LinkedIn Groups Gets an Update

LinkedIn GroupsI’ve long been an advocate of LinkedIn Groups as a business development tool, but, especially with the previous round of changes that separated Groups into a stand-alone app, many lawyers didn’t take advantage of Groups.

This month, LinkedIn announced it’s making some changes to its Groups feature in both the website and mobile app that should improve the user experience.

Groups will now be re-integrated into the main LinkedIn user interface for a more seamless experience, making it easier to access your Groups from the LinkedIn Home page.

With the new Groups interface, you’ll also see conversations from your Groups right in your main LinkedIn news feed. Threaded replies will be incorporated, and you’ll be able to edit posts and comments and reply to comments from the app.

Rich media features will also be added to Groups, allowing members to post video, multiple images or rich media links to Group discussions.

For those of you who are overwhelmed with email, you may be happy to learn that instead of getting updates from your Groups via email, those updates will now be incorporated into your LinkedIn notifications.

Changes in LinkedIn Group Administration

The previous round of changes to LinkedIn Groups included a lot of changes in how Groups were administered and monitored.

LinkedIn is simplifying Groups administration by reducing the number of categories of users in Groups to just owners, managers and members. Groups members who were previously designated as moderators will become regular members unless the Group’s owner elevates the user to a manager.

All Group members will be able to post in their Groups without prior approval. Group admins should block or remove members who consistently violate the Group’s rules since pre-approval will no longer be available.

Both Group members and admins will still be able to report inappropriate content to help reduce spam, and admins will continue to be able to edit or remove posts and comments that violate that Group’s rules.

Group managers will be able to pin items to the top of a Group’s feed.

Why You Should Use LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are an excellent tool for gathering valuable intelligence about your audience. By following Groups on LinkedIn that contain your target audience (existing and potential clients and referral sources), you can learn about their problems and concerns and see what’s important to them.

In Groups, people share information, brainstorm ideas, discuss their interests and challenges,  post informational articles or links and conduct polls, making it easy for you to get to know others and for them to get to know you.

Groups give you the ability to reach out to your target audience to ask for feedback, educate them about your services or the legal issues that affect their lives and/or businesses, demonstrate your knowledge, and increase your visibility.

Reviewing LinkedIn Group discussions and activity can also help you to generate ideas for new service offerings, blog posts, articles, presentations, and more.

Joining Groups gives you access to a wider audience that goes beyond just your direct connections. As a Group member, you can view the list of members who share a specific interest, and navigate to their Profiles for additional information or to connect.

Getting The Most Out Of LinkedIn Groups

To get the most benefit from Groups on LinkedIn you need to be an active participant, just as you would when joining a group or community in “real life.” Merely being a member won’t do too much for you-you have to get involved: start discussions, post interesting articles, engage with other Group members and their content, and reach out to begin one on one discussion or connect.

Engage naturally in Groups, just as you would in an in-person networking setting. Provide value. Don’t over-promote. Be sure to review the Group’s rules and abide by them. Post content that is relevant to the specific Group.

Don’t just post links – add your own commentary, ask a question or make a statement to encourage interaction.

The new Groups experience should begin rolling out to users shortly.

[Infographic] Six Ways to Jumpstart Your LinkedIn Network

Is your LinkedIn network working for you?

In 2016, Dennis Kennedy, my co-author on LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, and I wrote a two-part post on LinkedIn about how lawyers can reinvigorate their LinkedIn networks. That post was subsequently combined into one post on Law Technology Today.

As we say in the article, it’s usually best to send personalized invitations to connect and to always think strategically about who you want to connect with and why, as well as what might motivate that person to want to connect with you. But we also talk about some ways to add a lot of LinkedIn connections quickly at those times when that makes strategic sense for your practice.

We discuss these six ways to expand your LinkedIn network, whether you’re brand-new to LinkedIn or you’ve had a Profile for a number of years:

  1. Uploading your contacts/address book to LinkedIn to make connecting with those you already know in the “real world” easier
  2. Sending personalized invitations – your goal is to get the other person to accept your invitation to connect, so invite wisely!
  3. Using Groups to identify and reach out to potential new (targeted) connections
  4. Connecting with fellow alumni from your college or law school
  5. Searching 2nd level connections
  6. Using LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” suggestions

Although some things have changed since we wrote the initial piece because LinkedIn changed the user interface, the main ideas remain the same – you may just need to click in a different place to find what you’re looking for.

For example, now you’ll click Continue under add personal contacts on the left side of the page under My Network to upload your address book. And LinkedIn no longer provides the radio buttons to choose how you know someone when sending an invitation to connect. Find Alumni is no longer an option under the My Network menu, but you can still connect with fellow alumni by searching for your school and then clicking the See Alumni button.

