We’ve Moved!

October 26, 2011

It was great, WordPress.com – and we’re grateful to still have your exceptional DNA – but it’s time for the Shatterbox blog to move on up to its own de-luxe domain in the cloud: Shatterbox.biz.

For you, gentle readers, not much has changed. The look, feel and layout are a little fresher and – one hopes – more engaging. The biggest changes will be going on behind the scenes, where we’ll be working to maximize the blog’s potential through cunning plug-ins and more customization.

Since it’s a launch of sorts, we’ll take this opportunity to rededicate Shatterbox to the motto:

“Endeavor to make it useful”

We hope you will follow us to our new home and continue to share your insights and opinions there as the spirit moves you.


Video for Lawyers: ‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple

October 24, 2011

While it might seem like incorporating background music into your firm’s marketing and informational videos will add a “professional” sheen, it’s a risky choice. Whatever is playing during the narration should unobtrusively complement and elevate what’s being said, not compete with it.

The video below on methods of purchasing a business is intended to instruct, which requires a higher level of concentration than a video meant to create a general impression. The folksy finger-picked acoustic guitar riff is too prominent and distracting, making it difficult to focus on the information being conveyed, let alone retain it.

What do you think? Does the music enhance or detract from the video’s overall effectiveness? What would you have done differently?

Social Media for Lawyers: Contemplating the Nuclear Option

October 21, 2011

You’ve tried training, guilting, pleading, appealing to professionalism, more training — and still, getting your associates to blog, tweet or even share one of their presentations is like pulling teeth.

Have you considered linking social media content creation to performance metrics and merit increases? OK, forget social media. What about carrots and/or sticks for traditional business development and networking activities?

For all the hand-wringing about the difficulty of getting lawyers to create content for social media and participate in networking activities, there seems to be a deep-rooted resistance to even considering the use of performance evaluations and compensation as a management tool for driving those behaviors.

Having tried a voluntary approach to participation in the firm’s marketing and business development activities, one of my clients  recently instituted some mandatory measures. In addition to weekly one-hour professional development meetings, firm management requires associates to log at least 72 hours of business development activities per year, which is tracked through a billing code in its ProLaw system. Research and writing time for blogs and articles count, as do networking coffees and lunches. However, passive activities like event attendance do not. Results will be discussed in annual reviews and factor into merit increases and bonuses.

Money Motivates

  • Spiffs – Practically everyone who’s held a sales job is familiar with “spiffs” — spot awards for selling particular items. If you’re having trouble getting people to submit blog posts or newsletter articles, try periodically offering $5 Starbucks or iTunes gift cards for the next submission. You’ll be surprised at how motivating a free spiced pumpkin latte or smartphone game download can be.
  • Pay per submission – I worked with one firm that gave away $50 spot bonuses for every accepted staff blog post submission. Even the partners were eligible, and the managing partner took pride in his second income. So for only $7,800 per year — 3 posts a week, 52 weeks a year — the firm had a strong pipeline and frequency of posts.
  • Executive face time – Lunch with the managing partner is a pearl of great price. See how many JD Supra submissions you can generate by offering associates that incentive (and they’ll have something to talk about during the meal).
  • Time off – Offering extra personal days as an incentive for extraordinary contributions to your content marketing could be the most motivating compensation of all.

Twitter for Lawyers: Not All Tweets Are Created Equal

October 13, 2011

There is no lack of tools that help you decide who to follow and unfollow on Twitter by examining the activity of accounts in your Twitter ecosystem.

One of the current “buzz” Twitter clients, Twit Cleaner, provides users a very interesting detailed breakdown of how it identifies potential “garbage” accounts among people, organizations and bots you follow on Twitter.

In general, tweets that demonstrate active engagement (e.g. “@” messages, retweets and links) are favored, while automated tweets (e.g. paper.li distributions, Foursquare check-ins, RSS bot feeds) count against you if used extensively.

After you request an analysis of your Twitter followers, Twit Cleaner sends you a Twitter direct message containing a link to your customized results. In addition to the statistical breakdown by “type,” the analysis includes thumbnail avatars of all the Tweeps in each category, which yield individual details as you mouse over each with your cursor.

To cull out the undesirables, just click on the corresponding avatars.

Here’s how the categories break down:

Potentially Dodgy Behavior

  • App spam – More than 50 percent of tweets are auto-generated messages, aka “app spam” (e.g. paper.li, Foursquare, blip.fm)
  • Uses advertising networks
  • Nothing but links – Few retweets, no “@” messages
  • Repeating the same URLs – Duplicates the same link more than 25 percent of the time
  • Posting identical tweets

Other Dodgy Behavior, Now Absent

No Activity in Over a Month

Not Much Interaction – Fewer than 10 tweets

  • Not active yet
  • Don’t interact with anyone – No “@” messages or retweets
  • Bots – M0re than 90 percent of tweets pumped out from an RSS feed
  • Hardly follow anyone – People who follow back fewer than 10 percent of those who follow them

All Talk, All the Time – Averages more than 24 tweets a day (excluding @ replies and direct messages)

Little Original Content – Retweets are 70 percent or more of total output

  • High percentage of retweets
  • High percentage of quotes

Not So Interesting – More than 50 percent of their tweets are about themselves

  • Self-obsessed
  • Relatively unpopular – Few followers

So if you’re having trouble attracting and/or keeping the  followers you seek on Twitter, a quick self-diagnostic might be in order.

Twitter for Lawyers: The Simplest Way to Schedule Tweets and Track Your Links

October 7, 2011

I started writing this post on Monday and, as often happens in social media, two big-name bloggers beat me to the punch with a level of thoroughness that left little to elaborate upon. So instead, I’ll crib, credit and cobble together some excerpts from those posts to make my point.

