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6 reasons to start a blog

6 reasons to start a blog image

I understand. It takes time. You have more pressing things to do. You only have so many hours in the day. You spend enough time already on social media. You have nothing to write about.

I have heard it all before and these are all very valid reasons not to write a blog but if you really stand by these excuses, you will be missing out on one of themost important aspects of your digital strategy. If you want to be known for your ideas and thoughts in your interest or business sector, then the most effective path, though under-rated, is through blogging. The blog should be the hub for your social strategy.

When people attend my social media workshops they are focused on which platform to use for their business. Some people might use Facebook as their main communication tool, others use Twitter or LinkedIn. Of course you need to use the best medium for your message but one thing to be aware of is that these platforms are forever evolving, changing their algorithms and rules and could merge, change or disappear overnight. Your content may go with them. Making sure that you own and control your own content prevents you from being vulnerable and that is where a blog becomes a very valuable asset.

Writing is still the most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise on the web. There is always a need for expert content.

If I carry out any research on a topic, I often search specifically for blogs on that topic because I know that the information will be up to date, informative, generally written by a notable or credible expert and lead me to other trusted sources of information.

Writing a blog is a bit like writing an article. They don’t have to be complicated and long, just informative and engaging. I follow many bloggers online, some for business purposes and keeping up to date and others for entertainment or general interest. I am a member of a local group called Mayo Bloggers on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/mayobloggers/ and the variety of bloggers contributing to the page is wide and varied but always interesting. It is a place to go for entertainment, inspiration and education.

I follow other serious bloggers who write about social media and blogging e.g. www.jeffbullas.com  amongst many others. I read these blogs as if I am reading a daily newspaper. It’s where I get my up to date information, hear about the latest news and trends, find some inspiration and generate ideas for my own business.

 Here are 6 reasons you need a blog:

1. Creating original content with your target user in mind will build your credibility and position you as an expert

As you writexperte on a consistent basis for the audience you have defined, people will follow and anticipate your next blog post. Consistency and quality of content are key to this success.  The more you write around your chosen topics, you will soon build a body of work that demonstrates that you know your industry/business/interest area and followers will see you as the destination for this type of content.  As well as informing people, the aim is to engage people in discussion and debate about your blog topic. That is where the real value starts.

 

 2. It helps you to focus on what is important in your business

To keep a blog going, youImportant word in a triangle need a plan or schedule to stick to. As you are thinking through topics that are interesting to write about, you are actually thinking through what is important, inspiring or newsworthy in your business or business sector right now. This can help you to prioritise activities, highlight important issues and focus on the areas of your business that you want your customers hear about.

 

3. It provides inspiration for content to share and adapt

Use again

Having taken the time to write and maintain a blog, re-purposing the content in as many ways is possible will give you real value for your efforts. Rather than just posting a link to the blog, the material can be re-used in many different ways e.g. a Slideshare presentation, speeches and corporate workshops, posts for LinkedIn, a Facebook update, the basis for a podcast or short video. The content is given longevity and can be an ongoing source of information.

 

4. It generates ideas and engages people within and outside of the business

Ideas

Having to sit down and plan the content for you blog really helps to generate ideas and can be a very creative process. It is an opportunity to get other people in your organisation involved with the blog perhaps by asking specialists to contribute content. There is also the opportunity to ask a client or other external experts to contribute a guest blog, thereby increasing the validity of your content.

 

5. It gives you an excuse to talk to clients, potential customers and other experts about your business area

Discussion

The blog should invite comments and discussion amongst your readers. Your blog is truly working for you if a customer or other expert in your area starts an online discussion about the points you have made. Respond to them as quickly as you can. This is the engagement you need to position yourself as a credible expert in your area.

 

 

6. It is a great way to get feedback and get to know your customers better

Feedback

Feedback on your blog is to be invited and valued. If you receive feedback, it can guide you to what people are thinking and perhaps give you better clues as to what your customers are looking for. If you are discussing a real pain point that your business is trying to solve, then feedback or comments from people can be invaluable in testing out if these are right or if there are other areas of concern that you should focus on. It is also an opportunity to directly ask your readers what issues they would like you to write about.

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series about blogging. Part 1 discusses the need for a blog. Part 2 discusses how to get your inspiration and keep writing. Part 3 discusses how to promote the blog and engage with your target audience.

In Part 2 of this series next week, I will be looking at how to get inspiration for your blog and how to maintain the momentum. Meanwhile, get planning!

