What if Shakers Blogged?

Maybe it’s zeitgeist, or maybe I’m just noticing more because it’s on my mind, but I’m finding a lot of fodder lately for my mission to motivate legal marketers to simplify their social media and networking activities to make them both useful and beautiful. How would Shakers design a social media strategy?

The first item was a post on the reliably interesting and and useful Social Media Today blog about focusing your social marketing efforts on one or two platforms/activities that you are most familiar/comfortable with and building organically from there. The post itself was a model of less is more. A few simple ideas, well-framed and concisely delivered.

The next item is brutally simple but a great forcing function for productivity: How to consistently write a blog post in 20 minutes or less.

Consistent with that last point, my time is up.

First Movers, Fast Followers, and How Lawyers Can Be Both

Update: The folks over at Great Jakes have been posting some interesting thoughts on a content delivery model they’re calling attorney microsites, which allow individual lawyers to build their personal brand within their firm’s online footprint.

In technology and consumer goods, there is a long and storied debate over the relative advantages of being a company that creates new products and categories — a first mover — over a company that innovates once a new product type or category has been validated by consumer acceptance — a fast follower.

As the Innovation Zen blog frames it:

“There is a lot of theoretical evidence supporting the model, but does this evidence emerge empirically as well? Not quite. Consider the markets for safety razors, disposable diapers, photographic film, laser printers, game consoles, VCRs, energy drinks, personal computers, internet browsers, operating systems, search engines, online bookstores, online auctions, VoIP services, and the list goes on. In each and every one of these markets the leader position is held by a company that entered after someone was already commercializing their products.

“More important then entering the market first is to enter the market before a dominant design emerges and then understand better the customer needs, innovate and evolve your product or service to become the dominant design.”

And you can see the same struggle shaping up in the emerging battle between the first mover Apple iPad and competing devices from HP and Dell.

The great news for lawyers considering a social marketing strategy — you can be both.

A blog post this week on AttorneySync reminded me of this paradox.

“If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you already recognize a change in marketing platforms for law firms is occurring. The days of taking out a full page, yellowbook ad and watching the clients pour in are long gone. In fact, with the staggering amount of new lawyers entering into the work force each year, reliance on referrals and local recommendations is a tough way to drive significant revenue for a firm.

“The reality is that the internet is the new marketing platform. The law firms that understand this and invest accordingly will reap the benefits. They will be the new generation of law firms leading the way. The ones that fail to get on board will be playing catch up at best and won’t be around at worst.”

Technology and consumer companies were the first movers in the emergence of social commerce, and have driven its rapid maturity as THE marketing platform. So savvy law marketers have the advantage of learning from those industries AND still becoming first movers in their own category.

While other lawyers are working the country club lunch crowd or running TV ads during Judge Judy, the real action is happening on Google and YouTube, where firms and sole practitioners are learning from the first movers in other industries to become first movers in their own — the best of both worlds.

Party Ideas for Social Media Geeks

Forget game night. Forget LAN parties. And certainly forget paintball and laser tag.

As the content marketing tsunami builds in size and force, there’s not enough time in the work day to stay on top of what you need to — never mind the silly c**p that keeps you sane.

If you want to put a new spin on training, team building — or even event marketing — try organizing a “Webinar Night” for friends, colleagues and Tweeps. Of course, you’ll want to name it something more fun and inviting than that — maybe something with “Lounge” in it — but the premise is simple. Curate a playlist of webinars and videos you’ve seen/liked or have been “meaning to” watch (e.g. TechShow Ignite and  TED Conference presentations on YouTube) then have them play while you socialize, converse or create your own version of internet meme karaoke.

Note to lawyers: If you play your cards right, you might even be able to work a CLE angle into the evening.

Blogs Aren’t Magic: What South Park and SNL Can Teach Us About the Follies of Social Media

We can learn a lot about the pitfalls of law firm social marketing from satirical television shows.

It seems that any discussion of law firm marketing these days begins with “You gotta get a blog!” (a la the Saturday Night Live “Chandeliers” skit).

Lawyer blogs are classy, smart, cutting-edge, convey status and make a statement. “OK,” you say, “I’ve launched one. What now?” A few weeks ago I saw an actual LinkedIn post that posed the question, “How do I convert my blog subscribers into clients?”

How indeed.

