relationship. For personal profiles, if someone adds you to a Circle and you don’t add them to one of your Circles, they will only see your public posts on Google+. By contrast, business pages (discussed below) require that a user add your Page to their circles before your business page can add them to your circles.

Google+ Business Pages

Google+ also offers businesses the opportunity to set up profiles, called Google Plus Business Pages. Firms and organizations should consider consider setting up profiles on the site because there are many advantages to having a presence on the network, and Google is investing more time in business pages, as can be seen by the recent release of the Google dashboard discussed below. In addition, as mentioned above, Google wants more people to begin using Google+, and it has begun ranking posts to the network very high in its search engine. If you are at all concerned about optimizing either your personal or professional appearances in search engine results, this may be the main reason to set up a Google Plus account.

Google+ business pages can have multiple administrators, just like Facebook business pages can.

Google dashboard

Google has now made things even easier for its users by creating an integrated dashboard to help you manage your information across all of Google’s services, including not only Maps and Search, but also Plus and Local (formerly Google Places).

If you set up a Google Places account so that your firm could be seen on Google Maps and for purposes of Google search, the look of your business listing has changed to be more consistent with the look and feel of Google+, and the name has changed to Google+ Local. Now you can also combine your Google+ Local page and your Google+ Business page into one complete page that is both listed on Google Maps and incorporates the social features of Google Plus.

According to Google Engineer Pavni Diwanji, using the dashboard businesses can now:

  • Update core business information (hours, location, etc.) to Google properties such as search, maps and Google Plus.
  • Monitor notifications on their Google Plus page and manage their account
  • See “at-a-glance” data about their AdWords Express account
  • Create and manage special offers through Google Offers
  • Conduct hangouts (video chat) with fans and customers

Google+ Integration

Another advantage Google+ offers users is the ability to link to every single other one of their online profiles and websites. (Other social media sites allow the following number of outside links: Twitter-1; Facebook-2; LinkedIn-3). Google+ is the only one that allows its users to create a complete profile of all of their online activities in one place. This is also important for Google authorship, which is discussed in a bit more detail below.

If you are already using other Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Google Calendar, etc., you can easily share anything from them with your Google+ Circles. If you use Google Ads, your click-through rates will improve if you include Google+ material. Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) allows users to post reviews and photos of places and businesses directly to their Google+ pages. Google+ Events allows users to create events and invite people to them, then share photos and videos in real-time as the events take place, and it integrates with Google Calendar.

Google+ Hangouts

Hangouts used to refer only to the Google+ free online videoconferencing feature (which supports up to 10 participants), but now hangouts encompass what used to be Google Talk – essentially a chat service which supports photos and emoticons. You can invite anyone to join you in a video hangout (whether they are a Google user or not) on the spot or you can schedule hangouts for some time in the future and invite others to attend. You can even live stream your hangouts (called Hangouts On Air). Your hangout will be recorded and then you can easily share it on YouTube and Google+.

You can host or participate in a hangout from your computer, tablet or smartphone (iOS and Android).

You can also add apps to your hangout to collaborate through Google Drive, watch YouTube videos together and more.

Google Authorship

One additional reason to consider a Google+ account is Google Authorship.

As a recent post on Copyblogger points out, Google’s purpose is to encourage great content on the web. Their algorithm is built to return the pages or sites with the best, most current and most relevant content in search results. But they’ve also started evaluating content not just based on the site and the site’s reputation, but on the reputation of the author of that content (where that information is available). To take advantage of this feature, you need to have a Google Plus account.
When you search on Google, you may have noticed that some of the search results include a thumbnail photo of the author of the article or web page, like this (you’ll see one of my blog posts listed in the results with my thumbnail photo, my name and my Google+ stats):

Google search results on LinkedIn for lawyers

This is only accomplished if you have a Google+ profile and if Google can recognize that what you write on other sites is indeed written by you. Google outlines the steps for making that happen here. Essentially, you’ll need to have a Google+ profile with a recognizable headshot first. Then you’ll need to make sure that your byline appears on the articles you write on other sites. Your byline should match your name on your Google Plus Profile. Then you’ll go through a verification process on both ends.

To learn more about Google Plus, you might want to check out these links:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2013/06/google-releases-google-plus-dashboards-for-business-pages.html
http://webmarketingtoday.com/articles/Basic-Checklist-for-How-to-Rank-in-Google-Places/
http://www.copyblogger.com/google-plus-authority/
http://www.mycase.com/blog/2013/06/guest-post-kymeshia-morris-google-authorship-for-lawyers/

Are you using (or have you considered using) Google+? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Slideshare: A Content Tool Worth a Look for Lawyers

Slideshare logoEvery day it seems there’s a new tool or a new piece of technology that’s being touted as the ‘next great thing.’ Is Slideshare really worth a look for lawyers?

