I recently listened to British comedian Ricky Gervais describe how he uses Twitter to float “trial balloons” for new jokes. With over 13 million followers on Twitter, Gervais can get a pretty good sense of whether a joke is funny or falls flat based on the reaction of those in the Twitterverse.
Authors do the same by providing “pages” to trusted readers during the process of writing a book. Silicon Valley tech companies beta test new products and features by releasing them drip by drip to segments of users.
Lawyers who produce thought leadership content can employ the same tactics using LinkedIn to make sure their ideas and insights resonate with their audience before making the big time investment required to produce a fully-polished, 1,500-word article.
Get Some Feedback Before Going All In on a Topic Idea
In my experience, the number one obstacle to lawyers publishing content is lack of time. A close second is that a lawyer may have published content in the past, but did not get the response he or she was hoping for, and consequently gave up on content marketing.
That’s understandable, since creating high quality content does require a significant time commitment. It’s also unfortunate, because producing, publishing, and promoting thought leadership is the most effective way for lawyers to establish expertise in the marketplace of ideas.
High quality content, directed at those in a particular market segment, positions a lawyer as a go-to expert. Content allows lawyers to nurture and educate their ideal-client audiences over time. Because legal buying decisions are unpredictable (for example, it’s hard to know when a company is going to have to seek or defend against a TRO in a supply chain dispute), content can help a lawyer stay top-of-mind and “pre-suade” a prospective client that the lawyer possesses the skills and experience necessary to solve the problem.
There is a compounding return on effort from content marketing. The more content that is shared, the more awareness is created. And the more valuable the content is, the more trust is established. A lawyer who consistently produces great content create a large and powerful digital footprint, and an online breadcrumb trail that leads prospects to his or her front door.
But there’s only so much time in the day, and busy lawyers can’t afford to launch too many “lead balloon” blog posts into the world. To get a better sense of whether your articles will get the reaction you want, first use LinkedIn to beta test your ideas. Instead of a 1,500-word article, start with a 1,300 character (approximately 250 words) Status Update on LinkedIn.
The beauty of a Status Update, like a Tweet, is that it is constrained. You can’t go on and on. You need to get your point across to members in your LinkedIn network clearly and concisely.
Studies suggest that in today’s attention-starved world, people read, on average, only 20% of an article online and skim the rest. Accordingly, it’s critical to focus on one key idea in every article you write, and beta testing those ideas through the character constraints imposed by LinkedIn Status Updates will give you some objective feedback about which ones resonate.
If a Status Update generates lots of likes, comments, and shares, you’ll have a pretty good sense that your idea is worth expanding upon. If there’s little to no engagement, it’s a strong signal that you need to either refine, or possibly move on from, the idea.
A Three-Step Plan to Beta Test Your Content Ideas on LinkedIn
Here’s a three-step plan to leverage the power of LinkedIn to improve your content marketing:
1. Build Your Network. If you’re going to create content for a specific audience for the purpose of marketing your practice, then make sure your LinkedIn network is brimming with those you hope to serve. It’s better to have a relatively small number of connections who share common interests than a big, broad one that consists of lots of people across disparate industries. Why is this important? The content you share on LinkedIn will only be visible to a small percentage (5-10%) of those in your network, so if you’re writing for a particular audience you want to make sure there’s a big enough sample size to measure whether your content is connecting.
LinkedIn is a big, powerful search engine for finding your ideal audience. You can use LinkedIn’s Search function to search for people and filter results by factors including job title, geographic location, industry type, company name, and school, among other things. If you know with great specificity who you serve, then the job of finding people with whom to connect using LinkedIn’s tools becomes much easier and more effective.
2. Generate and Record Content Ideas. Effective content creators have a method for capturing and recording ideas. Ideas spring up during the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places. But ideas are fleeting, so it’s important to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes, whether it’s at the desk, in the middle of the night, or during a morning shower. Keep a dedicated notepad on your desk, or document on your computer’s desktop, and maintain a running list of ideas that can help fuel your content marketing efforts.
3. Share Ideas via LinkedIn Status Updates. Not every idea merits the investment required to produce a full-blown blog post. Systematically share your ideas as LinkedIn Status Updates and monitor the reaction. Note which ones generate the most interest, discussion, and enthusiasm, and use that feedback to inform your longer-form content creation.
As Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” When it comes to content creation, it’s worth the effort to write a short, concise LinkedIn Status Update before sitting down to write a long article without any sense of whether your audience has any interest in the topic. By doing so, you’ll get a much higher ROI from your thought leadership marketing.
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If you’re interested in increasing the returns on your marketing investments, contact me to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to define clear goals, create a specific plan of action, and implement marketing tactics that will help your firm grow.