Word is Getting Out

I think word is getting out about the unethical practices of some of the bigger companies in the legal marketing industry. Part of it has to do with companies such as ourselves that do our best to try and educate legal professionals about this situation, and part of it is law firms finally realizing that they are not getting what they are paying for.

We have a client we are working with that has a site that was built by a large legal marketing firm, and we have been locked out from doing many of the things that we REALLY need to do. We also got contacted by another firm that knew of the first firm (this firm also has a site built by the same large company) and wanted to hire us as well. We turned the second firm down because it would have been in conflict with our first client (promoting the firms for the same markets and practice areas), but just the fact that the firm sought us out is evidence that the tide is turning.

It is almost 2010. Law firms are getting more savvy about what they are paying for in terms of Internet marketing. That bolds well for companies such as ours that operate in an ethical fashion and work like hell to get our clients’ sites to the top of search engine rankings. The giants are falling…and for that, we can be thankful.

Everybody have a great Thanksgiving!

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.

Interactive Flash Ads Made Easy

Work Media was recently hired to build a widget for a chain of movie theaters. No, not exactly legal-related work, but interesting work nonetheless. I (Jerry) have a pretty extensive background in programming, and this is generally the kind of project that I will say “yes” to because, for one thing, it’s different from what we typically do day-in and day-out, and second, I pretty much assume that I can figure most things out given enough time.

As I started researching technologies for building this, I discovered Flex. And I love it!

Flex is really nothing more than a platform that turns XML files into Flash movies. The XML file defines the objects contained in the movie and contains script that specifies what those objects can do. You’ve seen those Flash banner ads that let the user interact with the ad itself, rather than just clicking the ad to visit the web site? Those things are created in Flex.

If you do much paid search advertising, this is definitely a technology you should investigate. How about an ad that allows the user to select options that describe how they have been injured in an accident that then sends the person to a page on a law firm web site specifically dealing with that kind of injury? That’s not a very exciting example, but my point is that with Flex, you can create ads that interact and get information from (or supply information to) the reader before he even visits your web site. This technology has a ton of potential for firms to create highly engaging ads. Can you imagine if your law firm TV commercials could respond directly to the people watching them? This isn’t quite that advanced, but it’s a step in that direction.

If you’d like to try this out, give Work Media a call at 888-299-4834 or email info@workmedia.net.

Don’t Get "Locked Down"!

Due to some difficulty we are having getting started with one of our client’s web sites, I wanted to take this time to reiterate the following:

Do not hire a search marketing company that does the following:

> Requires a ridiculously long-term contract that is basically for nothing more than putting the site up.

> Is promoting many of your competitors.

> Does not give you full control of the site.

Our client, who has a contractual web site obligation with one of the big companies in the legal marketing industry (initials “F.L.”), has been told that the ability for him to modify his web site’s page titles and meta tags has been “locked down.”

So…you’re not going to promote the site (you might say you are, but come on…), and you’re not going to let me do the things I need to promote it?

That is a bad deal. Look, avoid the temptation to take the easy road by just hiring a company because you have heard the name or because the specialize in the legal industry. Hire a REAL SEO firm that knows what it is doing and will do everything it can to get YOUR site to the top.

Welcoming Some New Clients to Work Media

Work Media would like to welcome a couple of new legal clients into our family: Clark & Clark, criminal defense lawyers based in New Jersey, and USA Hurt, a personal injury firm based in Chicago.

Clark & Clark is also presently a client of the large company that provides Internet marketing for so much of the legal industry (initials “F.L.”), and some of the things we have been told about the way the other company operates are ridiculous. I’ll say this one more time: ask how many competing firms your SEO firm is representing! Do you really expect them to have you as a priority over their other clients in the same market?

USA Hurt is also a client of our friends at Joseph Media Group, who specialize in creating outstanding television commercials for law firms.

Work Media has a chart in our office with every metropolitan statistical area in the country. MSAs where we have a client are highlighted. It is our goal to have one client in every major market. Because when you are a Work Media client, you are our number one priority, and it is our intention to help you DOMINATE your market. Can your existing Internet marketing company say that? Call us today at 888-299-4837

The One Question You MUST Ask Any Company You Are Considering Hiring to Promote Your Firm’s Web Site

Here is the question: how many other law firms are you promoting in my market?

This assumes that you have already established that the company has the experience to do the job.

One thing that perturbs me about this industry is law firms hiring a company for their search engine optimization that is already promoting many firms for the same market. SEO is war. How can an SEO firm fight like hell to get your website to the top of Google along with dozens of other firms? The math just doesn’t work out.

It’s not just that the SEO company is competing against itself…it’ s competing against companies like mine. We don’t have competing interests, and we don’t lose. If your firm is promoted by a company like FindLaw, which is probably promoting a dozen or more other firms for the same market, you don’t want to compete against a firm being promoted by us. It is highly unlikely you will come out a winner in that situation.

To reiterate: You only want to compete against firms that are represented by other SEO companies. Not your own.

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.

Blog/Twitter/Facebook Integration Using Ping.fm

Blogging, micro-blogging and social networking can be an integrated process if you use the right tools. Integration, as intended here, means dynamically combining content from multiple sources into content for a third or more source.

How about an example?

I am Director of Marketing for a small law firm in Austin. I update my firm’s blog every Tuesday and Thursday. A couple of times per day, I also update our Twitter account. At five minutes per tweet and about an hour per blog post, my weekly time investment is about three hours.

For those three hours, in our original configuration, I am just updating my blog and micro-blog periodically. However, I can get much better leverage on my time if I stream that content to different places, such as a Facebook page.

Using a tool like Ping.fm, I can configure my firm’s Facebook status to update every time I update Twitter. Taking it a step further, I can use the Facebook Notes application to update my Facebook account every time I update my blog. Now I not only get my blog and Twitter account updated in a three hour time frame, I get my Facebook page updated as well.

We have left out one important component of Facebook, which is acquiring friends. So I may need some additional time to periodically log into Facebook and search for new friends. I could even automate that part using a tool like Facebook Blaster. I will still want to log into Facebook periodically and check on things.

Since I’m using Ping.fm, I could also choose to set up some more social media pages and have them update every time I update my blog. In this case, it will be important to separate blogs from update sites using groups. Otherwise, I will end up with a bunch of extremely short blog posts with no titles.

Assuming I just stick to one blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, I can still merge the information created from two of them (my blog and Twitter) into my Facebook account, thus having a Facebook account that remains fairly active without requiring any additional work on my part.

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.