The Best of TECHSHOW – Lesser Known Social Media Sites

In this “best of” ABA TECHSHOW post I feature the best tips, tricks, and insights for lesser known social media sites.  To get off on the right foot take heed of the following:

Practical Advice for All Social Media Interaction

  • Always present the best public face that you can.
  • Keep all social media accounts updated and refreshed to boost SEO and search engine rankings.
  • Fill out profiles completely, use images, interact respectfully, observe ethical constraints, and be honest.
  • Claim your accounts!  Sites like AVVO create profiles based on publicly available information – better to log on, claim your account, and be certain the information presented is accurate.
  • If you blog, post headlines to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other appropriate sites noted below.  Start a discussion linking back to your post.

Pinterestimages

Pinterest is a visual social network.  Users upload, share, and comment on images pinned to a virtual bulletin board.  A Pinterest page for your firm might include infographics, videos, pictures, and slideshows.  Photos from your blog posts and PowerPoint CLE presentations are just two possible sources of content. Remember to follow other users and link to or repin their content.  When uploading, use keywords and organize your Pinterest boards around specific themes.

Google+images

Facebook remains the big dog in town, but creating a Google+ business page will help boost the SEO of your Web site or blog (in Google’s search engine at least).  Once your page is up, use Google+ communities to reach out and connect to others.  Sort your contacts into Circles (family, friends, clients, colleagues) and tailor your posts to each circle.  Google+ has unlimited linking to other social media profiles, so take advantage of the opportunity to publicize your presence elsewhere on the Web.

Location Based Social Media – Google Places, Waze, and Foursquareimages1

Required: create a Google Business Places account – the more you participate in the Google suite of products the better your visibility on the Web.  Make sure your business listing is easily found on Google.com and Google Maps.

Optional:  consider adding your business location to the GPS-based Waze so clients can find you or create a Foursquare badge to attract clients and offer a “special” for anyone who checks in at your venue.  What is Foursquare?  A free app to “help you and your friends make the most of where you are. When you’re out and about, use Foursquare to share and save the places you visit. And, when you’re looking for inspiration for what to do next, Foursquare will give you personalized recommendations and deals based on where you, your friends, and people with your tastes have been.” Foursquare boasts 30 million users worldwide and offers a merchant platform for businesses.  One option is to create an ad that will appear when a user “checks in” at a nearby location, perhaps a restaurant or coffee shop.

Business Review Sites

Like it or not, clients post reviews of law firms.  One of the most popular review sites is Yelp.  Be proactive and claim your Yelp page to track what clients and others are saying.  Post Yelp badges on your blog or Web site, make announcements on Yelp, and respond to ALL reviews.  Try the free version first.  If you upgrade to the paid version of Yelp it will boost your firm to the top of the list, allowing you to feature a review of your choice.

Slideshare and Flickr – The Forgotten SM Sitesimagesf

Slideshare is a document and presentation sharing site that is poorly utilized, but gets tons of traffic and sharing.  Accounts are free.  Repurpose posts and articles by uploading to Slideshare and linking back to your blog or Web site.

Use Flickr as another means to interact with your network or as a source of images for blog posts.  Check the use or permission level of the image, link back, and always include attribution to the source.

A Final Word about Ethics and SM as Part of YOUR Firm

Tailor social media to your specific practice and the ethical rules in your jurisdiction.  For example, it may not be the best idea to offer clients the opportunity to “check in” on Foursquare at your criminal defense firm.  Start conservatively, use your common sense, and contact your bar’s ethics hotline when in doubt.

Many thanks to Samantha Meinke and Allison Shields for all the great ideas!  These top notch professionals are two of the reasons why you should come to ABA TECHSHOW 2014.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

Sorting Out Social Media

Later this year I will be submitting an article for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin entitled “Sorting Out Social Media: Tools & Etiquette.”  For those of you who can’t wait, here is a sneak preview:

Sorting Out Social Media: Tools & Etiquette

If you are blogging, tweeting, or posting status updates to build your brand and reach new clients, you already know how daunting it can be to keep up with social media.

Understanding ethical boundaries is an important starting point, as are privacy considerations. See Helen Hierschbiel, “Social Media for Lawyers: A Word of Caution,” (Oregon State Bar Bulletin November 2009) and Sheila Blackford, “Social Media Safety: Avoiding Pitfalls in the Kingdoms of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter,” (Oregon State Bar Bulletin June 2010.)  But once you know the ethical and privacy concerns, how should you proceed?