A couple of months ago, I did a post on content marketing on the Legal Ease blog which made the point that there is an increased demand for content in part because of the huge SEO (search engine optimization) boost it brings. That means there will be lots of people out there selling content, and much of it will be of poor quality and may not bring the desired results. (This is especially dangerous for lawyers who have specific ethical rules that must be followed – but that’s a topic for another day.) And you’ve got to keep it interesting, with different kinds of content that engages audiences in different ways. This is where Slideshare might help.

Although I’ve had an account for some time, I’ve only started actively using SlideShare recently. Here are some of the reasons I think SlideShare might be worth looking at:

  • Creating presentations forces you to convey information succinctly and more visually – both of which should improve comprehension and retention for your audience
  • Slideshare makes it easy for you to upload your presentations
  • If you already give presentations to demonstrate your expertise, SlideShare provides an extended audience for those presentations over and above those who were in the room (or on the webinar) for your presentation
  • Presentations can be a good way to educate clients and potential clients not only about what you do, but about the legal process
  • Slideshare is already optimized for search engines, so your presentations get greater visibility than if you just post them on your own site
  • Slideshare makes it easy to share or embed your presentations into a blog post, website, etc.
  • Slideshare has tracking capabilities (called Send Tracker) so that you can send a presentation by email and then see how it is viewed
  • Slideshare sends you analytics information by email so that you can see the performance of each presentation you upload – how many views, comments, tweets, likes, and downloads each presentation receives
  • You can easily update your presentations, which will automatically update embedded versions, too
  • Slideshare is not limited to presentations alone – you can upload and share PDFs and video, too
  • You can save or share presentations by others – another great content and educational resource!

To demonstrate, here’s a presentation I’ve embedded from Slideshare that might inspire you to create new (and better) presentations of your own:

If you want to see my fledgling Slideshare page, you can find it here.

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Pulse?

LinkedIn and Pulse

By now you have probably heard that Google is de-activating its RSS feed reader, Google Reader, effective July 1, 2013. For those of us that rely on RSS to keep up with current news, to follow blogs or websites, this is a huge problem, whether you use Google Reader as your RSS reader or not. Why? Because many RSS readers were using Google Reader to power their own feed readers (FeedDemon is one example).

There are alternatives feed readers to explore, some of which are free (just as Reader was), and some work through paid accounts. The ones being recommended most across the web seem to be Feedly, NewsBlur and The Old Reader. You’ll want to decide which you want to use, and part of your decision may be based on whether there are apps available for you to consume your content across different platforms (desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc.)

But while Google is shutting down its reader, LinkedIn has made an announcement this month that it has acquired Pulse, a “leading news reader and mobile content distribution platform.”

As you can see from the presentation below, LinkedIn wants to “be the definitive professional publishing platform where all professionals can:

  • Publish: Updates,comments,presentations
  • Discover: Influencers, Groups, news, Company Pages
  • Share: Share, like,comment

Here  is LinkedIn’s short slideshow announcing the news:

It remains to be seen how LinkedIn will integrate Pulse into its platform and what this will mean for both Pulse and LinkedIn users. Perhaps it will integrate into LinkedIn’s LinkedIn Today feature, which aims to deliver news daily to LinkedIn users, tailored to their interests.

Pulse has an interesting, tile-based layout that may appeal to those who respond to visuals. See below for an example:

Pulse screenshot

It’s important to me to stay up to date on industry news that affects both me and my clients, so I rely on news aggregators or feed readers to push me content that’s relevant and that I can skim through or bookmark to read offline.

As you can see, I’ve signed up for Pulse just to see what it’s like – I’m still exploring my own alternatives for Google Reader, and I’m a LinkedIn user, so I thought I’d try it. It was easy to import my existing Google Reader feeds, and I can add new ones easily using the Chrome extension (I use chrome as my web browser).

Google Reader probably won’t be the last free web application to bite the dust, and there are sure to be more changes on the horizon for LinkedIn and other social media applications. I’ll keep trying to update you as I see changes coming.

For more of my recent posts on social media changes, see:

Is the “Professional Network” Becoming More Social? (slaw.ca)

LinkedIn Endorsements 101 (Law Technology Today)

New on Facebook (Legal Ease Blog)

Using Evernote to Boost Productivity and Stay Organized

Evernote Logo

Evernote is online archiving and note-taking software (Evernote Web) that also has an app (iPhone, iPad, Android, iPod touch) and a desktop component for Windows or Mac.

