12 Ways to Market During COVID – Part 3

Today’s marketing tips come courtesy of the ABA Journal. Here are the highlights:

1. Call current and past clients to check in on how they are coping.
2. Turn your attorneys into visible experts online.
3. Spend four hours per week on business development.
4. Beef up your website to get new clients.
5. The more you blog, the more clients you will get.
6. Build good word of mouth with online reviews.
7. Out-market your competition—figure out how much to spend and where to spend.
8. Market with millennials in mind.
9. Make sure your website is easily accessible for mobile users.
10. Set up a video studio.
11. Your attorney bio should not be a dead end.
12. For social media, focus on Facebook and forget the rest.

I encourage you to read the full article. The author, Larry Bodine, has excellent insights and marketing data to back up each of his recommendations. He also shares specific action steps you can take now.

Have we heard some of these ideas before? Yes. Reminders never hurt. There are also plenty of new suggestions. If you implement even one or two of Larry’s suggestions you will be ahead of the game.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Confidentiality Still Applies When Rebutting Online Reviews

We’ve chatted before about online reputations and how to respond (if at all) to negative online reviews. Defending yourself is a natural reaction, but usually the wrong call as an Oregon lawyer recently discovered.

In a case now on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, an Oregon lawyer was suspended for 30 days for revealing a client’s identity and the details of his criminal conviction in response to negative online reviews.

Isn’t it Self Defense?

We don’t really know.

The trial panel did not consider the “self-defense” exception to Oregon RPC 1.6, finding the lawyer did not show that the details contained in his rebuttal were “reasonably necessary” to reveal.

The bar argued the “self-defense” exception applies only to formal proceedings, such as responding to a legal malpractice claim or bar complaint.

Read the full post on NW Sidebar.

What We Do Know

  • The identity of your client is confidential.
  • Revealing details about a case can be equivalent to revealing the client’s name in a universe where people can follow the dots.
  • If you engage online, the fuel you add to the fire will likely push the negative post upward in search results.

What You Should Do

Going back to my post from 2017, here are some suggestions:

  • A reasonable and measured response is key. Blasting people who give you a negative review is not a good business model.
  • You can try contacting the review site and asking for the review’s removal if you can prove the review is false, defamatory or written by a competitor. In the case described above, the lawyer contacted Google, Yelp, and Avvo to have the negative reviews removed. All three sites refused, telling the lawyer they considered the reviews the former client’s personal opinions. In another instance, the Washington Court of Appeals refused to force disclosure of an anonymous online reviewer’s identity. See Thomson v. Jane Doe, 189 Wn. App. 45, 356 P.3d 727 (2015).
  • You can respond directly to the review on the site. Be courteous and explain that due to your duty of confidentiality, you can’t address the facts of the complaint, but that you do not believe it presents a fair and accurate portrayal of the events. Make clear that you are always available to meet with former clients and address any concerns they may have.
  • If possible, try to contact the reviewer directly and seek to ameliorate the situation or explain to them further why the representation unfolded as it did. If this is successful, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review.
  • Try to avoid further negative reviews by soliciting client feedback directly as the representation continues and in exit interviews. Try to give your clients every opportunity to air their grievances with you and your firm directly so they don’t have the need to vent in public.
  • Lastly, the best antidote to a negative review is positive reviews. Keep your profile updated and facilitate the opportunity for your other clients to post their own satisfied reviews.

We’ve all heard the old saw, grow a tough skin. If you’re a lawyer, it better be twice as thick as everyone else’s.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

The Ethics of Social Media and Online Marketing

Last weekend the Oregon State Bar held the first ever Solo & Small Firm Conference in Bend, Oregon.  The lineup included nationally recognized speakers and Oregon-based experts, including the incomparable David Elkanich of Holland & Knight.

David gave two great presentations at the conference, and I promise to blog about both. Today I start with a subject near and dear to my heart: The Ethics of Social Media and Online Marketing.  Here are a few tweets to give you the flavor of David’s presentation:

A complete compilation of David’s tips can be found here.

Over the next days and weeks I will share other gems from the conference, including “best of” tips from:

  • Exchanging Documents Electronically
  • How Clients Can Win with Your Small Firm Resources
  • Tame the Digital Chaos
  • 60 Legal Tech Tips
  • and more!

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

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