Social Media Etiquette

While it may not be obvious at first glance, there is etiquette to using social media.  To keep your audience engaged and avoid irritating your “friends” and followers, apply these tips:

  • Give yourself the benefit of a broad-brush overview.  Read Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black, “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” (American Bar Association June 2010.)  (ABA products are available at a discount on the Professional Liability Fund Web site.  Select – ABA Products under the Loss Prevention heading.)  Alternatively, check out Mashable, which bills itself as
    “…the largest independent online news site dedicated to covering digital culture, social media, and technology.”  Mashable has detailed how-to’s and online guides to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn, among others.  It’s also a great site to visit if you’re a gadget junkie.
  • Start slowly and build momentum.  While it’s tempting to set up your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and Twitter account on the same day and start posting and tweeting, your experience with social media will be better if you approach it gingerly.  Begin with one account.  Once you familiarized yourself with the terminology, acronyms, and abbreviations, you can move on to your next social media endeavor.
  • Engage with others.  This is what social media is all about – reading, sharing, and responding to what others post, asking what they think – not just pushing your own content in a “one-way” conversation.  This is an important point to grasp, but many law firms miss it entirely.  To an avid user, social media is an intensely personal medium of communication.  When you participate, you begin building relationships and become part of an online community.  If you aren’t prepared to interact, and if you don’t have the time to personally manage your accounts, then social media may not be for you.  For excellent pointers about the “social” aspect of social media, see Cindy King, “17 Twitter Marketing Tips from the Pros,” (Social Media Examiner October 26, 2011.) and Lisa DiMonte and R. Michael Wells, Jr., “Growing Your Online Footprint: An Ethical Approach to Building a Powerful & Influential Online Presence Through Social Media and Blog Writing,” (American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division/MyLegal.com October 14, 2011.)
  • Remember to give your audience a breather.  Most followers and contacts don’t want to be barraged by ten updates in a row from the same person.  If you haven’t been on Twitter or Google+ for a few weeks, don’t try to “make up for it” by over-posting.  Social media users can lose patience quickly.  If you engage in a posting frenzy, your content may be viewed as spam.  Followers and friends may soon unfollow, unfriend, or block your account.  Then all your effort will be for naught.
  • Test all links before including them in a post, especially if you using a URL redirection service like Tiny URL, goo.gl, or bitly.  If you post a link that returns an error message, your followers or contacts will be frustrated.  Some may inform you of the non-working link.  Others will ignore it and move on, never seeing your content.
  • Some users prefer to create a personal and business account for the same service.  For example, lawyer Susan Smith of the Smith Law Firm might choose to set up two Twitter accounts – one under her personal name and the other under the name of her firm.  If Susan uses both accounts to simultaneously post identical content she may annoy followers and wear out her welcome quickly.  In addition, not all content is appropriate for both personal and professional accounts.  The best approach is to use your personal account for personal interests and professional account for professional interests.
  • Should you thank other users who retweet, share or +1 your posts?  Some experts say yes, others say it isn’t necessary.  If you want to thank others who are sharing your content, you can do so publicly (where everyone can see your post) or privately (in a direct message to the specific person you wish to thank).  If you post publicly, pace yourself and keep our tip about over-posting in mind.  On Twitter, you may want to thank others who retweet your content by using #FollowFriday.  The #FollowFriday hashtag is used to suggest people to follow.  For example: #FollowFriday @OregonStateBar.  By using #FollowFriday to recommend someone with whom you interact, and who retweets your content, you show appreciation for their support, build a stronger bond of social engagement, and provide your followers with the names of other interesting Twitter users.  You can read more about #FollowFriday and how it works here:
  • Speaking of public versus private posting, know the difference!  Twitter claims that “if you’ve posted something that you’d rather take back, you can remove it easily.” But I caution against relying on this.  Once content is posted publicly on the Internet in any social media site, assume it is cached and available somewhere – even if you removed it from your account.  This is another reason to take your time learning social media.  It is also a good reason to approach social media with the mindset that everything you post online is or can become public, even if privately sent.  Therefore, if you wouldn’t say something publicly, you shouldn’t post it online – anywhere.  This may seem like an overly conservative approach, but it will keep you safe.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you have colleagues who enjoy social media and have built a substantial following, talk to them.  How do they engage others?  How did they build a following?  What type of content do they typically post?  What is their take on our list of etiquette tips?  Do they have any pointers to share?  Having someone show you the ropes will shorten your learning curve substantially.

