New Year, New Blogging Philosophy

Jerry Work here. Wow, I have done a lousy job of updating this blog. Work Media is doing well, but as a consequence I have dropped the ball on our own blogging and social media. How are you doing with it? Are you updating your blog three times per week? Are you logging into LinkedIn at least once per week to post on some group boards and do connection requests?

No?

Then maybe you need to adopt a new philosophy. Let’s do it together. Repeat after me:

I will find 30 minutes every day to devote to blogging or social media.

That’s it! Two or three days per week, spend that time typing out a blog post. It doesn’t have to be grand. It doesn’t have to teach a lesson. All you have to do is record your thoughts. If you have come upon some interesting links that you think your readers would appreciate, then post them. Just write something!

The other days, log into LinkedIn, do a couple of connection requests, then check out the groups you belong to and post a couple of comments.

If you want to ramp things up a bit without spending any more time on it, add in some automation. Set up a Twitter account and then use an RSS news feed to automatically post news links to it. Use Ping.fm to update multiple blogs at once.

Whatever you have to do, in 2010, find that thirty minutes EVERY day to do social media marketing for your law firm. Or find someone else who has thirty minutes free (and who you think is competent) and have him or her do it. Or do it yourself early in the morning before you go to work.

Just get it done!

Using the Twitter List Feature

Twitter released a new feature that I think has some use for lawyers promoting their firms online. The feature, called “lists,” lets you create lists of other users. So…why is this helpful?

1. There may be particular users you really like to read, but if they are mixed in with lots of other users, then it will be much more difficult to track their updates. If you move those users into their own lists, then you have a way to just read the updates of those users you really like.

2. It is possible to follow someone else’s list. So…if there is another user you really respect and he creates a list of high quality users, then you can follow that list. Also, if there are other users (or more of your own accounts) you would like to help spread around, then you can stick those users into your own lists, which help spread them around.

To create a list, click on the Create a New List button. Then give your list a name and add users to it. You can search for users using the search text box or you can add existing users you follow to the list. To do that, you just have to visit those users’ Twitter pages, then click the Lists button at the top. Your newly created list will appear as an option. Click on the list name to add that particular user to the list.

If you use Twitter for marketing your law firm, then you should definitely begin using the lists feature.

Building the Ultimate Social Media Tool for Lawyers

We are working on development of a proprietary Twitter management application that will combine many of the best features of the applications we use now to manage our Twitter accounts. This program will also become the basis of another version created specifically for the legal industry. It seems many lawyers are having a hard time with this social media stuff, and they need a tool to guide them, tell them exactly what to do, and take much of the work off their shoulders. That is exactly what our program will do.

If you are in charge of marketing for a law firm, we would love to hear from you about what kind of tool you need to take advantage of social media. Do you want something to update Facebook? Do you just want something that makes it easy to find groups on social media sites? What would be your ultimate tool?

Email me at jwork@workmedia.net.

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’ve spent most of my blogging time (of which I have very little) maintaining our newest blog, www.theTwitterMarketingBlog.com, so every other blog we manage, including our main Internet marketing blog at WorkMedia.net, has gotten the shaft. Actually, most of my spare time (is there really such a thing?) has been soaked up on the Twitter development mentioned above, so even the Twitter blog has not gotten too much love.

Social Media Integration 101

Social Media Marketing is about integration. It’s about feeding a piece of content into a machine that drives that content onto various social media web pages. These can include article directories, video directories, social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin, and anywhere else on the web where people are gathering to share information or to have fun.

By “machine” I mean an organized system for systematically distributing your content. Your system will likely involve a combination of software automation and manual work. However, there are lots of low cost sources of online labor that can greatly reduce the amount of time you have to spend manually working on your system. For example, you can outsource the article writing process. In my experience, it may take some time to find an article writing resource that you trust and that does good work.

For automation, there are a few basic tools you can use to get the job done. For example, Ping.fm is a tool of that will distribute a single blog post to numerous social media sites, such as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and WindowsLive. In this scenario you want Google and other search engines to find your content on your main blog first, and then find it on the other social media sites. So you might want to incorporate a staggered distribution strategy in which you first post your content to your main blog and wait a few days before distributing it to other sites.

