Monthly Archives: April 2013

Social media marketing – how to avoid wasting time online

by Kirsten Hodgson

It’s very easy to waste time on social networks.

Firstly you need to be clear about WHY you are on a particular platform and how you are going to use it.

And secondly, you’ve got to be focused and disciplined in your use of it. It’s frighteningly easy for 15 minutes to turn into half an hour and for little to show for it at the end of a session.

I’m certainly guilty of spending more time than I’ve allocated on social networks now and again and of not being particularly productive so I was excited when Justine Parsons, my brilliant virtual assistant, posted to a LinkedIn group saying that she adheres to a list of daily tasks to ensure she uses her time spent on social networks wisely.

I asked her to share why she did this, what she does and how this has helped her.

Here are her responses:

What are your social media objectives?

There are a few.  Obviously, I want to drive traffic to my website and raise my profile but one of my biggest objectives is to make connections, not necessarily clients.  Being a VA means that, other than catch-ups with clients, I am often isolated because I work from my home office.  Social media is my lunch-room in a way:  a way to engage one-on-one, ask others’ opinions, learn from them and assist them.

Why did you decide to set up daily actions?

I was spending too much time online and was unfocused.  It’s extremely easy to spend a couple of hours reading content and discussions with nothing tangible to show at the end of that time.  Daily actions keep me focused and help me to achieve more in a limited time.

It’s not an ideal world and, when I’m busy meeting deadlines, my social media activity is one of the first things to be relegated down my ‘to do’ list.  Having a daily task list means I can tick things off as I complete them and move on to the next task when I next have time. This ensures I meet all of my social media requirements.

What do you do?

I spend half an hour every morning going through feeds and scheduling some of that content using Hootsuite (this activity does occasionally slip when I’m really busy – I’m only human!)  I use email subscriptions, Google reader, Prismatic and Netvibes to find content.  I find doing this invaluable from an educational perspective.

I’ve assigned one of my contractors the task of spending an hour each week going through my LinkedIn groups and identifying discussions which meet set criteria.  This means I can open her report, click through to the discussion and comment in 5 minutes rather than having to trawl through groups myself. This was an area in which I previously used to lose focus and it ate into the time I should have been spending on client work.

I blog once a week and share my post on G+, LinkedIn (via both my company page and my personal profile), Twitter (I schedule a tweet about a particular post to go out once per month for three months – so each post is tweeted about three times by me), Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon and some small business communities.

On Facebook I schedule posts once a week using a pre-determined list of status update styles.

I then spend up to an hour each night working through the other items on my task list.

Possibly the most important of these is my monthly newsletter.  95% of readers are my clients. The remaining 5% have subscribed either via my website or Facebook. I use my newsletter to promote clients of interest to a small business demographic, give some insight into my month and share content of interest.  I rarely promote myself but a newsletter will always generate work from ‘quieter’ clients.

What’s worked well?

Time spent on LinkedIn.  For me this is the ideal network and, to be honest, I learn as much from group discussions as I gain value in terms of connections and clients generated.  Time spent on LinkedIn equals results whereas the other networks tend to be more indirect for me personally.

Participating in group discussions, offering advice and opinion has resulted in some of my best clients.  LinkedIn generated clients have tended to refer others, use more of my services and are tech-savvy.

What hasn’t worked so well?

A lack of consistency.  Being so busy has meant there are times when I can’t afford to take on new work so I back off with my social media engagement.  I wouldn’t recommend this to any of my clients and find that you do lose traction after a period of poor engagement and content marketing. [I totally agree with Justine and have noticed the same thing].

What have you achieved as a result of implementing and following your social media task list?

I make much better use of the time I do have.  I use my contractors as much as possible but believe engagement should be undertaken personally.  By following a task list I feel better, knowing I have covered all the basics and, as mentioned, on days when time does run out I can complete tasks not carried out later in the day.  Being a list person, having this document also keeps my brain clear and focused on the task at hand, rather than veering off on a tangent.

