Better Blogging: How to Write for the Medium

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Good writing is good writing, right? Yes and no.

Readers’ expectations for a blog are far different than for a law journal. Blogging started as a form of an online journal so the style has always been more personal and casual. Readers expect that through a blog, they will get to know you. the writer. They also expect the content to be easily digestible and fun to read.

That’s a lot of expectation so we’ve put together a few of our favorite tips for getting it right, inspired by some of the top bloggers on the LexBlog Network.

Step 1: Adopt a conversational tone. Sometimes lawyers can be afraid to write with a casual tone because it seems less professional. But in reality, a casual tone is what helps potential clients get to know you and your personality. Plus, the more you reduce the legalese in your posts, the more your audience will be able to connect with your content. LexBlog author, Dan Schwartz (@DanielSchwartz) says he writes all his posts with his next door neighbor in mind. This keeps the legalese to a minimum and ensures your language is easy to read and comprehend. And it’s working: his blog, Connecticut Employment Law Blog is one of the most popular on our network.

A great example of writing in a conversational and engaging tone is a post from Robin Shea (@RobinEShea), former journalist, now a labor lawyer with Constangy. This post contains a funny letter to the EEOC chair.

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 Step 2: Have an opinion. Taking a stance can be scary. Won’t you alienate those with a differing opinion? Not necessarily. Two things happen when you write with strong opinions.

One, your posts get better. The passion you display for your subject shines through. This makes your post more interesting to read and more fun for you to write.

Two, choosing a side can bring you business. When you’re demonstrating your expertise on one side of an issue, those who agree will flock to you. And when legal counsel is needed on that side of the issue, you’ll be top of mind in a way that neutrality on the subject won’t offer.

Steptoe & Johnson’s Stewart Baker and Gray Reed’s Charles Sartain stand out as a couple of our network’s top examples. Stewart served as the first Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security where he set cybersecurity policy, including inward investment reviews focused on network security. His posts are highly opinionated on the topic of cybersecurity and are written in an accessible way for the general public to enjoy. Likewise, Charles Sartain writes on the hot topic of fracking and energy law with a conservative bent that keeps his audience coming back.

Step 3: Format for the web and mobile. You may have heard a lot from LexBlog about formatting your posts for easy readability, but this point bears repeating. Ensuring your post looks attractive to your reader, no matter what device they’re using when they come across your post, is key for keeping them coming back.

First, remember that your title may appear by itself on Facebook, LinkedIn and even on Twitter. So your title needs to draws readers’ attention and makes a statement right off the bat. It also should make sense outside the context of the blog. It’s important to avoid acronyms few people know, and to keep it under 70 characters so that the whole title is visible in Google and other social sites.

Second, use photos in every post. This makes your post more attractive to read but beyond that, remember the images chosen will show up when you (or anyone) who shares your content on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Third, make your post easily scannable. There is a reason why list posts or “listicles” are so popular. They are easy to scan over and get the main points without exerting a lot of energy. Your posts don’t all have to be lists, but if you format them in a similar way with sub-headings, short paragraphs or bullets, you’ll make your post much more easily digestible. This is more important now than ever with the widespread adoption of mobile technology.

Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights has a great example. When you check out his blog, watch how nice it looks when you resize your banner–go ahead and size it down to mobile phone dimensions. This is called responsive design and Jeff’s blog looks great and is easy for his audience to read on the go.

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If you’re struggling with how to turn up the personality dial, where to draw the line in appropriateness, or just how to write better, contact your LexBlog account manager. They’re available to help you make the most of your blog!

Thank you to Colin O’Keefe for contributing his deep knowledge on this topic! For more information on writing well, visit our private Reach Community for LexBlog authors and view the recording of July webinar hosted by Colin O’Keefe on the 3 Writing Secrets of Top Legal Bloggers.

Photo credit: josef.stuefer 
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14 Social Media Tool Updates You Don’t Want to Miss

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Social media tools are constantly changing and updating. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed! Not to fear though, we’ve pulled together the most important and coolest updates from the past six months so you don’t have to.