The staggered distribution strategy applies to article marketing as well. You probably want search engines to first find your articles on EzineArticles Com. And then find it on the other article directories. The reason is that a keyword link from EzineArticles may carry more weight and thus help improve your search engine rankings more than a link on other article directories.

We’ve started recording the world’s shortest Internet marketing videos for law firms, which I invite you to check out at http://12seconds.tv/channel/lawfirmseo. And we recorded a longer video on this same subject on our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7zGC83lzm4.

Using TweetDeck to Organize Your Twitter Account Using Groups

Some people’s approach to Twitter marketing is to just get all the Twitter followers you can. Some people are much more selective, and only follow those who belong to a very narrow niche. I’m in the middle. I have not done the things to generate tens of thousands of users, but I have also used some automation to build up a follower list, while concentrating on those who deal with marketing, especially legal marketing.

But even taking the middle ground and only dealing with a couple thousand followers, it can be difficult to manage. Most of us can’t really sit around all day and do nothing but read peoples’ tweets. But if you never read the tweets of those you follow, you are going to miss some opportunities.

One tool for keeping up with those you follow is TweetDeck. TweetDeck is a client side program (meaning you install it on your computer, versus running it from a web site) that presents your Twitter information in a nicely laid out, organized way using columns. By default, the tweets from all of your friends are listed in a column on the left-hand side of the screen (although columns can be moved around however you want). The next column lists tweets that mention your user name. The third column lists direct messages. The last column, by default, shows TweetDeck recommendations, which I found to be a waste of space. I use that column to build out groups.

The ability to lump those you follow into groups is an extremely useful function. The fact is, if you take the steps to build up a large list of people you follow (and who follow you), there are going to be a lot of people that you’re really not that interested in reading. Likewise, there are going to be some people who you really want to keep up with. The way to account for this is to place those you really want to read into groups. For instance, in my account, I have a group called “Legal Marketing” that contains users who discuss, well, legal marketing. If I did not have these people grouped, their tweets would just be mixed in with all the other tweets of people I follow and I would not see nearly as many of them.

An attorney might group other users by practice area, state, or any other criteria that makes sense. Or maybe you just do what I do, which is group based on marketing function. There are probably quite a few people on Twitter, like me, who blog and tweet on subjects related to Internet marketing. No book, magazine or even web site will ever be as cutting edge as information being posted in real time by practicing Internet marketers.

You may choose to use groups differently, instead just grouping anyone you find interesting regardless of their line of work or the nature of their tweets. That is fine. But however you do it, you should find a way to organize your Twitter account so that you don’t drown in a sea of random tweets.

Quick tip: After you have set up your groups, as you scroll through tweets from various users, if there is a user you would like to place into a particular group, you will see a small “+” sign icon that you can click to add the user to one of your groups. As you watch your account and notice users that belong in one of your groups, go ahead and move them. Over time, this process will result in a number of groups that are highly focused.

An Important Lesson from the Twitter Meltdown

Yesterday Twitter blew up. From what I understand, there was a “spamcloud” (whatever that means), and in response, Twitter suspended many thousands of accounts of innocent users (including mine).

It goes without saying that this is very poor policy on Twitter’s part, and the kind of thing that could kill the app. I think Twitter needs to keep in mind that there will be competitors come along to try and knock it down, and this kind of policy is the kind of thing that will hasten its demise.

Here is an important rule of Internet marketing that this episode highlights:

You should spend your time and resources promoting properties that you control.

Twitter owns your Twitter account. Do you own your Facebook account? Nope. Your LinkedIn account is not yours. You are at the mercy of those sites to stay in business and keep your account live.

A simple solution is to point your own custom domain names to your social media pages. For instance, if you have a Facebook Pages page, then you could register a domain name that point to that page. If Facebook goes down or just decides that it doesn’t like you any more, then you can just repoint the domain name somewhere else. If you have promoted a particular domain, rather than the default page name, then you have control. Facebook owns you if you have spent all of your time promoting the default Facebook URL.

So be proactive. Do not let yourself be a victim to the whims of whatever social media sites you like to use. Spend your time optimizing and promoting your own web site, and use custom domains for promoting your social media pages. Then maybe you can avoid the next meltdown such as what happened with Twitter this weekend.

As always, get in touch with me if you need some help implementing an aggressive Internet marketing campaign for your law firm. Contact 888-299-4837 or www.WorkMedia.net.