There’s a lot of rhapsodizing in legal marketing circles about social media as the new PR, and the power of blogs to generate speaking opportunities, media coverage, new business leads and new clients, but painfully little specific discourse on the mechanics of how it works. South Park skewers that business model elision in the famous “Gnomes” episode:

  • Phase 1: Collect underpants
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: Profit

The fact of the matter is, blogs perform a lot of very important marketing tasks very well. They can:

  • Make it easier to be found by potential clients (aka SEO).
  • Efficiently organize and display information.
  • Demonstrate capabilities and expertise.
  • Convey a sense of who you are, how you think and how you work.
  • Provide a mechanism for contacting you.

What they don’t do so well is:

  • Get the right information in front of the right person at the right time.
  • Follow up.
  • Persuade.
  • Identify new opportunities or paths for advancement.

In other words, blogs can’t close the sale. They can make marketing more effective and efficient, but that only goes so far.

  • Journalists and bloggers still need to be motivated, engaged and informed through PR outreach.
  • Potential clients still want to meet you in person or at least talk to you in real time.
  • Conference organizers still need to be persuaded that attendees will find you interesting and your presentation valuable.

So while magical — kind of like the iPad — blogs are not magic. You still need magicians to make them work. 


No More Excuses: Texas Bar Journal’s Social Media Primer Provides Much-Needed Nudge

In a conservative profession bound by strict codes of conduct concerning solicitation of business (aka advertising and marketing), it’s easy to avoid or postpone innovation.

That’s what makes the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal about social media so interesting, helpful — and slightly provocative. I say provocative in the sense that in an understated way, it almost dares the profession to find ways to apply new tools in the practice and business of law.

The whole issue is a keeper, but of particular interest to me is an instructive overview by Debra Bruce of how the Advertising Review Committee’s Interpretive Comments help clarify how the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct apply to social media. Bruce does an admirable job of balancing reassurances and cautions:

LinkedIn profiles – You probably don’t have to file for pre-approval with the Advertising Review Department as long as you’re not overtly soliciting business.

” Using social media to build and enhance relationships and to engage in discussions about topics of interest can be distinguished from advertisement or solicitation.”

And if you’re not sure, file your profile for pre-approval and you will be deemed compliant.

Blogs – They’re fine, as long as the content is editorial, informational, educational or entertaining, and not false, misleading or deceptive ( or a solicitation for business, of course).

“[Indeed,] blogs have become a useful form of communication for attorneys to get information out about subject matter or events relating to their area of practice.”

Videos – Just as with blogs, keep it informational, truthful and not promotional.

User-Generated Content – UGC — ratings, reviews and recommendations — is the hot spot of social marketing for consumer goods, but poses unique challenges for lawyers. While Texas allows the use of testimonials for lawyers, you’d be well-advised to screen LinkedIn recommendations before they get posted for public view.

“For example, Rule 7.02(4) prohibits comparisons to other lawyers’ services, unless substantiated by verifiable objective data. Therefore, if your client enthusiastically reports that you are “the best trial lawyer in town,” you will need to diplomatically as for a revision before publication.”

Bruce ends her article with a key insight and simple advice:

“In summary, some lawyers may be rusty in their recollection of the advertising and solicitation rules because they normally rely on traditional one-to-one networking for client development. As you venture into social media, it’s a good time to give a fresh read to Part VII of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to help you recognize novel issue you may not have encountered.”

In other words, have fun, but be careful.

Law Firm Uses Microtargeted Social Media Ad to Reach Social Media Marketers

I was surprised and intrigued by two HARO (Help a Reporter Out) e-mails this week , both sponsored by Saunders & Silverstein, an Amesbury, Mass.-based law firm specializing in trademarks, copyrights, licensing and domain names:

“Law is scary. Hide-under-the-blanket scary sometimes. That’s where our awesome HARO family member Saunders & Silverstein come in. They handle issues with trademarks, copyrights, licensing and domain names. They can also help you set up a solid legal strategy to meet your goals. You’re going to be in good hands, since they handle domestic and international trademark and copyright protection, as well as Internet and entertainment law. And it doesn’t matter if you are one person or a publicly traded company – they work with them all and tailor a plan accordingly. Check out http://bit.ly/d3B25O and if you are a new client and mention this HARO ad, they will give you 25% off their fee for your first U.S.trademark application filing. SWEET!”

If you’re unfamiliar with HARO, it’s a social media service that distributes inquiries from information seekers (e.g. journalists and bloggers) to potential sources (e.g. PR folks, marketers and subject matter experts of various stripes). Like Craigslist classifieds for stories and storytellers.

