Socializing Your Blog

MC900055030Congratulations! Your blog is off and running. You’ve got a targeted audience, a good topic, and are updating frequently. Of course, now you need someone to read it.

Many new bloggers begin to share their blogs by encouraging their business partners and family to subscribe. At least that way you get some page views and a little in-person praise now and again.

But remember that target audience? They’re still out there, and they’re probably not your friends and coworkers. So how do you reach them? Here are a few methods to grow your readership:

RSS Readers:

Allow readers to subscribe to your blog using an RSS reader. Most blogging platforms like WordPress have this option built in. This method is easy to track directly from your site, but it requires the readers to have stumbled upon your blog somehow in the first place. This option is less about generating new readers and more about keeping the ones you’ve got.

e-Blasts:

Publicize your blog articles in regular emails to your contact list. Companies like Constant Contact create professional looking newsletters to send to your many contacts. The content references back to your blog articles. If you’re on a tight budget, focus on categories connected to your target market like current or former clients or opposing counsel.

Social Media:

The potential for the largest audience comes from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Each of these pages have their own strengths and limitations. Which one (or more) works best for you depends once again on your target audience.

  1. Facebook began targeting college students, but it has expanded into the professional arena. You can create a business page and invite your individual “friends” to follow it. Most blogging platforms give you an option to link your blog to your page. Facebook has limited effectiveness because it only shares business posts with a small percentage of your followers, but they can help by sharing your content with their friends.
  2. Twitter has a broad audience. Anyone or anything can create an account. Users then “follow” other users and receive notifications on their news feed. Again, you can automate advertising through your blogging platform. Twitter limits its posts to 140 characters, but it makes it easy for your followers to re-tweet your posts.
  3. Google+ is very similar to Facebook, but it allows you to divide your friends into circles and target your message. It is not as popular as the other sites, but if your target market includes technology professionals, you may still find it beneficial.
  4. LinkedIn specifically targets professionals and job seekers. Connections can see your online resume and updates including linked blog posts. This platform helps you grow your reputation in your professional community.

The best blog promotion includes a mixture of methods, but don’t try to do everything at once. Grow your social media presence slowly, learning to take advantage of each platform’s strengths. Together with regular updates to your blog, these outreach tactics will increase your visibility and bring in new quality business.

 

Tone Matters

Business Colleagues Working TogetherI’m going to try not to sound too much like your legal writing professor here, but tone really does matter. It’s not just what you say. It’s how you say it. I touched on this issue a little bit in a previous post, but it is important enough to stand on its own.

Tone is about how your writing sounds when read aloud (or in the reader’s head). Is the vocabulary so ostentatious that a thesaurus is a necessary companion to the piece? Or does it sound like you are talking to a 5th grader? Either extreme can be a problem. Your job as a writer is to balance the sophisticated sound of authority against the approachable sound of a conversation.

There is no one-size-fits-all. In fact, if you are a practicing attorney and a blogger you should probably have two distinct tones. Your blog should be casual, use contractions and the occasional joke, and avoid any complex terms of art. On the other hand, your legal briefs should sound far more sophisticated, be free of contractions, and emphasize technical legal terms when appropriate.

But why does that matter? If someone wants to read about what you’re writing, they should be able to handle the occasional lexical complexity, shouldn’t they?

Maybe, but no one likes to feel uneducated. If your readers feel that the topic is over their heads, the will simply stop reading. Most people do not browse blogs to find lectures. They want concise, understandable explanations to their issues.

Even judges and legal commentators prefer simplicity. There is a slow-moving trend toward plain English in legal writing. “Heretofore”s and adverbial clauses can bog down even the most sophisticated legal argument. Ask yourself if the extra verbiage is necessary, or if you are just including it out of habit.

The single best way to test the tone of your piece is to have someone else read it to you. (This is also a great way to check for typos.) How does the person sound when he or she read it? Is he or she stumbling over any portion of the work? If it is a blog post, would you sit and listen to this for 500 words if you could easily switch over to looking at cute cats?

After a bit of practice carefully crafting your tone, you should find it comes more easily and consistently. Still it never hurts to do a check once and a while to make sure you still sound like you should.

How Often is Enough?

MP900284935You’ve committed to writing a professional blog, but now the kids need to be dropped off at school, and you’ve got a meeting in 2 hours, and don’t forget about that client who is coming in this afternoon. Couldn’t you skip the blog just this once? How often do you really need to post for it to be enough?

There is no one right answer. Originally, the feeling was that you have to provide new content every day, like a newspaper. It’s true that your readers will not come back to read the same content again and again, but are they really going to read every word of your content? While search engines like daily posts, your readers may not have time to keep up.