Essentially, Evernote helps you keep your notes, links and information in one place, accessible from anywhere. But it’s different than programs like Dropbox which allow you to simply store documents – in Evernote you can create notes directly within the program or capture web pages (or emails) and then add annotations, tag for easy categorizing, sync across multiple devices and easily search – the program even lets you search text within a photo (especially handy for one of my tips below).

Sync and Offline Access

For me, sync and offline access are two of the best features of Evernote. I do a fair amount of traveling and I like to use that time to catch up with my reading. I often come across web pages or email newsletters that I don’t have time to read when I first find them.

I used to bookmark these items in my browser to read later or for reference for article ideas, blog posts, presentations, ideas for clients, etc. Now, instead of bookmarking them in my browser, I clip them to Evernote. Then I don’t need internet access to read them – I just sync the Evernote files on whatever device I’m taking with me (laptop, phone and/or iPad) and I’m good to go. I can even catch up on my reading in ‘no internet’ zones, like on the plane.

Notebooks

In Evernote, you can create as many notebooks as you want. You can even create shared notebooks and create or join public notebooks if you want to collaborate with someone else on a project or share ideas.

Tagging

I’ve found the tagging features in Evernote make it easy to sort and find what I’m looking for, regardless of which notebook I’ve placed the note in.

Adding Notes

There are many ways to add notes to your Evernote notebooks.

When you want to remember something, instead of emailing yourself a reminder, email it to Evernote using your own Evernote email. Use the @ symbol to identify which notebook you want the note to be saved in (or don’t identify, and it will save in your default notebook). You can even tag your email by including the # symbol and the tag. (Both the @ and # symbols need to be in your subject line). For example, send yourself an email to @John notebook #to do and the note will be added to your “John” Evernote notebook and tagged to do.

Create notes directly within Evernote by clicking on “new note.” Add a typed note, handwritten (ink) note, record an audio note or take a photo.

If you use checklists in your practice, you can create and save them in Evernote and easily keep track of where you are on a project and what your next step should be.

Have you ever done a brainstorming session or had a meeting using a whiteboard and wanted to capture all of the information there to review and refer back to? Take a photo of the whiteboard and save it into Evernote; not only will you capture an image of the whiteboard, but the words in that image will be searchable.

Evernote Web Clipper sits in your browser’s toolbar and lets you save anything you see online—including text, links and images—into my Evernote account with one click. Save whole web pages, only selected portions, or just the page url. Add tags and your own notes.

I use this feature for both personal and business pursuits – when I find a recipe I like, I clip it to Evernote and save it with tags for the main ingredients, occasion or whether it’s a main dish, side, appetizer, etc. I clip and tag articles I want to read, pages from clients’ websites and more.

If you have a small firm, you might consider using Evernote Business, which can help you to organize your firm’s information and give employees a central place to find information. You decide who has access to what notebooks, while your Personal notebooks remain private.

If you like writing with a ‘real’ pen and paper, Evernote has a special Moleskine Smart Notebook you can use to take handwritten notes. Then take a picture of the page with the Evernote iOS or Android app and it automatically becomes a new note in Evernote, and all of your handwritten text will be searchable.

(Note: you can do the same thing with the free Evernote app, but their Smart Notebooks are specially formatted so Evernote can more easily recognize your writing and what’s on the page.)

According to Lifehacker, Evernote Smart Notebooks are especially worthwhile if you’re interested in Evernote’s Premium service, which provides more upload capacity (the free version allows you to upload 60 MB of data/month; Evernote premium increases that to 1GB/month) and has some additional features. Each notebook ($25 for the small and $30 for the large) comes with three free months of Evernote Premium, which alone costs $15/month.

Although there are Premium versions of Evernote, there is also a free version (which I use) that has plenty of functionality. What’s not to love about that?!

Do you use Evernote in your practice? Let me know! Come on over to Legal Ease Consulting on Facebook and join the conversation!

EVERNOTE, the Evernote Elephant logo and REMEMBER EVERYTHING are trademarks of Evernote Corporation and used under a license.

Return to March 2013 Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter

What Working Women Want

In honor of International Women’s Day, take a look at this infographic LinkedIn put together based on its survey of “What Women Want”:

LinkedIn Infographic What Women Want

What Women Want

For even more information about the survey, check out LinkedIn’s slideshow presentation on What Women Want at Work.

Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter Feedback Form

 

 
Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter feedback
 


Please answer the following questions about your intentions for your practice in 2013 to help us improve the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter and create products and programs to help lawyers improve their practices.

