Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a slacker. In 2013, I added only 10 posts to my blog. But I have lots of entertaining excuses (see below).
Surprising to me, despite my slacker status the traffic to my blog has remained respectable. Not surprisingly, that statistic is meaningless. I have lost a valuable connection with readers—I stopped being social. And that is all that is really important. Exactly the reason why I needed to reboot.
(1) A blogger without social connection is simply a writer with a public, online article database/archive.
My Perfect Storm
It all began sometime in early September and peaked in December. I was sucked into the perfect storm. It started slow with a beautiful shower of new clients and new project deadlines. It gathered momentum as a rising tide of business meetings, dinners, parties and other events flooded my calendar. By mid-November the high pressure system from the north descended, when almost everyone who was anyone I knew dropped in to visit the beautiful the Florida Keys and/or take up residence in my living room. (What would holidays be if it weren’t for my children from the frozen tundra of Virginia coming to visit mom in Key West, take over her house and clean out the refrigerator?) Of course, along with these welcome visitors came a torrent of parties, dinners, bar crawls, holiday shopping extravaganzas, pet parades, parties, more parties, more dinners, more parties, and more of more.
By New Year’s Eve my inner introvert was drenched. Still, I held up through another five days of drizzle until I finally declared, enough! I was “socially” exhausted. And this is my excuse for not adding a single blog post since September 30, 2013, because blogging is social.
Blog vs. Content Database
Perhaps you are like the thousands of law bloggers that check their “stats” and find the numbers disappointing. Then you sit and wonder why. Most likely it is because you are confused. You don’t know the difference between what is a blog and what is a content database? An important distinction. So let me help you clear that up.
If you want to post “articles” to the web using a blog platform, fine, but do not confuse that with blogging. Articles are static. Blogging is dynamic. Bloggers do more than just write posts. They socialize.
Whether you consider your blogging to be marketing, business development, professional development, a creative outlet or whatever, blogging is still a form of social media the last time I checked. And, social media is well…social.
Like it or not, if you want to blog and you want it to be successful and valuable, socialize with others online and you will begin to see results. That’s how it works.
If you are unhappy with the performance of your blog (however you chose to measure that), try being more social.
The $5 Million Dollar Question
In my travels, I am often asked by bloggers, particularly lawyer bloggers (and sometimes the marketing personnel responsible for their law firm blogs), “What can I/we do to increase ‘engagement’ with my/our blog?” Or, “My/our blog traffic is abysmal. I/we write these really substantive posts, no one reads them, nothing happens. Why? What am I/we doing wrong?” And that’s the $5 million dollar question.
My response: “Sure. I’ve got the $5 million dollar answer. But first tell me this…”
(1) Do you know why you are blogging?
Eight times out of 10 the answer I get is “marketing/exposure.” The other two popular answers are: “I thought I’d try it” and “I like to write.”
No one ever says that they blog because they love social media. (←Tweet me, I’m only 63 characters ♥.)
Well, maybe a few extreme extroverts feel that way, but in those cases they are not the ones asking me the $5 million question; they already “get it,” naturally.
I don’t know why you should be blogging, but I do know that you should know.
If you don’t know, try this one. “I blog because it is a privilege. The privilege to freely express my views as a citizen journalist via the global medium of the Internet is amazing and radical. Ten years ago I could never have imagined expressing my views, sharing ideas and information in such a global public forum, which enables new business relationships that enrich my professional/personal life. I love how social media has advanced business communications and opportunities to engage with clients. I love social media.”
Bloggers who blog for all the right reasons will be more personally invested in the blog’s direction, the target audience’s satisfaction, and will work to build relationships via blog content. Their respect for the medium has compelled them to identify measurable objectives that in a perfect world will be very specific and even have a defined business case, not just the broad brush approach. Writing a new blog post will not be a task to be fulfilled, but will recognized as a means to open doors; to become known, liked, trusted and hired. When you blog for the right reasons, your blog will be successful. Try it.
(2) What is your definition of engagement?
Right. So you want more “engagement.” First let’s look at what that might be.
Wikipedia says this about Engagement Marketing: Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs, developing a relationship with the brand.
Hold that thought…developing a relationship with the brand.
I’ve heard many a lawyer/blogger/marketer define engagement as simply traffic, i.e., how many people have visited our blog or how many times a post has been accessed. EEK! Let me clear that up for you…engagement is not about a number. Engagement is not visits, nor page views. Your blog may get lots of visitors, but many may not be reading your posts, which is a topic for another day. Engagement marketing is about building a relationship with the consumer/client/prospective client/referral source, or other.
Consider this: Engagement is not even about THEM, the readers; it’s about YOU, the blogger, being engaged with them. (←Tweet me, I’m 100 characters ♥.)