 What tips would you give to others looking to best utilise their time online?

If I didn’t offer social media as a service, I would only be active on LinkedIn. It’s here that I find value and I would do a better job with less to do.

My advice is to be realistic about what you can achieve. Write yourself a list of tasks to keep you focused and accountable and keep in mind that social media is primarily about people.

Outsource some of the tasks if this helps you to spend more time engaging and building connections.  Content sharing, connections, profile maintenance, competitions and events can all be delegated.  Engagement cannot.

 

So there you have it – some great tips about how to maximise the time you do spend online. I’ll definitely be putting together a weekly task list. How about you?

What other tips would you share to help others use their time on social networks wisely?

Related articles:

Justine Parsons: Social media marketing when you’re just too busy

Image courtesy of DigitalArt@freedigitalphotos.net

Why GC’s are too busy to go looking for your content and what you can do about it

by Kirsten Hodgson

Last week Greentarget, Zeughauser Group and Inside Counsel launched their 2013 in-house counsel new media engagement survey. It’s great to see a survey focused on in-house counsel’s use of social media because it helps inform lawyers in private practice about where they should invest their efforts.

There are some encouraging stats, which you can view in the survey itself or in one of the great summaries put together by legal marketers in the US (see end of this post for links to these).

However, one particular paragraph really interested me:

“Our 2013 survey data affirms that a growing number of in-house lawyers
are consumers of professional content rather than contributors to it. They
generally read blogs rather than write blogs, and they read others’ LinkedIn
posts much more than they broadcast their own thoughts, analyses, or job
notes. This approach, likely, is because in-house lawyers, unlike their law firm peers, aren’t looking to promote themselves, so there is little upside for them to post information.” 

I don’t doubt that’s part of the reason, BUT when I spoke to over 40 general counsel in New Zealand last year what they made clear time and time again is that they’re too incredibly busy.

When are in-house lawyers likely to go looking for information?

As the Greentarget survey states:

“…specific sites and networks are used to accomplish tasks and reach goals.”

That’s a key point.

General Counsel are only going to go looking for information if it will help them get something done so that they can get on with their day.

They want to be able to access relevant information and analysis quickly.

And that’s why many of those I spoke to in New Zealand still prefer email, particularly when content is aggregated. 

It’s the push rather than the pull. I find that a lot of social media requires me to go out and mine through it to find what’s good. Whereas email makes information accessible. You can scan it and it doesn’t feel like you have to spend so much time.”

Some in-house lawyers in New Zealand acknowledged that Twitter makes it easy to access information on the go – which is attractive for the growing numbers using mobile phones and tablets for work purposes. The Greentarget survey (379 respondents) found:

  • 53% of respondents read the daily general business media on their smartphones, 
  • 39% on tablets, and 
  • 23% on a mobile app. (n.b. some of these read on more than one device hence the percentages are greater than 100%).

It will be interesting to see if Twitter becomes more popular amongst in-house lawyers going forward as only 14% of respondents had accessed it either in the last 24 hours or the past week and only a handful of those in New Zealand used it frequently. 

Those in New Zealand felt that LinkedIn could be useful PROVIDED their connections post relevant content. In other words, it’s a catch 22 situation. If lawyers in private practice posted more good content, in-house counsel would spend more time on the social network. Interestingly, in the Greentarget survey 40% of respondents had used LinkedIn in the past 24 hours and 27% in the last week. Of these, 61% used it for news and info (which possibly suggests those in their networks are more active than connections of in-house lawyers in New Zealand). The main reasons cited for using LinkedIn by respondents to the Greentarget survey were connecting with in-house colleagues (70%), connecting with business and industry leaders (66%), accessing news and information, and connecting with outside counsel with whom they work (60%).

One of the verbatim comments in the Greentarget survey: “Value is currently limited by the over-abundance of “noise,” but the greatest value is in news and the too few thoughtful opinions” also supported sentiment from in-house lawyers in New Zealand who feel there’s a lot of over-simplified content: 

“[law firms] seem to think if they’re firing something out it’s worthwhile but actually it’s not particularly useful.”

