Comments on law blogs have moved from blog sites to social media – and it’s a big plus for law bloggers.

With a few exceptions, law blogs have always received few comments.

People were reticent to leave comments on a lawyer’s blog. Law blogs do not generate a community leading to comment after comment as with a sports or entertainment blog. Finally, lawyers and other thought leaders often wrote their comments in the form of a blog post on their own blog – discussion ran from blog to blog.

Today discussion generated by blog posts is talking place on social media. People are differing with blog posts and adding additional insight and commentary on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

Your work on a blog post is not complete until you take it to the streets. The streets are social media where people with similar interests are discussing items you are blogging about.

Take this morning for example. I shared on Twitter a couple of my blog posts and a good number of news stories and blog posts of others. Within an hour or two there were 96 interactions to the items I shared. 96.

I haven’t gotten 96 comments on my blog in the last six months.

In addition to Twitter, I share my posts and the content of others on LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook. I get a lot of engagement on each site.

It’s not unusual that I get 12 or 15 comments to my blog posts I share on LinkedIn or Facebook. Though it varies from post to post.

It’s not just me posting my blog content to social media. Others are regularly sharing my content with those who follow them. This morning a legal marketing professional shared on Facebook a blog post of mine from yesterday. This drew likes and comments.

This evening I noticed two professionals discussing a blog post of mine from last week that someone had shared on Google+.

This morning there had to be four or five of my posts shared by others on Twitter, all drawing comment in same fashion.

I jump into these discussions whether they be on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook. The discussion is more vibrant, involves more people, and is more interesting than the discussion that took place in comments on my blog in days gone by.

I still get comments on my blog, just not near the comments my blog posts draw on social media.

Don’t be concerned about the loss of traffic to your blog that may have been generated from commenters. Do not be concerned about discussion regarding your blog posts taking place other than on your blog site.

As a lawyer you are not blogging to generate web traffic. You are not selling ads that are dependent on traffic.

You are blogging to build relationships. You are blogging to enhance your word of mouth reputation as a trusted and reliable authority in your niche.

You build relationships and a reputation through real and authentic engagement. Through networking.

Increased engagement and networking through social is great for you. Especially when the discussion emanates from blog posts you’ve written.

You’re enhancing your reputation, building relationships, and growing your online visibility. All good for business development.

So not to worry about lack of comments on your law blog. Take your discussion to social media. It’s in your interests.

Image courtesy of Flickr by premasagar

A marketing professional in a large Midwest law firm contacted me this morning regarding a concern her firm’s lawyers raised with regard to responding to comments on the firm’s blogs.

The lawyers believed that a lawyer cannot respond to a comment on a law blog without creating an attorney-client relationship. I thought I’d share my response with you.

I believe a lawyer can respond to comments on a blog without creating an attorney-client relationship. It is done every day by thousands of lawyers across this country. I have never heard of one case where it was alleged that an attorney client relationship has formed by virtue of a lawyer’s comment on a blog.

Could a lawyer create an attorney-client relationship by replying to comments on a blog? Certainly. One situation would be a case where someone is looking for specific advise to a specific fact situation and the lawyer responses with legal advice — not general information.

Whether an attorney-client relationship is formed is determined by ‘a reasonable man standard.’ Would a reasonable person construe a lawyer’s comment to a blog post that shared general information/commentary as creating an attorney client relationship? I don’t believe so.

Think of a conference with a lawyer on a panel in front of industry professionals (people who hire lawyers). Imagine a lawyer saying I don’t respond to audience questions nor do I comment on what other panelists are saying because I would be creating an attorney client relationship. Make sense for a lawyer to say that? How would the lawyer be perceived by her peers, clients, and prospective clients?

The same rules of social interaction/legal ethics that applied pre-net, apply on the Internet. Good judgment still dictates.

law blog commentsFor law firms looking to establish a standard protocol for moderating comments on their blog (not everyone can take the Greenfield or O’Keefe do as we feel approach), the New York Times standard may be apropos.

The New Times frequently asked questions about comments provides straight forward answers of the follow questions:

  • Why do you moderate readers’ comments?
  • What kind of comments are you looking for?
  • Do you edit comments?
  • When and where will my comment be displayed?
  • Should I use my real name when making a comment?
  • What about criticism of The Times?
  • Should I post new information about a breaking news story? What if I see an error in a blog post or article? What is the best way to suggest a correction?

I’ve heard the trail to success leaves clues. Putting aside any political views you have of the paper, you could do worse than following the editorial standards of the Times.

Darren Rowse at Problogger asked that question of his readers last week.

Asked another way, should you just do what makes by far the most sense to me, should you you key in your name in the comment field labeled ‘name?’

People leaving keywords such as the name of their blog, which is full of keywords itself, such as Russia Law Blog or Missouri Injury Lawyer, is a real turn off to me as a blog publisher. Shows me the commenter is more concerned about getting SEO for their blog than leaving a comment of value to the discussion.

Looks like I am not alone in my feelings. Here’s a sample of comments to Darren’s post.

  • If you leave keywords instead of your name, it looks like all you’re interested in is improving your search rankings instead of contributing to a discussion.
  • It immediately turns off the reader from reading your wonderful prose and insightful analysis. Although it might increase viewership, it’s unnecessary and in my opinion unwanted.
  • I can’t see any difference from SPAM comments and leaving a keyword in the name field.
  • To leave keywords is the closest way to say: ‘Hello! don’t read my comment, I’m just another spammer!’
  • As a webmaster that immediately comes off as spam to me, even if the comment is good or even insightful. I usually end up editing or deleting those types of comments.
  • Comments are supposed to be for user contribution and opinion. There are plenty of places to build links, but spamming comments with keywords is not one of them. I hand edit the majority of my keyword-spammed comments, and believe everyone else should too.

Don’t be lame. Leave your name.

And from now on, no more comment spam by keywords in the name field around here. I’ll edit to insert your name, if I know it, or delete the comment if I don’t.

A law firm asked today about the possibility of requiring readers to register before being permitted to post a comment. Apparently a lawyer in the firm saw registration required for comments on a newspaper’s blog.

Bad idea. Here’s why.

  • Comment registration is not used on the vast majority of blogs. LexBlog has over 300 law blogs with over 800 lawyer authors. None have comment registration. Includes solo’s to the largest law firm in the country.
  • Readers will look at comment registration with great suspicion wondering why your law firm is asking for information before allowing comments.
  • Some newspapers require registration because their business departments are demanding demographic info (age, sex, and zip code) to supply to advertisers. Such a practice is viewed negatively as discussed in previous posts of mine here and here.
  • A well trafficked law blog will only generate 2 to 3 comments a month, something easily manageable for moderation by a designated party at your law firm. Comments are not a measure of success or failure for a law blog, interaction comes through being cited.
  • Requiring registration opens your law firm up for public ridicule on the Internet for doing something that is out of the ordinary, a little backwards, and even worse, as requiring registration because you wanted to collect demographic information. Martindale-Hubbell was held up to great ridicule for requiring registration on their blog. See the blog post of Steve Matthews, a leading legal Internet marketing expert and someone who is very reluctant to criticize third parties, calling Martindale’s blog cheezy for, among other reasons, requiring registration for commenting.
  • Taking such a position contrary to the standards of the blogosphere at large will reduce subscribers and the likelihood of your blog being cited, losing two significant advantages for publishing a blog.
  • Registration is not completely safe for preventing someone from misusing comments (something that rarely happens on a law blog) as someone can use alias names and register for free web based email services for confirming registration.

Law firms use LexBlog, for among other reasons, so as to avoid risks that may be associated with blogs. LexBlog’s advice, solutions, design, training, and support make blogging safe and productive for law firms. Using comment registration is strongly contrary to LexBlog’s advice and would in all likelihood hold your law firm up to possible ridicule, either openly or behind closed doors.

Be smart. One, allow comments. And two, do not require readers to register before commenting.