Your name and email are optional – what I am really looking for is your input, so be honest!

I want to develop a marketing plan for my practice
   TrueFalse
I intend to explore alternative billing methods in my practice
   TrueFalse
Social media will be part of my marketing plan
   TrueFalse
My firm could use training on how to use social media
   TrueFalse
We need to create an associate training and development program
   TrueFalse
I want to learn more about technology I can use in my practice
   TrueFalse
I need training on how to maximize the technology I already have in my firm
   TrueFalse
I want to upgrade my law firm website
   TrueFalse
I intend to implement a client feedback system
   TrueFalse
I want to automate my marketing follow up
   TrueFalse
I will be developing systems and procedures to improve productivity
   TrueFalse
I want to get a better handle on my firm’s financial picture
   TrueFalse
I am interested in moving my law practice to the cloud
   TrueFalse
I would be willing to invest in products covering the above topics
   TrueFalse
I would attend seminars on the above topics
   TrueFalse
I would be willing to invest in training on the above topics
   TrueFalse
The biggest challenge I see for my practice in 2013 is
   
I enjoy the ‘links of interest’ feature in the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter
   Less True – 1 2 3 4 5 – More True
The links to the Legal Ease Blog articles are a helpful addition to the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter
   Less True – 1 2 3 4 5 – More True
I prefer shorter articles in the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter
   Less True – 1 2 3 4 5 – More True
I like reading a full length article in each issue of the Lawyer Meltdown newsletter
   Less True – 1 2 3 4 5 – More True
I would like to see these topics covered in the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter
   
Overall, I have enjoyed reading the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter
   Less True – 1 2 3 4 5 – More True
Additional comments, questions or suggestions:
   
Your Name:
Your Email:

Powered by ACCPOW Coaching Assessment Generator
www.assessmentgenerator.com

 

Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers Infographic

Here’s an infographic that gives an overview of the Lessons contained in Facebook in One Hour for Lawyers:
Facebook In One Hour Table of Contents Infographic

Using Visuals in Lawyer Marketing: Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter October 2012

Using Visuals in Lawyer Marketing

Visuals - eye

Whether you believe the theories about the differences in learning styles (some people learn better visually, some by listening, etc.) or not, it is hard to deny that the world has become more and more visual. This may be due in part to the massive increase in online activity; people read and consume information differently online than they do offline, skimming and scanning more than reading. This is further bolstered by the explosion in the use of mobile devices, which were not built for reading lots of text.

Visuals Capture Attention

If a picture really is worth a thousand words and you only have a small amount of time to capture attention and get your message across, pictures may be able to do it faster. John Medina, author of the bestseller Brain Rulessays, “vision trumps all other senses.” In terms of learning and memory, there is no comparison.

Experts writing for Psychology Today say that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information, which “make complete sense when you consider that …. the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.”

The lesson? If you want clients and potential clients to remember you, visuals are key.

When exhorting marketers to invest in visual content creation, Hubspot cites a Shareaholic study that revealed that Pinterest (a highly visual, photo-dominated platform, with very limited text) generates more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined; only Facebook and StumbleUpon generate more. Studies have also shown that visuals attract more attention in Facebook posts. And even LinkedIn is changing its look and feel to a more visual layout for Company Pages.

According to an article from the editors of CRM magazine, Generation Y is more likely to read news online, and 2/3 watch TV online. Most have a smartphone or other device with them at all times. That makes it more and more likely that your website and other marketing information will be viewed or accessed from a mobile device, where text is difficult to read and visuals rule. The article quotes Kit Yarrow, a psychology and marketing professor at Golden Gate University and author of the book Gen BuY, who says, “With this generation, everything has to be visual and contextual.”

As a result, it may be time for lawyers to learn how to use visuals, graphics and images to support their marketing and their overall message.

Make Visuals Match Your Purpose

As with all marketing initiatives, any analysis of what you are doing currently or what you are considering doing in the future needs to begin with your purpose. It is only once you have a clear idea of the goals you would like to achieve with your marketing that you can determine whether to embrace something new and how to implement it.

Let’s take your law firm’s website as an example. Most law firm websites are text-heavy, with few, if any graphics, images or visuals. If you want to add visual elements, the purpose of your site (and the individual pages on that site) can help you determine which content or message is most important for your visitors to receive at that time. Then you can determine how to incorporate visual elements t support and highlight that message.