What can lawyers in private practice do to help their in-house colleagues?

  1. Focus on producing and curating content that will help in-house lawyers with specific issues they’re facing (or will be likely to face going forward) or that will answer their common questions.
  2. As well as distributing that content via usual means ensure you upload it to aggregators such as JD Supra or Lexology (or blog on a network such as LexBlog) and/or send it to your National/State in-house lawyers association if they collate content. It’s easier for in-house counsel to look through one email containing content that’s been aggregated by a trusted source than it is to go actively hunting for information.
  3. Produce your content in various formats – written, audio, video to allow in-house counsel to choose how to consume it.
  4. Ensure your blog/website and articles are mobile friendly so that in-house counsel can consume on the go.
You’ll know you’re hitting the mark if the average time spent reading your blog posts or articles increases and/or you notice that people are scanning most of the way through. 

How else do you think lawyers in private practice could help their in-house colleagues? 

Good summaries of the Greentarget research:

Nancy Myrland – Summarized: The 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey 

Lindsay Griffiths – It’s here! A look at the 2013 In-house counsel new media engagement survey

Adrian Dayton – Social Media Use by In-House Counsel at All-Time High 

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

 

Law firms as social enterprises: breaking down traditional barriers?

by Kirsten Hodgson

If you asked a law firm marketer (and probably a number of managing partners) the things they’d really like to achieve within their firms, I bet the following would appear on their lists:

  • Break down silos.
  • Increase cross-selling.
  • Get information and knowledge out of people’s heads and into the firm.
  • Be able to easily find and access those with the right expertise to assist a client or help win some work.

I haven’t worked in a law firm that hasn’t been doing something in at least one of these areas. But are they using internal social media tools such as Yammer and IBM Connections to help them? Certainly some do use these tools but I wonder whether they’re harnessing them to their full potential?

The likes of PwC have used collaboration tools for years. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why they are one of the most successful professional services firms around. So, why aren’t more firms fully embracing the technology to enable them to build stronger, more efficient and more profitable businesses?

Vaughan Rivett on LinkedInVaughan Rivett is a social business consultant. Prior to this he was a social business, portals and collaboration specialist at IBM in New Zealand. While there he witnessed the power of the social enterprise, and is now an authority on how to make social technology work within an organisation. I spoke to him about ‘social businesses’ to find out what they are and how becoming one could benefit a law firm.

What is a social business?

It’s essentially a people business. A business that looks at ways of better utilising the expertise within the organisation using social tools to collaborate.

Three traits characterise a social business:

  1. Nimbleness – allows the organisation to change in response to client behaviours. This is something larger organisations typically struggle with. Social tools give them the ability to react as quickly as a smaller firm.
  2. Transparency – from the top down. This ensures employees clearly understand the business objectives and have access to the information that will help them to better do their jobs. This type of business stops people from hoarding information. The people who are most valued are those who share information.
  3. Engagement – creating an exceptional work experience for employees and clients/customers where reward and recognition is for those who share what they know. 

What types of businesses would benefit from becoming social and harnessing social technology internally?

The answer is almost any. The more people you have, the quicker these tools will be useful to you. Social tools are particularly good for:

  • silo’d businesses – those silo’d by practice group, geography or by remote working.
  • organisations that need to modernise due to disruptive technologies.
  • organisations wanting closer relationships with clients or who want to be able to better collaborate with their clients.

[Sounds perfect for law firms to me! ]

How do you make this work?  

It’s important to create a culture of sharing from the top so that this feeds down. As Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast” so if your culture doesn’t support this way of working, it’ll be a hard slog. Executive sponsorship is crucial.

It’s then about enabling people to make use of social platforms and making it easy for them to do the right thing. If the leadership team leads by example, e.g. putting minutes and files onto the social platform, others will follow.

