When Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th Century, it was big news. Information was made more widely available, though many were still illiterate. With the sudden availability of the printed word, however, literacy rates rose quickly, and soon there was a flourishing of literature and drama such as the world had not seen since ancient Greece. Among the important changes ushered in by the printing press was the ability to advertise. Town criers and travelling merchants had previously done most of the world’s advertising, but printed media meant that products and services could be promoted with leaflets, fliers, and other eye-catching forms.
Six centuries later, the Internet revolutionized the world’s method of communication again. In fact, the advent of digital media has been accompanied by a slow but steady decline in book, magazine, and newspaper sales. If you’re in charge of your firm’s marketing strategy, you already know that online advertising is far more effective than print, but even online advertising is changing. Until recently, it’s all been about keywords. Writing blog posts, press releases, and other forms of disguised advertising filled with keywords that linked back to your firm’s website was the way to get business. The more keywords you had out in cyberspace, the more hits your website would get. This is no longer the case.
Blogs: The old blogging style is out-smart, intellectual writing is in
Up until now, there were basically two styles of legal blogs. One was written “for lawyers” and contained supposedly useful information about the legal sphere. In truth, the purpose of the blog was to generate business. Antonin I. Pribetic of the Canadian legal blog “The Trial Warrior” calls this “flawging.” A “flawg,” he says, is written and maintained solely for profit. It “will often contain posts about the latest legal tech gadgets or how to gain new clients through the awesome power of the Internet, in the absence of anything remotely legal to discuss.”
The other type of blog is what Kevin O’Keefe of “Real Lawyers Have Blogs” calls “running feeds of disaster.” These blogs list tragic accidents or personal injury claims one after the other, often with sensational headlines as the hook. You know these two styles all too well – you’ve seen them on the web, and truth be told, you’ve probably written some yourself or hired someone to do it for you.
But Google has gotten wise to these techniques, and they’re out to stop them. Google has an ever evolving algorithm that changes 500 to 600 times every year.
How the algorithm has changed since Google’s founding in 1998.
The recent changes are designed to eliminate “flawgs” and “running feeds of disaster” and replace them with well-researched, well-written content with relevant links to other reliable sources.
Social Media: Your Target Market is Waiting
Google algorithm changes are also making social media more important. In fact, according to this March 2013 study by The Research Intelligence Group, 56% of all people who search for a lawyer use some form of social media. Though social media is most popular among people ages 18 to 29-81% of this demographic use some form of social media-25% of people age 65 reported using Facebook, Twitter, and other sources to find attorneys. Among social media sites, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the most popular. According to this study, more than 60% of attorneys have a LinkedIn profile, 40% have a business Facebook profile, and slightly less than 30% have a Twitter feed. However, as search engine algorithms continue to change, and Twitter and Facebook become more and more embedded in our daily life and conversation, there is no doubt that these percentages will continue to grow.
Tips for Engaging Users on Social Media
What are you most likely to look at when you’re using Facebook or Twitter? You probably pay the most attention to what your friends are sharing. When friends, family, and colleagues talk, we pay attention. They are our most natural filter when there is more information than one can possibly process. So how do you create content that gets people to share?
• What does your intended audience value? Hint: It isn’t the greatness of your brand. People want information that’s useful and helpful. If they think their friends will find it helpful, too, then you have a share.
• Challenge convention. The ideas that get attention-and shares-are the ideas that shake up the way people see the world.
• We’re emotional. All of us. People don’t care about how cool your brand is; people want to be moved.
• Keep it current. People like to discuss and be “in the know” about the latest news.
• Suggestibility rules. Socially, people tend to follow what others in their circle do.
• Make it easy for others to share. The easier it is, the more likely they are to share it.
Six hundred years ago, the printing press was hot, and those who used the new technology were on the cutting edge. Today, relevant, well-written blogs and micro self publishing companies that provide useable information are king. And be sure to avail yourself of the social media sites that are becoming ever important influencers.