Twitter

  • New profile pages: Includes a larger profile photo and customized header. Details on this.
  • Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find. Read the Twitter blog announcement.
  • Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about. Read the Twitter blog announcement.
  • Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies. Read the Twitter blog announcement.
  • Link shorteners no longer neededA URL of any length will be altered to 22 characters, even if the link is less or more than 22 characters long. -Twitter Support

LinkedIn

  • Premium profile expansion – Similar to Twitter, if you have a premium account on LinkedIn, you can now post a larger, background photo. There are also features helping you craft your profile with the right keywords, helping you be found more easily. Read more.
  • LinkedIn Connected App – This iPhone app, recently announced July 10, helps you stay in touch with contacts when important events like job changes, promotions and birthdays occur. Find out more.
  • Long form “blog post” publishing: Rolling out over the next several months, LinkedIn members will be able to write longer updates, more like a blog post. More details here.

Google+

Facebook

  • Redesign of news feed launched in March: Small changes include fonts, larger photos and buttons. Read more here.
  • Mobile version of graph search: About a year ago Facebook launched its Graph Search bar, where users can type in queries like “Friends of friends who are single.” Non English-speaking Facebook users will see ordinary search results, like people, places, and Pages. This year they added it to the mobile app. Read more about the uses here.
  • Anonymous login: If you’re a fan of logging into apps across the web easily using log in with Facebook, now you have the option to do so anonymously so you can check out that app without sharing your personal information. Announced by Facebook in April.

Pinterest

  • Categories now have sub-categories: When you visit your favorite category, you can now drill down into more detailed options.
  • Follow topics: When you find a topic where people are Pinning lots of stuff you like, click or tap the Follow button and a selection of those very Pins will start appearing in your home feed. Read more about these two updates.

Did we miss any? Are you a fan of any of these? My personal favorite is no more link shortening in Twitter, I love saving that step!

Image via Flickr Commons from mkhmarketing

 

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No More Faces in Organic Google SERPs is New Change to G+ Authorship

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Just a few weeks ago, we published our findings on the latest Google Panda search update. Now, Google is changing a key element of search results related to Google authorship, turning some headshot smiles into frowns of frustration.

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What Legal Blog Publishers Need to Know About Google’s Recent Panda 4.0 Update

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As we do with any major change in search engine technology, we at LexBlog recently revisited our SEO best practice information for blog publishers on behalf of our clients following Google’s recent (5/20/2014) algorithm update (“Panda 4.0″).

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Reach-ing Out to You

A new welcome on your LexBlog Dashboard was installed last week. We know our busy clients are inundated with emails, briefs, clients, calls AND blogging, so if you missed our announcements & invitations about Reach, LexBlog’s new community, the opportunity to discover Reach is now.

Direct access to Reach through your dashboard makes sharing an ideaasking a question, or giving praise easy- literally at your fingertips.

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22 Ideas to Beat Writer’s Block

Every blogger experiences writer’s block on occasion—that nagging inability to put fingers to keyboard. The densely-packed schedules of most attorneys often serve as a convenient excuse for letting lack of inspiration get the best of them.

Don’t let writer’s block win.

This recent Forbes article 50 Content Marketing Ideas for Your Website or Blog got me thinking—what are some solid content ideas for law bloggers?

Here are some ideas based on my observations.

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Is the Heartbleed Bug a Concern for LexBlog Clients?

heartbleedYou may have heard news about the “Heartbleed bug.” Heartbleed is a bug that security researchers recently discovered in a core encryption library that secures most internet sites.

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A Blogging Resolution: 3 Steps to Make it Happen

It’s a new year and always a time to reflect on how to do this one a little better than the last one. I’ve got an idea for you! Blog more this year! Blog better this year! Make this the year you kill it with social media and build your online presence beyond your wildest dreams.

As with all good goals, creating a plan makes it far more likely to actually happen.

Sample Plan to get you Started:

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Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post

What’s the right combination for a great blog post? As the marketing director for LexBlog, I’ve had a front row seat to the content marketing explosion. Blogs are more important than ever to marketing strategy. We coach clients day in and out on blogging best practices, so I thought I’d share the best practices we’re seeing drive the most success for our clients.

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