Here’s a familiar story:
- Eager lawyer reads about the benefits of blogging and building an audience online;
- Lawyer sets up blog, publishes a few posts and…crickets;
- Lawyer gets discouraged and the blog withers and dies.
This is a common story, but there’s a scarier one out there. It’s about the lawyer who, against all odds and despite any traffic, soldiers on for years publishing post after post into the vast expanse of the Internet. He builds it – and keeps building it – but no one ever comes.
The first lawyer is fortunate in that he wasted relatively little time on his endeavor. The fact that he quit so soon means he was never going to make it anyway. So better to cut his losses.
The second lawyer, on the other hand, has the grit needed to become a successful blogger, but lacks the know-how. This scenario is more dangerous than the first because many lawyers toil away at legal blogs for years and years with no plan and no understanding of how to build an audience. Their determination is commendable. Their results are not. Legal blogging, done poorly, is a huge waste of time and money.
ON BLOGGING WELL
That being said, I’m a huge fan and proponent of legal blogging as a means to raise a lawyer’s profile and support her business development efforts. Blogging, done well, is one of the best tactics available to lawyers hoping to position themselves as experts and thought leaders in the marketplace of ideas.
Here’s how it works. We all have an orbit consisting of people, companies and organizations who encircle us. High quality, highly relevant blog content tailored to a specific audience is like gravity. It keeps contacts in your orbit. Those who become aware of you stay aware of you as a result of your content. Those not in your orbit move into it after becoming exposed to your content. Sharing content via your blog is also a respectful, thoughtful way to remain engaged with and keep former clients in your orbit during gaps between engagements.
When someone who is in your orbit experiences a problem or has an opportunity in an area that you’ve written about, you’ll be high on that person’s list as someone who possesses the requisite expertise to help overcome the problem or seize the opportunity. While your reader may not be ready to act immediately, continued thought leadership will keep you top of mind, and when the time is right the relationship will shift from reader/writer to client/attorney.
This is the opportunity that blogging offers. But most are doing it wrong, not well.
4 STEPS TO FIX IT
There are many, many steps that most legal bloggers should take in order to improve their return on blogging investment. But in the interest of keeping it simple, here are four quick tips that can help lay the foundation for a legal blog that accomplishes what it’s meant to: burnishing the reputation of its author as an authority in his or her field.
Know Your Audience
Just as it’s tempting to try to be all things to all people when attempting to develop business, many lawyers cast too wide a net with their blog content as well. Their blogs are a hodgepodge of things that interest them, with no particular focus on any niche.
A better, indeed, a necessary approach if you want to grow your audience, is to get narrow. First, think about what interests you. If you don’t get lit up about the topics you write about, neither will your audience. Second, pick something you’re really knowledgeable about. This will allow you to write the type of deep, wisdom-filled content that break through the noise. Finally, think about who your audience is. It’s okay to write about a few different topics because your readers are complex, multi-dimensional people with myriad interests. But they’ll come back to you because you can go deep within a specific niche.
Promote Your Posts
You may be writing great blog posts, but they’re not getting read. In fact, that’s likely the case, because most legal bloggers operate according to a “publish it and forget it” mentality. Just as a book won’t sell if an author doesn’t market the heck out of it on a book tour, no one will read your blog posts if you don’t promote them.
That means sharing your writing on social media networks, and urging others you’re connected with to do the same. It means connecting with influential bloggers, reporters and other thought leaders in your niche and making them aware of your content. It means pursuing guest posting opportunities on blogs with bigger audiences than your own in order to expand your reach.
Each piece of content you produce requires a big commitment of time and resources. Bloggers that are successful in attracting eyeballs, attention, traffic and, ultimately, paying clients, take the time and commit the resources to market and promote each piece they write.
Several years ago, content marketing was a trend. Create content, push it out into the marketplace of ideas via your blog, and you’d be at the leading edge of marketing evolution. Attorneys early to the blogging game, like any trendsetters, won style points for simply engaging in the activity.
But legal blogging is now ubiquitous. And with ubiquity comes saturation.
So what’s next? “Legal Blogging Phase 2.0″ requires more than surface level summaries. It requires deep insights, education, substance and thoughtfulness. It places a premium on quality. It requires wisdom. Now and in the future, only those who impart wisdom through their content will build relationships on a foundation of trust, loyalty and mutual respect with their audiences.
But these relationships must be nurtured by giving of oneself. If you expect audiences to give you their attention, you must first give them your wisdom. Shallow thoughts and timid analysis are like mindless small talk. To form relationships, one must blaze new ground and inspire audiences. Those who do so are building momentum with their blogs.
Understand Your Analytics
As you put these tips into practice, it’s important to keep an eye on your analytics, but not obsess over them. Building a successful blog requires lots of hard work. Tribes are built over time. It takes solid writing, interesting content, clever marketing, and a little bit of luck to become a successful writer and legal blogger. For most bloggers, readership grows slowly over time. Rarely does growth resemble a hockey stick. As long as your analytics indicate slow steady growth, you’re doing it right. Keep at it. But if growth has flatlined, or even declined, it may be time to pivot. You’ll never know, though, unless you’re keeping an eye on the numbers.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Running a legal blog, done well, is hard work. But the payoff can be big. Thoughtful, diligent, focused and insightful legal bloggers establish themselves as authorities on topics of interest to potential clients. As a result, their blogs, over time, become engines of business development opportunities.
There are tons of legal blogs out there, but relatively few are breaking through the noise. That’s because the lawyers who run them are treating them more as an afterthought, rather than as a critical component of their personal branding and business development efforts.
To get on the right track, it’s important to focus on the four areas – Audience, Promotion, Deep Content, Analytics – outlined above. These are four key pillars of a successful legal blog.
But they’re not the end of the story. In a future post I will discuss advanced tactics that legal bloggers should consider once they’ve gotten a solid foundation in place. In the meantime, however, focus on these fundamentals and watch your numbers, and opportunities, grow.