You site may serve several functions, including:

 

  • Educating potential clients about the issues they may face when making  a particular business decision
  • Describing your solution to those problems
  • Establishing your expertise in the area
  • Educating potential clients about the issues they need to be aware of when looking for a lawyer

 

Each individual page of your website cannot possibly try to meet all of those functions at the same time, and if you simply add visuals to your existing text, you may be creating more of a distraction for your web visitors, with consequences like causing them to leave your site, or distracting them from the most important information that you want them to learn and/or retain on the page.

For example, although social media can be a helpful tool for spreading your content and engaging with potential clients and referral sources, too many social media sharing buttons do more harm than good. They can slow load time, actually prevent sharing by presenting too many options, leading to confusion, or they may generate traffic but decrease actual engagement.

Graphic and visual elements are important, but only once you have determined the purpose for your site (and each page) and the most important content on the site. Then you can use visuals to enhance and draw attention to the important elements and content on the page.

If you need help incorporating visual elements into your marketing, contact me atAllison@LegalEaseConsulting.com or call 631-642-0221 to see how I can help.

Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Network? (Part II)

networkingThis is Part II of my article, “Are You Getting the Most out of Your Network.” You can read Part I here.

The Harvard Business Review article that inspired the article recommends ‘mapping’ your network – listing your contacts in the first column, who introduced you to that contact in the second column, and the people you introduced that contact to in the third column. If the second column contains too many instances where you met the contact yourself, chances are you may be using the self-similarity principle to build your network. If another name appears frequently in the second column, that person may be a ‘superconnector.’

A superconnector is someone who readily shares their diverse contacts. Paying attention to who your superconnectors are and cultivating those relationships is an important part of building your network. It makes sense to think about how you met your superconnectors, too – what kinds of activities bring you into contact with superconnectors? The article authors suggest looking for superconnectors who may not be in a position of formal authority, but are still good connectors. This is good advice, since those who are in positions of formal authority (whether good connectors or not) are often difficult to get to because everyone else is seeking them out and trying to get into their good graces. Other superconnectors may help diversify your network.

Reviewing the third column of your ‘network map’ helps you see what kind of connector you are, and what activities lead you to make connections between your own contacts.

On a related note, even if you decide that sitting down and ‘mapping’ your entire network isn’t for you, every lawyer should keep track of their contacts somehow. If this information is stored electronically, it is particularly easy to make a note of where, how, and when you met the contact, and/or who introduced you to the contact. You should, as a matter of routine, keep this kind of information about all of your clients. It always makes sense to know where your business is coming from, so that you can continue to cultivate those referral sources, and find similar ones.

Finally, don’t forget to thank your referral sources, whether they are clients, former clients, attorneys or other contacts, regardless of whether you are hired. A simple ‘thank you’ can go a very long way toward continuing the relationship.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Network? (Part I)

NetworkingI just read a great article in the December 2005 Harvard Business Review, entitled, “How to Build Your Network,” by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap. The article also references The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Both are interesting reads about how networks work,and how to make them work effectively for you.

When I was still with my firm, once some of the attorneys really began to get interested in marketing, they found some networking groups to join. Before long, although different attorneys from the office had joined different groups, they noticed that they were seeing all of the same people. The contacts we were making as a firm weren’t as broad as we expected, because the groups were populated by all of the same people.

According to Uzzi and Dunlap, there are a number of factors that can contribute to these kinds of network problems. The first is the ‘self-similarity principle;’ when making contacts, we choose people who are too similar to us. Another problem in network building is the ‘proximity principle,’ in which people tend to populate their networks with people they spend the most time with. These two factors can result in what Uzzi and Dunlap call the ‘echo chamber’ effect, when over time, people introduce their contacts to one another, and the similarity of thought and skill reverberates.

One thing to keep in mind when building your network or deciding how to spend your ‘marketing’ time is that the point of a network is to introduce you to people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. It’s to make diverse contacts. Often, attorneys look at networking just as a way to meet clients directly. But a network should be a way of extending your reach to all kinds of people, whether the people you meet directly end up being clients or not. You want to meet people who can introduce you to potential clients, or who can be good referral sources. But you also want to meet other kinds of people who might be able to help you in your practice in other ways. Often, you don’t know who the best referral sources will be, or where your best ‘help’ will come from.

A lot of attorneys, particularly younger attorneys looking to start building a network, are concerned about joining the ‘right’ groups, and many attorneys end up joining only groups that suffer from the similarity principle or the proximity principle, or both. They do all of their networking with other attorneys, or go to events and only ‘hang out’ with the people they know, rather than being open to meeting new people. Or they think they have to join groups that are specifically touted as ‘networking groups,’ some of which run afoul of some states’ ethical rules.