To say that readers engage with you when they visit/read your blog is the equivalent of: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Let’s get into the forest with our desired market, listen together and then talk about it. And I’m not referring to comments. (We all know how tough it is to generate comments when we are merely stating a lot of facts about the law. Or worse, reguritating obvious facts that readers can get from any law blog/website/news site.)
Engagement occurs at the nexus of you and others. The measure of engagement is in how well you can attract/interact/socialize with your blog audience, which is measured by…here we go…SALES.
Blogging is not intended to replace the conversation you should be having with your audience elsewhere. It is intended to give you a good reason to converse with them anywhere, anytime, online and offline, everywhere. Traffic, stats, numbers mean very little without you and them in the equation together. Statistics don’t buy legal services, people do. (Statistics can help, don’t get me wrong. I love data. Data is useful to my clients, but only when we have set up a strategic campaign around which the data can be analyzed and measured for improvement. Another day, another post…)
Let me say that again, and read carefully one more time. Blogging (and other content marketing) should not replace the conversation you’re having with your audience, but rather be a reason to converse with them. You can make that happen by sharing your content elsewhere; i.e. email, social networks, newsletters, presentations, over lunch, and anywhere else that is social. It’s about you, the blogger. You have to act. You invite. You use the thoughts you put on the page to make things happen. Measurement is what happens after that, and that is what counts.
→ Feel free to drop off here. The rest is gravy.
(3) How do you reward readers who visit your blog?
In all the times I’ve asked this question of lawyer bloggers, no one has ever had a good answer for me other than “Well, I spend a lot of time writing those posts.” Let me state the obvious. If you are not seeing any return on your investment, then it’s more than that. Thinking about the written word, blog design, usability, navigation, layout and other features of your blog, evaluate the following:
Does your blog:
- Respect readers’ time? You always know what the important/trending issues are, and that’s what you write about. You outline and highlight the key thoughts. You include sign posts for skimming and usually give them a quick “take away.” You write your lead paragraph with a succinct summary of what the post is about, especially if you use off topic titles. You use bullet points, add emphasis and include alt text on links (You tell me where the link takes me as I hover over it.)
- Understand readers’ needs? You write from a business perspective first. Unless the audience is judges or other lawyers your readers don’t want to know the legal munitia, that’s what they hire you for. Talk about the business aspect and build an bridge to your expertise. Put yourself in their shoes, then ask yourself, what would you want to know, what do you need to know, or maybe even where the information is coming from and where you can get more.
- Take itself too seriously? I know that law is serious business, but readers are human. You still can inject some humor without putting a lampshade on your head. Share a funny story about yourself that sets up the content or tone. When you write with human scale, readers relate and will love you for it.
- Illustrate your content visually? Not every post has to have clever images but some could. A simple image to aid understanding or perhaps a cartoon to make readers smile.
- Entertain? Every now and then be provocative. Include both sides, i.e. here’s what employees do, here’s what employers do. Is there a quiz? A joke? A crazy case?
- Give readers something sharable and make it VERY easy to share it? An infographic, slide presentation, survey data, a link or a 120 character pull quote that they can tweet or add to their FB page. Include a video from YouTube. It doesn’t have to be about a serious legal topic, it could simply be something impractical but entertaining. Share a quotable quote….that funny story or image works too.
- Offer readers a bonus every now and then? That might be a download of some sort such as a form, template, special report, or guide. People appreciate a stack of statistics or results from a research study. It could be a link to a free app. Better still, a slide deck with graphs and charts displaying some thing relevant to their business/market, which they can use on the job in their own company or department. (I’ve seen this be highly successful. If you brand the slide deck subtly it’s okay.)
The sky is the limit here. If you are rolling your eyes as you read this thinking these are “cheap” tactics that don’t reflect the seriousness of your practice, please go back and read #3. We’ve got plenty of things to be serious about, give it a break every now and then.
The key here is to reward your readers in appropriate ways. Use those rewards to interact with readers and socialize content to draw out engagement. Great bloggers always step out of their comfort zone. It can be fun if you approach it with the right attitude. Reward your visitors and like karma, the good stuff will come back to you.
(4) Are you marketing your blog?
I’ve said it before, bears repeating: The worst blog strategy is “Build it and they will come.” Even the most popular blogs rely on diverse channels to drive traffic. Briefly, be social with your blog. Use other social media channels. This is where you can start relationships and inspire referrals. It’s easy to keep your referral sources up to date about your practice when you can share a link to your blog post along with a little note. Send via email or post it to your LinkedIn profile. Mail links to colleagues and ask them to pass it along. Go ahead, I dare you. Then see what happens. Come back and tell us.
If something I said here resonates and you want to speak to me directly, follow me on Twitter @jaynenavarre and send me a DM. Or contact me through Law Gravity, here.
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