The condensed version is that lawyers who’ve been sitting on the Twitter sidelines, as well as Twitter veterans who want to boost their effectiveness, should immediately set up a Buffer account to schedule your tweets and a  bitly URL shortener account to monitor the activity of the links you’re tweeting.

I’ve been tweeting and commenting a lot about tweet scheduling app Buffer lately, and Jay Baer came over the top with a full-throated endorsement this week:

“One of my favorite Twitter add-ons is Buffer, an easy-to-use service that allows you to quickly queue up many tweets at one time, with those missives and bon mots then automatically parceled out one at a time on a schedule you determine.(Buffer also works for Facebook)

For people like me that do a lot of curation via Twitter, this is a real workflow advantage. Instead of finding and tweeting interesting content several times daily, I can scan dozens of blogs and email newsletter and RSS feeds in one sitting in the morning, and then use the Buffer browser app to set up tweets throughout the day. Doing so allows me to focus my other Twitter interactions on engagement and response, rather than curation.”

“Buffer automatically sets up your tweets to be sent when more people tend to be using Twitter, naturally increasing potential audience for many Buffer users. You can override the Buffer default settings (as I do) to Tweet more often, on a more diffuse pattern, to include nights and weekends, and/or to Tweet closer to the top and bottom of the hour.”

I you’re unfamiliar with bit.ly, here’s Danny Brown’s elegant summary:

“Primarily a URL shortener to make it easier to share blog URL’s on space-restricted platforms like Twitter, bit.ly (like Hootsuite and BackType) offers a great mix of analytics about the amount of shares each post got, as well as the top referrers so you can see where the links were shared the most.

bit.ly metrics summary

Additionally, much like other analytic services, bit.ly also gives you a breakdown of the countries that have clicked through on your link. This is ideal for getting a better understanding of your readers, and whether you need to install a translation option or not.

You can also gauge when the most popular time of day (and day of the week) seems to be for your links, so you can then schedule tweets to go out at these times to maximize the chance for extra blog traffic at these times.

The bit.ly services offers free and premium versions, with the premium option offering branded links, a more in-depth dashboard and integration with other social media platforms.”

Have you tried either Buffer or bit.ly? Give them a shot. The free versions are plenty useful.

3 Ways to Get More Than a Tote Bag and an Online Listing Out of Your NPR Sponsorship

October 4, 2011

Today’s the last day for Austin NPR affiliate KUT’s on-air membership drive, and once again law firms have been heavily represented in the shoutouts provided to “Business Circle” contributors. If you’re doing it because it’s a cause you believe in — and it truly is an outstanding news and entertainment resource — thank you, and God bless. But recognize that on its own it’s a pretty poor use of scarce marketing dollars — a few mentions within a laundry list of names during the pledge drive, a random mention the following week, and an online directetory listing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are a few simple ways to leverage your support for NPR that can generate direct, measurable marketing lift out of your generous contribution:

  • LinkedIn mining – Use the online business directory to create a list of networking prospects in your area. Your shared interest in/sponsorship of public radio is a great opening line for an invitation to join your network.
  • CLE for NPR lovers – Devise a CLE session for your fellow NPR supporters, inviting the prospects on the aforementioned LinkedIn list and existing members of your network.
  • Take the station’s development director to lunch – As I’ve written before, fundraisers at non-profit organizations are creative, resourceful and formidable marketers. Odds are good that someone in the development department would make time to sit down with you over coffee and knock around some ideas for creating some mutually beneficial networking opportunities.

Do you support your local NPR station? Any networking stories you’d like to share?

Of Groupons, Contract Law, and My Son’s Birthday Party

September 30, 2011

Dear contract law mavens,

I’m interested in your opinions on a recent kerfuffle I experienced concerning a local business that ran a Groupon promotion.

In mid-June I purchased a Groupon for a kid’s party at a nearby swim school. Both the online ad and the barcoded Groupon .pdf that I had to print out and present for redemption showed a Dec. 17 expiration date. I made a Dec. 11 reservation over the phone, and a few days later  went to the facility in person to present the Groupon and complete the purchase. No questions, no complications. I was all set for a fun-filled family celebration — or so I thought [cue ominous music].

Three months later…I received a call from the swim school’s customer service manager, who informed me that promotion expiration date in the school’s contract with Groupon was a date in November, so the Dec. 17 date on the advertising materials and redemption coupon was incorrect. She informed me that because of Groupon’s error, the school would not honor my coupon, and if I still wanted to hold my event I would have to pay the difference between the Groupon price and the full rack rate.

I told her that I expected to move forward as planned without additional charges because, regardless of whether Groupon breached the contract with the swim school, my agreement with the facility was still valid and binding. I am not a lawyer, but here’s the reasoning I gave her for my position:

  • I entered into a formal, written and signed agreement with the facility in good faith, and
  • The validity of the coupon was not questioned by the salesperson at the time of purchase and it was accepted as full payment.

The manager’s response to the second point was that the staff who handled reservations and payment processing at the time did not know that the ads and coupons had the “wrong” expiration date. My gut-level reply was “If you don’t train your staff on the details of a major promotion, that’s your problem and I don’t intend to pay for it.”

I continued to argue my position, and eventually the manager agreed to “make an exception” and allow my party to go on as planned (and I requested/received a confirmation e-mail from her as added insurance — don’t want to show up the day of the party with dozens giddy 1st graders just to get shaken down for more money).

So did I get my way through a blustery bluff, or does it sound like I probably had an enforceable contract?

[Note: I will not construe any responses as legal advice, or assume an attorney-client relationship. Does that help?]