The social law firm: reality or myth?

social networks imageA few years ago, I carried out a benchmarking study across different types of professional service firms, e.g. lawyers, accountants, advisory, HR, etc to assess how they used online information tools to communicate internally and to market themselves externally with clients. The results showed that it was the law firms who were the most under-developed in this area.

Since then, economic and market pressures have changed the landscape, the professional services scene is much more competitive and clients themselves are demanding more from their advisors.  Clients now have more choice when selecting a legal practice and are much more informed buyers thanks to Google.  Apart from asking around in their network for opinions of your firm, they can find out about you online, checking out how you represent yourself, see who your clients are, what you specialise in and if you are a thought leader in your field. So, what you say online and how and where you say it, is critical for your reputation.

The real art of marketing legal services is no longer passive. This is where using social media tools can bring a huge advantage to your firm, large or small, if you get it right. The opportunities to engage directly with clients and potential clients are very real and to realise the benefits of this, lawyers must now do one thing. Become social.

Networking and engagement through online commentary and sharing is becoming increasingly more important for lawyers looking to build word of mouth and lasting relationships. People hire lawyers, not firms. Therefore relationships matter (as they always have offline) and this is all the more reason for individual lawyers to use social media effectively.

 Which tools should you use?

Social media icons

Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs provide fast and cost effective ways to keep in touch with clients and prospects, keep an eye on competitors and keep up-to-date with industry trends. But how do you know which is the best tool to use? Maintaining a presence on social media is time consuming so making a careful selection of the most relevant tools for your firm is critical.

The top tools currently used by law firms (there are many others) are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and Google+ (although rare). Many law firms start out by assuming that the best social media platform for them is LinkedIn but that’s not necessarily the case. It is a great B2B marketing tool but for sheer number of users, Facebook has far greater reach with 1.35 billion active monthly users. That’s not the total number of users worldwide, but active users which is more important. LinkedIn has 187 million active users and Twitter has 284 million.

Facebook is often dismissed by lawyers as a place for personal networking and where younger people chat and socialise but in fact, of users aged 35+years, 80% are using Facebook for both personal and professional networking. Of this age group, only 66% are using LinkedIn.

Networking savvy lawyers are finding Facebook a good choice when it comes to building relationships and word of mouth. Consumers and businesses, at all levels, want to get to know their lawyer – personally and professionally – and Facebook provides the opportunity to do both. Twitter fits alongside LinkedIn and Facebook and is a more immediate marketing tool for announcements, promoting content and generating leads. It is also an invaluable tool for monitoring your competitors and industry developments and finding influencers who you may want to engage with.

Tailoring your content

Content marketing

To give an example of how social media is used to great effect, one Irish law firm that seems to use social media well is Matheson.  It’s the only one using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Other large firms are tending to use one or two tools and many smaller firms are not on social media at all.

On Facebook, Matheson focuses on recruitment. They use promotional videos and open day announcements and include student testimonials. They understand that Facebook is a much more personal place than other social media sites and they use this to attract potential recruits. With Twitter, the target audience is different. The firm tweet about conferences and talks they organise, their charity work and promoting their own content. On LinkedIn, Matheson works on maintaining its credentials as a thought leader by posting links to their online newsletter, podcasts and other material of their own.

Understanding the demographic of each social media tool and tailoring your content to your different audiences ensures that you are getting the right message to the right people and that they will be interested in what you have to say, developing a positive opinion of your brand. It also allows you to attract the type of business you want to expand your client base.

Earlier this year, I carried out a project with a “magic circle” firm in London, assessing how they use their information resources. They use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Again, they have segmented their markets and have several Facebook pages, e.g. a specific one for graduates, several Twitter accounts, including ones for corporate social responsibility, an anti-trust group and jobs. On LinkedIn, they have separate pages for their global offices, the UK office having 36,000 followers.

During the project I was interviewing partners and other senior fee earners in the firm, asking how they use the many costly information tools placed on their desktops. Although well used, their main port of call is to use Google as their first port of call. If they have a meeting coming up with a client, they will search to see what that person is saying and doing and they are checking social media tools to do this. LinkedIn is checked to find out current and past activities and to understand the client’s key areas of interest. Twitter is being used extensively to see what clients are talking about, who they are engaging with and the issues they may be facing.

Social media works both ways. It’s a great research tool to find industry and people information but it is also an important place to be found. This applies to all sizes of practice, not just the big firms. Using social media effectively is just as important for small local practices to help them stand out from the crowd and create a distinct advantage.

What should you be sharing?