You can find Part 1 of the article here (on my LinkedIn Profile) and Part 2 here (on Dennis’ LinkedIn Profile). Or check out this great infographic the folks at Venngage made for us for a quick visual reference:

Expand Your LinkedIn Network with Legal Ease Consulting

A Simple Social Media Plan for Lawyers

A Think social media is too difficult or time consuming? Here’s a basic social media plan that only requires about 1 1/2 hours a month – although you can expand and contract it as necessary:

Improve Your Marketing in One Step: Focus on Your Clients

Focus on clientsI recently received a question from a blog subscriber, “If I did one single thing to improve my marketing what would it be?” My answer: focus on the client. Get excruciatingly clear on who your best clients are and why. Create an ideal client profile so that you can easily recognize potential clients who may fit into this category, and so that you can describe your ideal clients succinctly and consistently. This will help you educate your referral sources and help them to spot your ideal clients so that they immediately know who to refer to you.

Too many lawyers make the mistake of trying to target too broad an audience for fear of turning business away. But instead of attracting more clients, a poorly identified ideal client results in a watered down message that loses its impact and fails to elicit a response.

It is only when you have a good picture of who your ideal clients are that you can move forward to determine what is important to them, where to find them, how to attract them, how best to serve them, what processes and procedures need to be in place, which employees will work best with those clients, and more.

Who are your best clients?

Review your past and present client lists. Which clients did you work best with? Which were the most lucrative for the firm? Which were the best sources of additional business or referrals? Which clients were the most difficult? Which ones failed to pay or did not respect your advice? Which ones brought you matters that didn’t fit into your strengths? Make a list of the characteristics of good and bad clients.

The value of a client isn’t measured solely by the size of the case or the size of your fee. Valuable clients can be those who have realistic expectations, respect your advice or want the best service. Perhaps your ideal client is one who works with you on a case – or perhaps it’s just the opposite. Maybe you work best with clients who leave you alone to work your magic. Maybe your best clients are simply those who will be ‘raving fans’ and generate lots of referrals for your practice.

Once you have a preliminary idea of what a ‘high value’ client means to you, they will be easier to spot. This takes some in-depth work, but it is well worth it. When you become skilled at defining and identifying high-value clients, you waste less time and energy on lower value clients that sap your energy or cost you money and time.

Change how you talk about your practice

Listen to how most lawyers talk about their practices (or read their websites, social media posts and other marketing materials): it’s all about the lawyer, rather than being about the client. This is a mistake. Clients don’t care about you – they care about themselves and their problems. Why not change the focus of your marketing to be more in alignment with the clients’ interests?

Your marketing message should create an association for the people you are speaking to – either so that they identify themselves as your ideal clients or so that they immediately think of someone else who needs your services.

Instead of focusing your marketing message on you, focus on who you serve and what they struggle with.

Calling your clients by name

Think of your marketing message as a way of calling the name of your potential clients. Rather than making a general statement (“Hey, you!”), identifying someone by name (“Hey, Bob!”) will get their attention much easier. Bob is tuned into that information because it’s very specific to him. You want your marketing to do the same for your clients. You want them to think you’re talking directly to them – because you are.

In order to call your clients by name, you need to be intimately familiar with who those clients are. The better you know the clients you’re seeking to attract, the better your marketing efforts will be. Creating a client profile is a good way to develop that knowledge.

Keep in mind that whether your practice focuses on individuals or businesses, all of your clients are people. If you have a business to business practice, you’ll want to focus on the decision-makers – the human beings you need to connect with in order to get their work.

When creating your ideal client profile, remember that you may have a different “ideal client” for different for different areas of practice or services you provide. Dig deep. Some areas to explore include the four Ps: Psychographics, Patterns for choosing legal services, client Problems, and your Positioning.

Psychographics

Psychographics are one of the most powerful ways to connect with your clients, and also one of the most frequently overlooked. You may find that your clients are actually very different demographically, but psychographically, they have a very similar profile.

Psychographics, while less tangible, are much more accurate in predicting which people or businesses will relate best to your particular message, method or solution. Psychographics include things like your client’s mission, philosophy or values, their reputation in the industry or community, their management or communication style, integrity or litigation history. For example, do you prefer clients who are more collaborative and settlement-oriented or those who want to fight or pursue litigation regardless of the cost?

Psychographics include any belief or value that your clients strongly identify with – and they don’t necessarily have to relate directly to their business or to their legal matter.

Patterns

An important part of profiling your ideal client is determining how they choose legal services. Knowing that your clients are more likely to make the decision to hire a lawyer at certain times of the year, as the result of specific triggering events, or upon receipt of specific types of information can help you plan your services and your marketing strategy. Learn why your clients hire you, what kinds of service providers they prefer and what similar services they have used, among other issues.

Problems

One of the most effective ways to connect with clients is by identifying what problems they face. Everyone wants their problems to be solved, and if you can identify what the client perceives their problem to be (as opposed to what you think their problem is, or what lawyers generally think the problem is), you’ll get the potential client’s attention quickly – and start gaining their trust. Think about not only the problems themselves, but also about the symptoms of the problems that your clients commonly experience, and how clients typically describe them.

Use the language your clients use when crafting your marketing messages, writing copy for your website, posting on social media, or discussing what you do at a cocktail party. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. If you can do that, your marketing will automatically stand out from the rest of the lawyers in your area and it will help you build relationships.