Linking the firm’s reward and recognition system to this also speeds up adoption. It’s important, within social businesses, that employees are recognised for their expertise. The more they share, the more they build their profile internally, and the more others’ understand their skills and experience and when they might be a good person to talk to about a specific issue or topic.

IBM awarded “social badges” to increase employee adoption rates of its social platform. Initially staff were rewarded for really simple tasks such as setting up a Twitter account, Tweeting something, or having a conversation on Twitter. They could then advance to gaining badges for things such as solving a business problem. For example, if someone has put out a message saying “I need help with this sale because of X, Y and Z” then those responding would get a badge.

What ROI can firms expect?

There are a multitude of benefits:

1People are able to do the same work in less time. McKinsey’s “Reaping the Rewards of Enterprise Social” report, released in July 2012 ”estimates that social technologies could enable an interaction worker to boost his or her productivity in performing communication tasks by 25 to 35 per cent.” 

McKinsey studied four sectors in detail (one of which was professional services) and ”estimate that the equivalent of $900 to $1,300bn in total annual value can be unlocked through the use of social technologies. Two thirds of that value would arise from improved collaboration and communication within organisations.”

That’s pretty compelling.

Vaughan explained that, when he first started at IBM he was getting up to 300 emails per day. By the time he left he was only getting 6. He’d spend the equivalent time on their internal social platform but got more done and got better information from colleagues. 

2. The firm is creating reusable assets. Posts are permanent and can be referred to years down the line. This helps new joiners get up to speed quickly and prevents know-how walking out the door when someone leaves.This is a massive challenge for New Zealand businesses.

As the babyboomers retire, they take masses of knowledge with them. Social technology enables firms to plan for succession and get information out of people’s heads and into the organisation.

Firms can, if they wish, create a community for a client to ensure everything relating to the client is in one place and that historical information is not lost. This would make the job of client relationship managers’ so much easier as they would know who who’s talked to who and what their discussions were.

3. Employees have access to one source for the truth. Because information sharing is encouraged, everyone knows what is going on. They can quickly and easily access the facts, which prevents Chinese whispers.

4Firms are able to pull in experts from around the organisation for a particular project/matter and unlock hidden opportunities to communicate or collaborate. They’re also able to keep any external resource they’re using on a project up-to-speed.

5. There’s increased innovation. Firms can crowdsource ideas employees would like to see implemented. Others can then develop these ideas so that,  if management decides it’s something to pursue, it’s simply a question of rolling it out. A good example of this is mystarbucksidea.com (where Starbucks customers can submit ideas for consideration by the company.)

6. There’s a better work experience and increased employee engagement which, in turn leads to better client engagement.

According to Sandy Carter, Vice President Social Evangelism and Sales at IBM ”social and collaboration tools really allow employees to connect with their peers, create communities, and crowdsource to find the best answer to problems and challenges together.” She cited a report which found that 70% of prospective employees ask ‘will you let me use social tools if I come and work for you?’ If the answer is no then almost 80% of these people would take a lower paying job elsewhere.

The external evidence is compelling. This way of working can help organisations to build a competitive advantage. In the current legal climate, it’s those firms that look to do things better and differently that will come out on top. This could be a good place in which to invest time and energy.

It’s good to know that there are experts like Vaughan out there who can help firms really leverage social technology within their organisations and reap the rewards.

Does your firm use social technology internally? If so, how’s it helped from your perspective? 

Related articles:

McKinsey Global Institute: Reaping the rewards of enterprise social

SAP Community Network: Escape from the inbox: How one team reduced its email workload by 90 percent

Steve Farnsworth: Customer engagement starts first with employee engagement

Image courtesy of Kromkrathog at Freedigitalphotos.net

Why you should be worried about LinkedIn’s new group moderation rules

by Kirsten Hodgson

Why you should be worried about LinkedIn's new group moderation rules

How much power is it reasonable for LinkedIn group owners to have?

Of course, they should be able to take control of their own group(s).

