Archives for November 2010

Was Dudley Moore an SEO Prophet?

Over the past several months I’ve been listening for law firm promos on Austin public radio station KUT in preparation for an upcoming post. I’ve heard many, most of them undistinguished and unmemorable. An ad this morning was different. It wasn’t inspirational, aspirational, punning or poetic, and that’s like what made it stand out: I remember the firm and what they do.

The experience reminded of Dudley Moore’s 1990 movie “Crazy People,” a send-up of the advertising industry. Moore’s character is an ad exec suffering a mental breakdown that results in highly successful campaigns distinguished by blunt, plain-language taglines like “”Volvo — they’re boxy but they’re good.”

Isn’t that keyword-driven SEO in a nutshell? Boxy + Good = Volvo.

So back to this morning. Similar clarity and simplicity enables me to recall FosterQuan, a Houston-based immigration law firm with an office in Austin. The copy was straightforward — the firm’s name and the type of law they practice. The announcer even spelled out “Quan.”

In contrast to that, most law firms are still addicted to combinations of high-minded but ultimately generic terms in their advertising (i.e. what firm doesn’t have “experience?” ).

I don’t need an immigration lawyer, but if someone ever asks me for names, guess who I’ll mention.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-ZSQDo_mTE&fs=1&hl=en_US]

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 11/26/2010

A very abbreviated Thanksgiving weekend edition of “My Picks.” This week I was intrigued and encouraged by individuals and organizations taking action about what they dislike about the current state of social media. In one case publicly scaling back, and in another, launching an alternative vision.

Ari Herzog’s “Why I Deleted My Foursquare Account” generated a 550 percent one-day spike in his blog traffic. Earlier this month A year ago he posted an account of his decision to drop half of his Facebook friends.

A ragtag group of young developers radicalized by Facebook’s seeming disregard for end-user privacy and control over their own content launched Diaspora. Funded through Kickstarter by $200,000 in donations from nearly 6,500 backers contributing as little as $5, the quixotic enterprise seeks to — if not upend — at least foster a credible crowdsourced open source alternative to Facebook.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how people can share in a private way, and still do all the things people love to do on social networks. We hope you’ll find it fun to use and a great way to keep in touch with all the people in your life.

“You decide what you’d like to share, and with whom. You retain full ownership of all your information, including friend lists, messages, photos, and profile details.

“Diaspora lets you create ‘aspects,’ which are personal lists that let you group people according to the roles they play in your life. We think that aspects are a simple, straightforward, lightweight way to make it really clear who is receiving your posts and who you are receiving posts from. It isn’t perfect, but the best way to improve is to get it into your hands and listen closely to your response.”

Think it can’t happen? Consider that the open source movement begat Linux, which begat Android. That took a while, but it demonstrates that a community of techno-geeks passionate about an ideal can be formidable competitors.

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 11/19/2010

As we labor in the vineyards of legal social media — tweeting into the void, pouring our best thinking into a perfectly turned blog post that gets no comments —  it can be easy to start wondering whether it’s all worth it.

But then there are events like last night’s Austin legal tweetup that reinvigorate your faith and energy. Real people having real conversations over real beers literally animates social media. So my posts of the week are by two people I knew but just met — and now know, like and trust on a different level.

While I had followed Haley Odom of Haley Lobs Law Bomb blog fame on Twitter, I’d not had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with her in person until last night. So when I saw her most recent legal tweetup invitation, I was glad to avail myself of the opportunity. Check out her “What Paralegals (and Attorneys) Wish Attorneys Knew” post. It’s making the rounds in print, too.

Don Cruse helps Texas appellate counsel and trial lawyers stay on top of their game through the Supreme Court of Texas Blog, which this week features posts on the Texas homestead exemption and how SCOTX is inching toward e-filing in Texas appellate courts.

To summarize, here’s a musical message from Mr. James Taylor…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7E8dC2g_XA&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Social Media Trends for 2011: Control, Privacy, Creative Destruction and Geomarketing

This week Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) of Arment Dietrich ran a contest on her Spin Sucks blog to crowdsource a ninth (she already had eight) social media trend for 2011, all of which will be discussed on a one-hour webinar Dec. 15.

I’m proud to report that my notion of creative destruction was chosen as one of the winning ideas, rolling up into a larger trend that also incorporates the issues of control, privacy and geomarketing.

My original entry follows:

“Creative destruction will be the next big trend.

Consider reaction to the Facebook messaging announcement.

Data mining and content sharing will make social networking platform providers more attractive to advertisers and investors, but among users, privacy issues will become social media’s equivalent of ATT data plan contracts — despised “necessary evils” that will drive innovation by new competitors.”

“Facebook’s M.O. is to throw new features out there, see how the user community reacts, then apologize and promise to do better when they’re excoriated by the privacy community. It keeps happening, and users feel more frustrated and trapped. Simultaneously, the usability is neglected and remains a byzantine torture.

We have become dependent on an inadequate and unsatisfying monopoly and stick with it because there are no alternatives — yet.

While there are significant barriers to entry for like-Facebook-but-better platforms, I can absolutely see shifts in end user behaviors and tastes, (e.g. it’s just not fun anymore). In the absence of a 1:1 alternative, the competitors might be third-party niche players that build a following of their own through Facebook then split (Zynga is a clear candidate). Similarly, content distribution SAAS vendors could come out with an alternative engagement model.’

Check out all the entries and the interesting discussions they sparked.

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 11/12/2010

Twitter is like a Dremel tool: Either it sits on your workbench unused, or it’s indispensable for every project. It all comes down to:

  1. Having a clear use case
  2. Keeping your tool in good working order,  and
  3. Looking for new ways to use it.

The Social Media Examiner nailed the use case issue with “8 Simple Steps to Grow a Quality Twitter Following,” including considerations like targeting, frequency, format and keywords.

Franck Robert posted one of the most comprehensive and useful Twitter resource lists I’ve ever encountered. Following are just a few of the links he’s assembled:

Mashable Twitter Tips:

 It is all about facilitating conversations, so learning how to build your community is vital to getting the most from your experience.

 Twitter for Business

It’s not all play on Twitter — there’s serious business being done as well, and this guide will teach you how to put Twitter to work.

Last but not least, since so much of Twitter’s value derives from retweets, Hubspot backs into some actionable tips through interesting and helpful graphics illustrating “8 Ways to Not Get Retweeted.”

Getting Real About the Role of Blogs in Media Relations

A couple of weeks ago I was startled by blog posts on  The Rainmaker Blog and the Lawyer Marketing Blog. In both cases, misreadings of surveys written up in an eMarketer article led to erroneous assertions that blogging is a great way to connect with journalists.

In fact, for small businesses and professional firms the opposite is true. Just as the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the fastest, most effective media relations tactics involve direct contact. Relying on Google search and word of mouth to get your ideas and personal brand in front of journalists through your blog takes time and luck, and is not as effective overall as a sustained, targeted program of calls and e-mails.

Yes, we’ve all heard or read the anecdotes about a sole practitioner who was written up in the Wall Street Journal because a reporter read one of his/her blog posts, and floods of business followed. While that does happen, it’s extremely rare. In other words, saying that blogging is a great way of connecting with journalists is like saying that playing scratch-off lottery tickets is a great investment strategy for your retirement — You might get a couple small wins along the way, but they don’t cover your overall investment, and the odds against big payouts are very large.

A Wall Street Journal article this week offers real-world tips from successful young entrepreneurs like Aaron Patzer (@apatzer on Twitter), founder of Mint.com, on how to score media coverage for a small business.

The most effective strategies for earning and sustaining engagement with journalists are to be:

  • Useful – Whenever you contact a journalist, make sure that you’re offering ideas or resources of immediate value to them, not to you. Saying “I’d like to be a resource, and invite you to read my blog” will not cut it. Make their job easier; don’t give them an assignment.
  • Persistent — Regular contact will keep you and your ideas top of mind and improve your odds of connecting for a future story.
  • Opportunistic – “The best way to get quick press attention is to tie your service into current events. Look at the headlines. What is relevant today?” says Shama Kabani (@shama), founder of The Marketing Zen Group.
  • Patient – Media relations is a game of probabilities and percentages. The more you play, the better your chances.

My Picks for Notable Posts of the Week 11/5/2010

Technically, my posts of the week are tweets. Specifically, the Twitter-driven call to arms and online mobilization in defense of social media for legal marketing. The issue involved is the ABA’s announcement in its Issues Paper Concerning Lawyers’ Use of Internet Based Client Development Tools memo of its intention to promulgate new standards affecting:

  • Online social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter)
  • Blogging
  • Facebook and Linkedin profiles
  • Pay per click advertising
  • Gathering information through networking websites
  • Discussion forums
  • JD Supra document uploads
  • Lawyer websites
  • Use of case histories on law firm websites

I’m not sure who first sounded the alarm, but I’ll credit Heather Morse because hers was the first #LMA hashtag tweet on the subject (and I know, like and trust her 🙂 ). Heather’s message was retweeted over the next few days by, among others,  Nicole Carrubba, Auctorilaw, Jesse Wilkins, Nancy Myrland, Lindsay Griffith, Gail LamarcheDeb Cochran, Melanie Green Rebecca Wissler and The Great Jakes.