Although there’s nothing wrong with networking with other attorneys or going to events and spending time with friends and colleagues, attorneys often make the mistake of expecting that kind of activity alone is going to siginficantly expand their network. Or they complain that networking isn’t effective. The problem isn’t that ‘networking’ isn’t effective – it’s that the way they go about it isn’t effective.

So, how do you make networking work for you? Reconsider the groups you join and the way you spend your time. Uzzi and Dunlap recommend using the ‘shared activity principle,’ or expanding your network through “relatively high-stakes activities that connect you with diverse others.” They describe high stakes activities as “activities that evoke passion in participants, necessitate interdependence, and have something at stake.” Caring passionately about something makes it easier to fit into your schedule, relying on others and working toward a goal can build relationships and trust quickly. Contrast that with the more typical ‘networking’ event or meeting where interactions are much more fleeting and controlled.

To make it simple, your network doesn’t have to be built strictly for your business, and probably is less effective if it is. Building your network around what you like to do, and how you prefer to spend your time, is more enjoyable and more effective, and can build more lasting relationships. And after all, being a good lawyer is all about building relationships. So think twice about cutting out those ‘outside’ activities to spend more time at the office – it may be that the people you meet and the connections you make by being involved in that youth soccer league, the local hospital or nonprofit board, the annual fundraiser, or the roadrunner’s club, are an even better investment you can make in your practice.

If you liked this article, read How to Get the Most out of Your Network, Part II.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

P.S. Found a mistake or a bug? If there’s anything that bothers you about this site, I want to know! Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I want this site to be not just a resource, but a refuge for lawyers. I want you to be comfortable here.  So if there’s something that bothers you, please tell me!

Don’t Be a Wallflower: Networking Alone

wallflowerEver been to a law firm event and seen lawyers from the same firm stuck together all night like conjoined twins, not interacting with anyone else?

Unfortunately, the tendency for colleagues to stick together at events such as this and not talk to anyone else is very common – even among firm veterans. And it’s a huge wasted opportunity. However, I must admit that I’ve been guilty of this myself. The good news is that these opportunities keep coming, and that anyone can learn to take advantage of them.

Although some might suggest that lawyers in this situation should, “drop your friend and go meet new people,” for some, that’s much easier said than done. I often encourage people to bring a friend to a networking event, because it can make you feel more comfortable, and sometimes can help you network even more effectively. But don’t just stand in the corner and only talk to your friend. Instead, use your friend to help you meet new people.

If you’re too nervous to ‘go it alone,’ here are some suggestions:

1. Set some objectives with your friend ahead of time – perhaps there is a specific person who will be attending the event and whom you would like to meet – tell your friend that your goal is to meet that person during the event. Sharing your goal with someone else makes it much more likely that you’ll meet it. You can help each other reach your goals directly, or just agree to follow up with one another afterwards. If you didn’t meet your goals, talk about why, and how you might be able to help each other next time.

2. A variation on the above is to make the event a game – challenge your friend to see who can meet the most new people in a specific period of time. But don’t forget that the point is to make meaningful connections, not to just collect business cards or make meaningless introductions. Perhaps make it a requirement that you have to find out at least three things about each person you meet. Be creative. Regroup with your friend and share your info. Or better yet, introduce your new ‘connection’ to your friend. You can agree on a reward for the ‘winner’ of your game, too – maybe the winner pays for lunch, coffee, or drinks.

3. Pretend you’re the host. Make it your mission to ensure that all of your ‘guests’ enjoy themselves. A self-proclaimed introvert who belongs to a marketing forum with me came up with this suggestion. She says that when she pretends she’s the host, it’s often easier for her to talk to people that she doesn’t know. If the event is one that’s sponsored by your firm (like the one Jonathan discusses in his post), in a sense, you are the host. Introduce yourself and explain that you’re with the firm. Often, that’s enough to start a conversation going.

4. Another self-proclaimed introvert offers this suggestion: volunteer to help out with the event. As a volunteer, or someone who is ‘part of’ the event, you’ll often have access to people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet. And sometimes it’s easier to start a conversation because you’ll have something to talk about. As someone who is ‘in the know,’ you can answer questions or offer to help attendees find things. Once people realize you have the ‘inside scoop,’ they’ll often seek you out, rather than the other way around. If your firm is sponsoring the event, volunteering can win you points with the boss for being a team player, too.

5. Many of us have a much easier time talking about other people than we do talking about ourselves. When you bring a friend to an event, pretend that your purpose at the event is to introduce your friend to lots of people – to make connections for your friend. You can brag about your friend’s accomplishments without feeling uncomfortable. And your friend can do the same for you.