But should they have the right to affect a LinkedIn member’s activity across all other groups? 

This is effectively what LinkedIn has allowed with it’s recent group moderation rules, which I read about last week in a post by Lincoln Smith at Lead Creation in Australia. 

What are these moderation rules?

Dubbed SWAM by one blogger (site wide auto moderation), this effectively means that if you are blocked/deleted in one group, you will be put on ‘Requires Moderation’ in all of your other existing groups. This means that your contributions will be held in each group’s Submissions Queue for review before they can be displayed. Group managers can override this by flipping you back to Free to Post within their group but many are unaware of this or of the change which LinkedIn reported on in late 2012.

Aimed at combating spam (which is something LinkedIn does need to address), I agree with Lincoln that this is a step too far and is open to abuse. It seems a number in the LinkedIn community are concerned (and rightly so) as this somewhat draconian approach will punish anyone who is blocked from a group.

Do you know how easy it is to get blocked from a LinkedIn group?

It’s so very easy to get blocked from a group. A post on the LinkedIn community discusses concerns about this policy and members share their stories of being blocked from groups for minor or often unknown infringements (hat tip to Emily Miller for sharing the link to the community post).

I was thrown out of a group a few years’ ago with no warning whatsoever for re-posting a message with a link I forgot to attach the first time around. I didn’t, at the time, realise you had 14 minutes to edit posts once they went up. It was a genuine and easy mistake to make. My question is: does a mistake such as this really justify someone being put on moderation across multiple groups?

Why these rules are so frightening

Surely these rules are open to abuse by group owners (I acknowledge the majority would not behave in this way but anyone can start a LinkedIn group) and, even when a manager wants to (and has the right to) block someone from their group it’s not always for spam – so should that manager have the right to penalise someone beyond their own group? Before you answer that, consider these scenarios:

The manager who blocks a competitor.

The manager who doesn’t agree with someone else’s viewpoint or has an issue with a person that has nothing to do with group rules.

The manager who just blocks people without any warning or notification about why they’ve been blocked.

I could go on – but you get the picture.

If you’re using LinkedIn as a networking tool then being blocked in one group will have a serious impact on your activity across the board. 

I agree there’s a need to prevent spam but don’t think this is the right way to go about it. LinkedIn needs to be in control of such matters NOT group managers. 

What can you do if you’re blocked from a LinkedIn group?

If you’ve been blocked from a group and you either aren’t sure why or you feel it was unjustified, you may want to ask a friend or contact to appeal to the group owner on your behalf.

I have just done that on behalf of a contact who was not sure why she had been blocked from a group. I contacted the group manager and explained the situation. He apologised and lo-and-behold my contact was reinstated.

Another thing you may be able to do is to leave some of your groups and then rejoin them as I don’t think ‘Requires Moderation’  applies to groups you subsequently join (but I could be wrong).

One idea to address the issues around being blocked from a group was suggested by Emily Miller in a LinkedIn group discussion about these rules. She mooted the idea of a “higher court that members can refer these types of group mis-management issues to.” I think that would be a great thing for LinkedIn to initiate.

An appeal to LinkedIn

So far, LinkedIn have not responded to the discussion within the LinkedIn community – which I find bizarre.

I know a few people have contacted them via both LinkedIn and Twitter to ask them to reconsider these rules but am not aware of any responses to date.

Perhaps LinkedIn could consider this:

  1. Allow group owners to retain the right to block within their own groups with the option to report spammers to LinkedIn.
  2. LinkedIn could then look into issues and make their own determination about whether these are spammers or people making a genuine mistake (admittedly this will require manpower – there may even be a way to crowdsource it – maybe this is a question for the wider LinkedIn community).
  3. LinkedIn could look at setting up a ‘higher court’ to deal with group mis-management issues.

Come on LinkedIn, what do you say? Are you going to keep these worrying rules in place or listen to your members’ concerns? 

What do you think of these rules? Do they worry you or not?