Saunders & Silverstein might not be the first firm to try running a coupon special on HARO, but they’re certainly the first I’ve noticed. And it makes perfect sense on several levels.

Highly qualified, highly targeted distribution – HARO subscribers trade in intellectual property, and even if they do not have a direct need for legal services, they likely have clients who do. As the HARO advertising sales pitch notes, sponsors are reaching “Engaged, active members of a community who will read their ads, listen to our unique perspective on the sponsor’s offer, and then take action and buy something.”

Trust and Loyalty – HARO subscribers are social media professionals and true believers, and founder/CEO Peter Shankman is something of a cult figure. Social media types remember the businesses that take them seriously, and they reward that engagement with positive word of mouth.

Eyeballs – HARO claims a “75 %+” open rate for its e-mail distributions, and the folksy feature lead of each message is derived from the sponsor’s message/offer.

Since legal services aren’t an impulse buy, it might take a while before Saunders & Silverstein see the ROI they’re hoping for. I hope they’re at least getting some click-through traffic that trends in the right direction — and that they will let me know how it turns out either way. This would make a very interesting case study.

A Community Manager and a Social Media Manager Walk into a Bar…

Specialization categories can be useful for practitioners within a field, but incomprehensible — if not outright silly — to clients unless there are clear differences in roles, responsibilities, capabilities and outcomes.

My favorite example of this comes from the episode of “The Simpsons” entitled “Homer vs. Dignity.” Homer and Marge are seeking financial advice from recurring business “suit” and jargon-slinging character Lindsey Naegle, who indignantly informs them,  “I’m a financial ‘planner,’ not a financial ‘consultant.'” 

 This week Rachel Happ posted a  very thorough and well-reasoned post on The Community Roundtable outlining the differences in roles and responsibilities between community managers and social media managers.

While I am not clear on what the practical applications of those definitions are other than job postings and departmental alignment, her analysis makes some important points about how organizations should approach their social marketing engagement model based on the program’s business objectives  and the type of product/service/transaction/issue they address.

“In low complexity markets and use cases (think Sharpie pens) the focus is on social media because the relationships desired between Newell Rubbermaid and Sharpie customers does not need to be that deep – and the business model cannot support deep relationship development (i.e. spending hundreds on developing a relationship with a customer who buys $25 worth of products doesn’t make much sense).  The goal is providing infrastructure and management that drives awareness and a sense of connection to the brand with tens of thousands or millions of customers.  Furthermore, proactively connecting customers with other customers doesn’t do much for Newell Rubbermaid because customers don’t need deep references from other customers to make the decision to purchase or to use the product itself. This example is managed by someone who aggregates UGC, publishes content, and responds to people talking about Sharpie – either on the site itself or on a public social network.

“In high complexity markets or use cases, communities make more sense. If the decision-making process is complex and long to reach a conversion, customers benefit greatly by interacting and building relationships with other customers – as well as getting introduced to affiliated product and service providers who can help them maximize their value.  Adobe’s design tool communities are a good example of this – customers help each other maximize the use of the tool, creating better adoption and affiliation. Because the price point of the product is higher, the business model can support richer relationship development.  These communities are managed by people who are connecting members to each other and to relevant content but may be doing very little content creation themselves.”

So unless a community manager gets paid more than a social media manager, or vice versa, the title is only important as an indicator of the core skills and responsibilities required to address the specific marketing and communications objectives.

In Rachel’s useful formulation:

Social Media Manager:

  • Content Creation  (Blogging/vlogging/podcasting) designed to spur conversation/viral sharing
  • Responding to conversations about the brand and the content
  • Ensuring input/feedback gets channeled to the appropriate internal functional group
  • Curating and promoting UGC
  • Managing tools – mostly social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and blogs
  • Reporting/measurement
  • Planning and developing strategies for increasing engagement and conversion

Community Manger:

  • Welcoming members to the community & acclimating [sic] them
  • Building relationships with key members of the community and influencers
  • Moderating conversation and encouraging specific topics
  • Promoting members, making introductions to other members, and encouraging relationship formation
  • Running regular programming/content/events
  • Finding internal resources to respond to specific community discussions and coordinating cross-functional needs
  • Enforcing guidelines/boundaries
  • Managing tools – might be a combination of enterprise & social networks (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Reporting/measurement
  • Channeling input and response from community into other organizational processes
  • Planning and developing strategies for increasing engagement and conversion