Attending an event with a colleague can reap rewards for both of you, if you’re creative and you make it fun.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

P.S. Found a mistake or a bug? If there’s anything that bothers you about this site, I want to know! Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I want this site to be not just a resource, but a refuge for lawyers. I want you to be comfortable here.  So if there’s something that bothers you, please tell me!

Can Your Clients Find What They Need on Your Website?

mazeEver gotten so frustrated by not being able to find what you needed in a store that you just walked out? Don’t let that happen to your web visitors!

I was struck by an article in MarketingProfs by Leigh Duncan about her bad experience at an Apple store. Although generally a fan of Apple products, Ms. Duncan described her experience in this store as “bad,” but she turned lemons into lemonade by writing an article about her experience which she says contains some good lessons for anyone managing the retail merchandising experience.

But what does any of this have to do with a law practice? Not only does Duncan’s experience contain great lessons for retailers, but many of those lessons are applicable to law firm websites as well.

Here are some of Duncan’s highlights about her experience, and I’ve added my thoughts about how they relate to law firm websites:

Navigating the store was difficult and annoying. How is the navigation on your website? Are the navigation buttons large enough to read? Are they easy to find? Is it clear what those navigation buttons ‘point’ to? Are those buttons consistently labeled on all of your pages? Are the navigation buttons located in the same place on each page? Can your clients find their way back to the home page easily?

Navigation isn’t limited to the navigation buttons. Does your site include links to other resources or other pages on your site? Is it obvious that links are links? Do all links look the same?

Ensure that signs are not out of sight or difficult to read. Does your site contain sufficient signage? Is every page clearly labeled? When your web visitor arrives at your site, are there clear signs that indicate that they’re in the right place? Are the titles or headlines on each page sufficient to alert the visitor exactly where they are on your site?

Signage is particularly important on a home page or particular landing pages to which your web visitors are directed. Studies have shown that web visitors decide in only a few seconds whether a site is likely to provide them with what they’re looking for. If they have to guess, or take time to figure it out, chances are they’ll be gone before you know it.

Don’t make it difficult to get help. Duncan suggests that stores should provide customers with visible help, possibly in the form of employees that greet customers as they arrive. Your website should have virtual help conspicuously available, too. Is your contact information easy to locate on the site? Can your website visitor contact you from any page? Is there a way that visitors can ask questions? Does your site provide visitors with the information they’re seeking? Is there enough information on your site for visitors to feel comfortable with you and your firm?

Are you directing your web visitor through your site, suggesting the ‘next step’ on your site that they might want to visit? You’re not there in person to direct them the way you would be if you were giving a potential client a tour of your office, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation to guide them. Make sure your website guides your visitor where you want them to go. And don’t forget to include a call to action so that your visitors know what to do; encourage them to contact you!

Don’t make visitors ‘work’ too hard find what they need. How much are you making your website visitors ‘work’ to get the information they need? If someone comes to your site looking for information on a particular practice area, how many ‘clicks’ does it take for them to get there? Can they tell at a glance how to obtain this information? Is it easy to read the information?

Is the layout clear and uncluttered? Is the font large enough to read? Is it clear? Do the colors contribute to the impression that your site is trying to create? Do they blend into one another, making text difficult to read? Are they too jarring?

Is your site organized in a logical way? Are the names of your links and navigation buttons easily understandable to your average web visitor/potential client/referral source, or are other lawyers the only ones that would understand the titles and links? Would your average client easily understand your text without you there to explain it?

Let people get in and out easily. Are there barriers to entering your site, such as flash introductions or graphics that take a long time to load? Most visitors are likely to click away, rather than put up with the wait or the introduction when they’re looking for information.

Although audio can be an effective addition to a website, audio which plays automatically when a website loads can be distracting and annoying, particularly when the web visitor reaches your site during work hours, when they don’t want to ‘announce’ their presence on your site, or don’t wnat to disturb others in the area.

Don’t place congested areas close together. Although your website won’t have problems of congestion and crowding the way a retail store might, visual congestion is an important consideration for law firm websites. Too much visual clutter can tire and confuse visitors, making them more likely to click away from your site. The eye needs a place to rest – is there enough white space on your web pages to encourage visitors to keep reading?