Other commentators feel that once a week might be enough. Particularly when combined with other online marketing efforts, you could see significant returns on your investment of just a couple hours per week. It all depends on how you will use what you write.

The right balance also depends on what you are blogging. If you are a photographer who is sharing sample images that are available as prints, by all means post daily. In the visual arena you need constant contact with your viewers. But if your posts tend to be long, thoughtful dissections of the latest law or news story, then even twice a week may be more than most readers can handle (Stay tuned for a later article on the optimal word count).

The key is to find a good balance between the ever-hungry search engines and the busy but interested readers. Constant contact is important, but it can be achieved through other sources like social media and emails that bolster the effect of your blog.

So how often is enough? For most people, probably somewhere between once a week and once a day. The most important thing, though, is to be regular and to include high quality content whenever you update your blog. And always have a post or two stored away, in case you need to skip a day to take the kids to school.

Breaking Out of Writer’s Block

BusinesswomanYou’ve identified your audience and chosen a topic for your blog. You’ve probably written a few posts that popped into your head right away. But now you’re a month or so in and you’ve exhausted the obvious ideas. How do you come up with what to write about?

Your blog is not like a diary that you can pick up and put down as the mood strikes you. It is a tool to drive visitors (and potential clients) to your website. That means you have to be diligent in posting new content on a regular basis. As Sam Glover of Lawyerist.com said in a recent article,

You wouldn’t read a newspaper if it only came out occasionally—and people don’t read an “occasional” blog. Your blog should be a daily devotional. If you can’t do that, then do it weekly. You have to keep reminding people you are there. If you do, and you’ve got great content, many will come back for every post—just like they will seek out and read all the books by their favorite author.

But how do you come up with something new every day (or week)? Break it up. Identify the major players and ideas that happen within your topic.

Maybe your topic is affected by key influential thinkers or decision makers like the Supreme Court Justices. Follow that person on Twitter or do searches for quotes in your favorite search engine.

Is there a particular place or business that comes up a lot? That business might have a blog that you could follow to find out about upcoming changes.

What types of people like plaintiffs or mediators show up a lot in your writing? Are there groups or organizations that represent those kinds of people that you can follow on Facebook?

By breaking down your topic into its component pieces, you can find new ideas for articles. You can also identify key sources for updated information. With a rich collection of sources sending you information from their own (hopefully frequently updated) social media outlets, you’ll never be at a loss for words.

Goldilocks and the Three Blog Topics

MC900387129Once you have figured out who you are writing to, your next step is to decide what you are going to write about. Consider what your target audience is likely to read. Choosing the topic for your blog is all about finding what is “just right” for your Goldilocks readers.

If you’re like most lawyers you don’t do just one kind of law. You might be in a family court on Monday, a civil court on Tuesday, and before an Administrative Law Judge on Wednesday. Because you want business in all these areas, you may be tempted to blend all of these topics into your blog.

Resist that urge.

Your blog’s followers will find you because of 1 topic. Maybe one is a social worker interested in children in court. Another is a news reporter looking for the next big change in civil litigation. A third is a union rep who is trying to keep up on the issues facing the people she represents.

The problem: these 3 readers won’t all be interested in the same articles. If you write posts that all 3 would read in the same blog, you run the risk of being too broad. When you’ve neglected what brought her to you for one too any weeks, Goldilocks will lose interest and move on, seeking something more focused.

But there is also a risk in drawing your circle too narrowly. Remember, you are going to be generating new content for this blog every week. No matter how fascinated you are with Amish zoning variances now, in 6 months you will be pulling your hair out looking for new unique content. Goldilocks will probably stick with you longer than if you ranged all over, but she will be driven away once you have to resort to redundant content.

Instead, create a topic that can be approached from different angles or perspectives. It should have one central idea, but individual posts can relate to that idea in many different ways.

For example, let’s say that you are trying to take on more wrongful termination cases, but you also do some union negotiation work and criminal defense cases. You probably won’t be able to include all three of these areas in the same blog. But union negotiations and wrongful termination both fall within the same category. If you focus your blog on labor law you can cover both topics, and even occasionally build in a criminal defense issue like embezzlement that ties back to the employment relationship.

This kind of focus should be “just right” for Goldilocks, who probably came upon your site looking for help with her employer, and will follow your posts because you can give her useful insight on all aspects of her work life.

Once you have begun blogging pay attention to your page views. If one article consistently gets high views even weeks later, go back to that topic and do follow up posts. This will catch your readers’ interests and bring them back for more.