What is it that your clients want or need? How do they talk about it? Is there an underlying result your clients wish to achieve, even if they don’t articulate it? What are the underlying emotions your clients typically experience when facing the kinds of legal problems you solve?

Positioning

Once you’ve analyzed the problems, ascertained the values and goals, and determined when and how your ideal clients choose legal services, you need to get your message in front of the right people, whether they are the clients themselves, their trusted advisors, or other referral sources. Your client profile should help you to position yourself in front of the right people if it includes an analysis of the places your ideal clients and referral sources gather.

What do your ideal clients read? What do they watch or listen to? Who influences them? What kinds of advisors do they seek? Which websites do they visit? Do they participate in social media? Where and how? Are they members of specific groups on LinkedIn, for example? Where and how do your ideal clients seek out information? What professional associations do they belong to? What types of events do they attend? What causes do they care about?

If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, ask your best clients, or do some research on your existing clients or on individuals in your target market.

The client profile will help you to focus your marketing efforts, plan effective means of reaching your ideal clients, and develop methods to serve them better. The insight it provides can be invaluable for the future of your practice. But don’t create your ideal client profile and then put it away – it is important to revisit it regularly to keep it up to date.

LinkedIn Updates and Changes Every Lawyer Should Know

LinkedIn logoLinkedIn has been busy making even more changes to its platform lately. Here’s a summary of some of the changes and updates you should know about:

Skills and Endorsements

LinkedIn’s previously named “Skills and Expertise” section has been re-named “Skills and Endorsements” in part due to feedback LinkedIn received from lawyers who advised that many jurisdictions (including mine – New York) would not allow lawyers to complete any section under the title “expertise” without special certifications. The newly-named “Skills and Endorsements” section should cause less ethics headaches for lawyers. However, there are still cautions. To learn more about endorsements, check out my article on Law Technology Today, LinkedIn Endorsements 101.

Changes to LinkedIn Company Pages

In another article on Law Technology Today, I talked about LinkedIn Company Pages. That article gives a good overview of what lawyers can do with LinkedIn Company Pages for their law firms, but as of April 14, 2014, LinkedIn will be eliminating the Products and Services tab from LinkedIn Company Pages. It turns out that not too many users were taking advantage of this feature of Company Pages. In place of the information that used to be contained in the Products and Services tab, LinkedIn recommends two options. First, you can post Updates to your Company Page about your services. These Updates will appear both on your Page and in your followers’ LinkedIn feeds. You can even include video in your Updates. While this is one option, you may want to use this option for announcements of new services or initiatives, news or other timely items, rather than general descriptions of your practice areas and services.

Your other option is to use Showcase Pages to highlight specific services that your firm might offer. Showcase Pages were introduced by LinkedIn in late 2013 as a way to highlight specific products or services, or to allow businesses to reach specific audiences who might be interested in only a segment of the company’s offerings, rather than their general Company Page updates.

Essentially, Showcase Pages are sub-pages under your main law firm Company Page on LinkedIn, but they are dedicated to one individual service that you provide. Showcase pages can be helpful for law firms who have diverse practice areas and want to post different content to different audiences. As legal marketing expert Nancy Myrland noted in her post announcing Showcase Pages last year, Showcase Pages can also be a great way to institutionalize cross-selling, because all of the Showcase Pages link back to the main Company Page and to one another.

To find out how to drive traffic to your Company Page, you may want to read my post from the Legal Ease blog, “Driving Traffic to your Law Firm Company Page.” These concepts can be applied to your Showcase Pages as well.

LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn has been adding some tools within the platform to help you see how much attention your LinkedIn Profile, updates and Page are getting. For example, the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature of LinkedIn now gives you lots of information about the industries and locations of the people who have viewed your Profile, as well as information about how they found you (LinkedIn search, Google search, etc.) – even with a free account (although premium accounts provide even more information). In addition, at the bottom of the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” screen, LinkedIn will also give you suggestions about how you can garner more Profile views.

If you post Updates to your LinkedIn Profile, on your Home Page LinkedIn will provide you with information about how many views and likes your recent Updates have received under “Who’s Viewed Your Updates” in the right sidebar.

If you manage a Company Page for your firm, you’ll get Analytics (stats on the number of impressions, clicks, and interaction) and Page insights (Page views, unique visitors, page clicks).

Blocking Users

LinkedIn recently made some changes that will now allow you to block individual users on the platform. Simply go to the person’s Profile that you want to block and click the down arrow next to the blue button you see on their Profile and click on “block or report.” For more details, including what blocking means on LinkedIn, stay tuned for an upcoming post on Law Technology Today explaining how you can do it.

Three Steps to Using LinkedIn [infographic]

If you’re not a regular LinkedIn user, you may be wondering what it’s all about or where to start. This infographic was developed as a quick overview of three of the steps you need to take to build your LinkedIn presence. All of these steps are covered in more detail in the recently released Second Edition of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, which is available now (for more information about the book, you can click on the book cover at the bottom of the infographic)

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 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.