Remember your ‘customers’ when designing your website, and consistently review your site to ensure that it is continuing to meet the needs of those customers. And remember also that where your website is concerned, your customers include not only potential clients, but also current clients and referral sources, among others. Make sure you make their ‘visit’ to your virtual office on the web is a pleasant experience, and one they would like to repeat.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

P.S. Found a mistake or a bug? If there’s anything that bothers you about this site, I want to know! Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I want this site to be not just a resource, but a refuge for lawyers. I want you to be comfortable here.  So if there’s something that bothers you, please tell me!

Have You Forgotten the Most Important Aspect of Your Website?

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

I like to start off my relationship with any client by discussing their purpose – not just the purpose for the individual project or problem we’ll be working on together, but the client’s overall purpose for their firm. It’s an integral part of every firm’s mission, which means that the purpose should guide all of the firm’s activities. A firm’s website is no exception. Unfortunately, many of us don’t give too much thought to the purpose of the website beyond wanting it to be a way of getting clients.

Purpose needs to be considered not only for the website as a whole, but also for each element on the site, and particularly each individual page. Each page of your site must have a specific purpose. If you don’t know what that purpose is, and what you want your clients or website visitors to do as a result, how do you expect them to know?

When people are searching the web, they want information, and they want it quickly. They don’t want to have to think. If your site is too hard to navigate or they can’t find what they want or understand your message in a very short period of time, more likely than not they’ll click away and look for someone else that can help them. That means you have to lead your web visitors around and tell them exactly what it is you want them to do. Where do you want them to go after they read your home page? Do you want them to read about your practice areas? Look at client testimonials? Sign up for your firm newsletter? 

Sure, there’s a navigation bar, and web visitors are free to use it. By why not tell them what you think is the next, most important step in their visit to your site? You wouldn’t have clients just wander around your office to discover things for themselves, would you? Of course not – you give them a personal tour of the office, pointing out the things you think will make the most difference to them. It’s the same with your website. Be your web visitors’ personal tour guide. And make sure you know and clearly convey the purpose of each and every element on your site.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

P.S. Found a mistake or a bug? If there’s anything that bothers you about this site, I want to know! Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I want this site to be not just a resource, but a refuge for lawyers. I want you to be comfortable here.  So if there’s something that bothers you, please tell me!

 

Does Your Website Forget About Your Clients?

Your firm just finished its next generation website. It’s got new colors and sophisticated looking graphics. You’ve finally posted bios of all of the lawyers in the firm, complete with photos and contact information. You’ve outlined your practice areas. Your site promises clients a broad range of experience, quality service, and superior results. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that although you may think your site is ‘cutting edge,’ many law firm websites fail to reach even a portion of their potential. Frequently, they are no more than on-line versions of a firm’s brochure or Yellow Pages ad. One way this manifests itself is in the firm’s failure to address or consider the clients’ needs and interests on the website.

Passing commentary about experience and service, without more, leaves the client out of the equation. Law firms miss a huge opportunity when they go to great lengths to describe their accomplishments or experience but fail to explain in concrete terms how those things help the client. Vague representations about ‘results’ don’t tell the client anything of significance.

Try looking at your website from the perspective of your clients. What are they looking for when they come to your site? Don’t think about what you want them to know – think about what they want to know. Or, if you must, tell them what you want them to know, but then make sure you tell them why it is (or should be) important to THEM. Why does your experience matter to the client? In what way?

Does your site provide useful content to your clients? Is it a resource that they will return to over and over again? Are you providing information that affects them and their business or the issues that affect your representation? If you’ve written an article or given a talk that would be of interest to your clients, why not re-purpose it as an article on your website? Do you give talks or presentations to clients? If so, putting a list of topics that you’ve spoken about, or that you are available to speak to clients about, can be another way of letting clients know you’re there to help them, and that you’re on top of the latest issues that affect them.

What else are clients looking for from your site? Do you have the basics, like directions to your office? Is it easy to tell from your site who a client should contact if they have a question? Is the navigation on the site clear and easy to follow? 

Is the copy on your site easy to read? Can the reader scan (as many web readers do) and still get the important points of your message? Does the text engage the reader, or is it so dry and boring that they’re likely to click away? Are there examples and statistics that demonstrate to the client that you know what you’re talking about? Examples of past successes, testimonials or case studies can go a long way to demonstrate that your firm is the one they should choose – or stay with. 

There are lots of things to think about when writing and designing your site. Your website shouldn’t be all about you – don’t forget to consider your clients.

Back to Main Article page…

If you liked these articles, subscribe to my e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box. The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by clicking here.

Allison

Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

P.S. Found a mistake or a bug? If there’s anything that bothers you about this site, I want to know! Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I want this site to be not just a resource, but a refuge for lawyers. I want you to be comfortable here.  So if there’s something that bothers you, please tell me!