Larry Bodine amplified the issue with a “RED ALERT” blog post, a CMO Forum LinkedIn group discussion thread and the #ABAREGS Twitter hashtag.

The social media buzz on the topic picked up so much volume and momentum that it inspired the Voldemort-cum-Andy-Rooney of legal blogging (who I never mention by name or link to) to puke his trademark self-righteous bile on it in his “22,500 Tears” post.

I applaud and commend the clarion calls for thoughtful attention and advocacy on the issue, but I also net out with Adrian Dayton on the “silver lining” of this kerfuffle:

“Thousands of lawyers are waiting in the wings afraid to use social media because they aren’t sure how to use the tools – and there is such little guidance from state bar associations and the ABA that many are simply staying away.

“It is about time the ABA took look at online marketing and helped provide some assurances to so many attorneys that look to these governing bodies for advice.  As lawyers it is our responsibility to let the ABA know our opinions on the topic.  The ABA is accepting comments until December 15, 2010 to guide them in their decisions – feel free to make your voice heard.”

How Do You Rate? How Much Should You Care?

Why do lawyers still invest time, money and attention in rating organizations like Martindale-Hubbell, Am Law, Avvo and Best Lawyers? I certainly don’t question the veracity of the satisfied customers featured on their sites, but I’ve yet to find persuasive affirmative evidence about their value to a broad base of practice types and firm sizes.

My working theory for their enduring pull on lawyer egos, attention and budgets is that it’s due to inertia and FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt). Fear that there’s inaccurate and/or unflattering information about them out on the Interwebs, uncertainty over what would happen if they stopped “claiming” their profiles and adding the rating badge to their website homepage, and doubt about alternatives. In other words, a defensive strategy with an unclear, uncertain chance of upside.

It’s not just me wondering. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 also is looking into what makes them tick.

If the only time you pay attention to your profile on the various lawyer referral sites is when it’s time to renew a subscription, that should raise a red flag.

The hermetic secrets of their rating methodologies aside, lawyer “finder” sites just don’t seem on their face to add value in today’s social networking-driven marketplace. Unlike consumer ratings and reviews for simple purchases, professional services ratings and reviews are only credible if the seeker already knows, likes and trusts the reviewer. That’s why people looking for lawyers usually ask other lawyers or friends who know lawyers for recommendations. LinkedIn and state bar association sites are much more suited to that purpose.

When clients ask me whether it’s “worth it” to spend time and money on profiles, I walk them through some basic ROI questions:

  1. Have you gotten leads from ratings sites?
  2. How many, and over what period of time?
  3. What percentage of those leads turned into actual engagements (as opposed to tire-kickers, price shoppers or individuals unable to pay)?
  4. How much were the resulting engagements worth?
  5. Were they profitable?
  6. Do they generate more profitable business than other marketing activities/lead channels?
  7. Could you put that time and money to more productive use elsewhere?
  8. What do you think is likely to happen — not might, likely — if you did just the minimum to maintain basic profile information?

Even if you decide not to pay “finder” sites for the ability to embellish and/or actively manage your profile, it’s still wise to make sure that the information the site compiled on its own is current and accurate. Better safe than sorry.

Market Each Blog Post Like a Product

The great thing about social media marketing is that the best ideas are the simplest — the rest is tweaking.

This morning I attended an Austin Social Media Breakfast presentation by Brian Massey (aka “The Conversion Scientist”) on strategies, tactics, data capture and measurement for content marketing, and came away with some commonsense but potentially transformational tips for lawyers on how to drive blog traffic and leads:

  1. Instead of treating your blog like an epistolary novel for other smart lawyers to admire, think of it as a supermarket of ideas and market each post on its own like a distinct product.
  2. Take a page from Guy Kawasaki and tweet out links to each new content “product” four times over an eight-hour period.
  3. Make sure that each post contains a call to action (e.g. free download offer, webinar sign-up link, etc.), or has one physically approximate to the post.

Lots of social media marketing gold to mine on Brian’s site. For additional information and resources on blog conversion, also check out Social Mouths.