Having selected the social media tool you want to use, the next challenge is what to say, what to post, how to engage your audience. Content falls into three main categories:

  1. original written content
  2. curated content from respected others
  3. visual content such as photos, videos, infographics

All three are important but according to recent research by Marketo.com original written content is the most highly valued by both clients and Google alike. Google will bring the most relevant information to the searcher and measure relevance by how much content is viewed, shared and cited. The best way to deliver this content is by writing a blog. It is still the most effective way to increase your visibility on Google and it allows potential clients to know you and like your personality which builds trust before you even meet.

When you write great blog content that displays your unique subject matter expertise, others will share it on social media, helping to extend your reach even further. The trick is to use a blog to enrich your social media and to use social media to promote your blog. When you write well with passion and authority, your blog will succeed as will your online reach.

Benefits of social media

purpose+action=results

There are some huge benefits to engaging with social media as part of your marketing mix. They are:

Practical:

  • Increased exposure online
  • Increased traffic to your website
  • Improving search rankings
  • Reduced marketing expenses

Business:

  • Generating leads and finding the work you want
  • Developing loyal fans and followers
  • An insight into your marketplace
  • Building your reputation

….which ultimately leads to improved sales with the type of business you want to attract.

Of course the benefits come with key challenges and the biggest one of those is time. One of the most important success factors with social media is consistency. Posting to the sites regularly, blogging regularly, it all takes time and effort.

However, if you take a strategic approach, perhaps starting with one social media platform and plan what and when you want to write, then you will have a greater chance of success. Your consistency will pay off by receiving feedback and comments from people, allowing you to engage with them, build relationships and deliver the content they want. This can only help you to develop a more effective law practice meeting the needs of your target audiences.

 

Networking: step out from behind the device

Face-to-face networking

Social media tools, if used correctly, are undoubtedly a great way to network online. If you maximise the opportunity to put up a comprehensive and thoughtful profile about your business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc and use the tools in a way that enhances your business and attracts followers/connections/friends, you have made a very good start in networking online.

Visual social media tools such as Pinterest, YouTube, Vine and Instagram allow that network to come alive even more where people can see and hear your business in action. The growth of social media is heading this ‘visual‘ way – people want to see, hear and interact with someone they might do business with. Podcasts, live webcasts and online training sessions are also in high growth as they are accessible, timely and cost effective and delivered by trusted experts you can connect with.

It struck me recently that this trend for more visual marketing and networking is nothing new. The tools might be new and the way we use them might be new, but there is nothing new in people wanting to see and hear someone rather than read about them. Human beings are very sociable animals and like nothing more than to chat to each other, discover new things and try and solve each others problems.

As a digital marketing consultant and trainer, I spend a lot of time keeping up to date with social media and collaboration tools and techniques and trying to understand how businesses can make best use of them. I can read about issues that organisations face with digital marketing and read the case studies. But the most effective way I gather information and test out what people are looking for is to get out there and talk to them. Yes, old fashioned face-to-face networking. Even Skype and FaceTime can’t beat this one.

2 people networking face to face

Face to face networking

I have recently joined some great local networking groups and the Board of a local enterprise body which has opened up new relationships. It’s exciting for me to contribute to these groups using my past experience and as a ‘blow in’ from the UK into Ireland, the groups are an invaluable source of understanding about how business really works here and the issues that people are facing.

I have preconceptions, experience and further thoughts about how social media and wider digital marketing can be used to enhance an organisation but until you start talking to someone and get down to the granular level of what drives their business and what they are trying to achieve, it’s all theory. Local businesses have specific issues that need solving and which you will never find out about from their company website or industry reports.

Talk to people

A face-to-face chat for 10 minutes gives you more information about business issues, what is worrying people, their opinions and fears and also their successes and future plans. This is invaluable information. The networking groups I have joined are also cross sector so I can appreciate business and marketing issues across a number of industries, enabling me to tailor my approach.

and you have to do both but start with the real issues given to you face-to-face by a human and don’t make assumptions about what they need or how you can help them. I wrote an article a few years ago about the power of face-to-face networking . I came across it again the other day in an ‘administrative tidying up’ moment. I thought it was timely that I found the article again as I have just reignited my own networking activity and upon re-reading it, I found that the top ten tips still hold true.

Top 10 networking tips

You can read the updated article here.  Networking article. We can hide behind online networking and we become very brave and chatty when talking to a screen. But real fear takes hold when we have to speak face-to-face to people we don’t know . This article attempts to help you conquer these fears and make lasting and valuable connections. If you have any thoughts or views about networking or have stories about how it has worked for you, please tell me and I will share these on my website.

Lesley Moore