And I invite you to check out my favorite Twitter management tool for free at www.TryTweetLater.com.

Integrating Twitter into Your Law Firm Web Site

In a blog post I recently wrote, I talked about how important it is to integrate your legal marketing efforts; blog to web site, offline to online, etc. Everything should fit together. I think one important strategy is using RSS to stream your blog content into the static pages of your web site. Sometimes it can be tricky to work out the code to make it happen, but it’s a beautiful effect when your entire web site gets updated every time you make a new blog post. This can be especially helpful for law firms, since the business lends itself to content creation and blogging.

While Twitter is a fairly new concept to me personally, I am warming up to it and am exploring the idea of using streaming Twitter content to update web pages as you would blog content. While the code for streaming blog content can be tricky, Twitter makes it fairly simple. The first step is to log onto Twitter and then look at the bottom menu, where you will click the Apps link. Then click the Widgets link and select the type appropriate for your site. From here you can create an HTML widget or a Flash-based widget. Since the goal of this experiment is to have the text streamed to your web site, I feel like the HTML widget makes more sense. When using the Flash widget, you also have a greater chance of excluding some users from seeing the content if they do not have the correct version of Flash.

Next, you can just copy and past the supplied code into the pages of your web site. If your site uses include files, then you can easily stream your Twitter data throughout your site by including the widget code in an include file. On www.law-firm-internet-marketing.net, for example, the following include file wraps up the side menu:

#include virtual=”leftside.asp”

By doing this, it enables you to change one file to update your entire site, instead of having to manually update every single page.

You may need to do some in-line CSS styling if the widget does not look quite right. As an example, I was not happy with the look of the bulleted lists of posts after I installed the widget, so I used the following style to depress the bullet point: style=”list-style-type:none;”.

There are other Twitter apps that I will talk about in later blog posts, but I advise you to take a look at the Twitter widget for the purpose of integrating Twitter content into your mainstream law firm Web content.

Need some help with integrating your social networking with your other online marketing? Contact Work Media at 888-299-4837 or email Info@WorkMedia.net.

Ping.fm Settings Advice

One thing I learned while experimenting with Ping.fm yesterday is that it is not really a good idea to use the “default” setting to send blog posts. It posts blogs with no titles, which you don’t really want to do. In my case, doing so completely messed up the front page of this web site because we stream our own RSS feed to our front page. Not having a title broke the design of the page, which we did not notice for several hours. So…when using Ping.fn, use the blog setting for your blogs and the updates setting for other things, but avoid the default setting.

Stumbling for Law Firms: How to Use StumbleUpon

Probably not many legal marketers reading this are actively using StumbleUpon, and that could be a mistake. The site displays random sites submitted by other users based on your interests. I doubt many legal marketers really have time to just sit and watch random web sites appear. However, where StumbleUpon becomes useful is in submitting web pages of your own into the StumbleUpon system to be seen by others. StumbleUpon is very popular and has the potential to put your web site in front of a lot of eyeballs.

There is one caveat: you must create the appearance of being an active user, and not just a marketer trying to get your site in front of people. Follow these rules and your “stumbling” will be more effective.

Make sure you set up a good profile with a nice photo. Failing to set up a good profile will emphasize that you are a marketer only looking to promote your own web site, rather than a part of the community.

Every time you submit a site, take the time to provide a well-written description and appropriate tags.

When another user recommends your site, send that person a personal message.

Only submitting your own web pages makes you look like a spamming marketer. Recommend enough other web sites that it is not clear that you are trying to promote a particular site of your own. Try to submit sites that you think other people would really be interested in.

For your pages to receive maximum exposure, they should be strong enough for other people to recommend. The pages you submit should therefore be light on fluff and heavy on value or usefulness. Pages that do nothing but try to sell your services will likely receive few recommendations. The more approval you get from people who see your site, the more visibility you will have in the StumbleUpon system.

StumbleUpon also has its own advertising platform that allows you to pay to have your site displayed to users in a particular category. There is a legal category. Impressions in StumbleUpon cost a nickel each. That may sound expensive, but it is actually a good value because an “impression” in StumbleUpon means someone is actually viewing your web site, rather than an ad for your web site.

I am currently working on a new book specifically about this type of thing, but in the meantime I recommend you check out The Law Firm Internet Marketing Book on Amazon.com for more Internet marketing strategies for law firms.