Essential Tools for Managing Your Social Media Presence

  • If you have more than one social media account, use a social media aggregator.  These services bring together in one location the posts, streams, and updates from the most popular social networking sites.  All are free.  The idea behind an aggregator is to gather all content in one location (as opposed to checking all your social media accounts separately.)  Of course they can also be used to simultaneously post content across multiple accounts, but remember to weigh this convenience against the potential downside of annoying your audience.  Some aggregators are web-based, others are available as desktop and mobile applications.  The most popular aggregators are Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Netvibes, Yoono, Streamy, Flock, FriendFeed, and Socialite from Realmac Software. Aggregators also offer other helpful features, like scheduling of posts, direct uploading of images, videos, and files, mobile updates, organization of content into columns, auto-shortening of URLs, and alerts for specific types of content.
  • If you prefer a more “organized” experience on Twitter, consider TweetChat which organizes content by hashtag (topic) instead of conversation (like the aggregators mentioned above).  To use TweetChat, enter the hashtag you want to follow or talk about, and then sign in by using your Twitter account information.  Once you’re logged in, you’ll see only those tweets referencing the hashtag or topic you selected. Use the message box in TweetChat to participate in the conversation.  TweetChat is free.
  • Direct messages in Twitter seem to accumulate endlessly.  Deleting them one at a time on http://twitter.com is tedious. You can delete all direct messages or selective direct messages (messages from a particular user or messages containing a specific phrase or word) using the free online utility, InBoxCleaner. Deleting content from Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn has to be done directly from within the application.
  • Backup your social media content using BackUpMyTweets (which also captures Twitter updates, mail, blog posts, and online photos) or the more comprehensive Backupify which captures content on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Blogger, and various Google apps. BackUpMyTweets is free.  Backupify offers weekly backups for up to three personal accounts at no charge.  Pricing plans are available if you have more than three accounts or prefer nightly backups.  For more options, read Gina Trapani, “Free Tools to Back Up Your Online Accounts,” (Lifehacker August 12, 2009.) .
  • Want to keep in touch on social media without being a slave to your computer or mobile device?  Consider scheduling your posts.  Use your social media aggregator or one of these services described by Lars, “18 Twitter Tools for Scheduling Future Tweets and Improving Your Social Networking,” (Tripwire Magazine May 6, 2010.) .
  • Looking for more tools and ideas?  Check out these resources: Twitter – Robert J. Ambrogi, “Building on Simplicity: 20 Tools to Make Twitter Sing,” (Oregon State Bar Bulletin May 2009) and “Tweet 16: 16 Ways Lawyers Can Use Twitter,” (Oregon State Bar Bulletin January 2009); Blogging – ABA Legal Technology Resource Center: “FYI: Blogs” and “FYI: Feature Comparison – Major Blog Providers;” Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn – Googling “Facebook for lawyers,” “Google+ for lawyers” and “LinkedIn for lawyers” will return pages of tips, ideas, and pointers.

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

5 Ways to Increase Your Visibility on the Web

What can you do to increase your visibility among search engines and drive traffic to your Web site? Search engine optimizationIncoming links?  Obviously both help, but the former requires special expertise. The latter involves persuading others, which isn’t always easy.

So how about a solution that is completely within your control and doesn’t require paying for links or hiring a consultant?

Complete Online Profiles

The first stop on your journey should be completing online profiles that point back to your Web site. The most popular free site is LinkedIn.  Others include Avvo, FindLaw, JD Supra, Justia, Lawyers.com, Lawyer Profiles from ConsultWebs, Legal Match, LLRX, Martindale, MyLegal, and Naymz.  A word of caution: know what you’re getting into when you sign up for these services.  Some are free.  Some are not.  Be mindful of advertising and solicitation rules – you may be required to use disclaimers or opt out of certain features entirely (such as lawyer rankings or client testimonials and endorsements). On the plus side, many of these services allow you to share more than just biographical information.  By posting articles, pleadings, forms, and presentations or displaying blog posts and tweets you can take full advantage of your profile. While you’re at it, don’t forget to complete your Google Profile and Google Business Listing.  If others request permission to reproduce or reprint your material, require proper attribution, included a link back to your Web site or blog.

Engage in Social Media

If you haven’t joined social media yet, I hope you do.  It’s fantastic IMHO.  If the King is Facebook, the Queen is Twitter.  I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here.  Instead, visit the Mass LOMAP blog (our law practice management counterparts in Massachusetts). Once there, click in the Search box in the upper left hand corner and enter “Facebook” to find all their great posts on setting up a Facebook business page.  You can also learn a ton from the ABA book, Social Media for LawyersSave some bucks and get it at a discount through the Professional Liability Fund.  From the PLF Web site, select ABA Products.  Once at the ABA Web store, enter the PLF discount code.  Mashable is also a wonderful source for how-tos and breaking news on all things social media.  

Try Social Publishing

Social publishing could easily fall under online profiles or social media, since the whole idea is to set up a profile, then share with others. No matter how you slice it, sites like YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Scribd, and Docstoc are great places to post photos, videos, PowerPoint presentations, articles, and related content. When your items are published, share them via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  LLRX also welcomes contributions.

Keep it Free and Local

Are profiles or online listings part of your state or local bar association memberships?  Specialty legal organizations?  Bar sections or committees?  If yes, take advantage! 

Blog!

Obviously you’re a blog reader, or you wouldn’t be here.  But are you blogger?  It takes time and effort, but the best way to raise your visibility is to give search engines what they crave: frequently updated content. That’s what this post is all about – giving you as many avenues as possible to get your material out there.  Tough to do using your Web site, which can be static by comparison.  But a blog fits the bill quite nicely.  You can read more about the process here and compare blogging services here.

Always Keep Ethics in Mind

If you’re not fully informed in the premises, read:

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Now that you’ve jumped in with both feet, you should keep tabs on yourself.  Sound a bit strange?  It won’t if you’ve Googled yourself before.  In addition to the occasional Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, search, sign up to receive alerts whenever your personal and/or business name is used.  Google and Yahoo! both offer Web monitoring services.  Don’t overlook Social Mention, which monitors over 100 social media properties including Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and YouTube or BoardTracker which searches and tracks threads on forums and message boards.  

Good luck!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis