As you probably know, I’m a frequent user of Twitter, both at my own jordan@law21 account and as a contributor to the @CCCA_News stream for Stem client the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association. In both capacities, but especially with the CCCA, I receive emails from law firms telling me about a new article they’ve published. Many of these articles would be of interest to those Twitter accounts’ subscribers, and so naturally I try posting them there. And that’s when the challenges begin.
Some law firms get it right: the emailed article includes a link directly to a web page where the article can be found. In those cases, it’s only a matter of moments before I’ve got a tweet lined up summarizing the article (if the title or headline is good enough, I simply reproduce it) and linking to the piece online.You can tell those firms by how frequently they show up in the Twitter streams mentioned above.
But some law firms, unfortunately, miss the opportunity. They email the article, but the link (if you can find it) leads to their main publications page, leaving the reader to try digging around in the archives to locate a URL (sometimes the article hasn’t been posted to the website yet). Other firms attach the article as a PDF, or post it on their website in that format. And other firms provide nothing: the article apparently exists only in the body of email.
So this is a reminder, to law firms as well as to the rest of us, of one of the most important rules of the new social media world: if there’s no link, it might as well not exist. Good content is being under-circulated and under-read because its email recipients can’t post it to Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, or link to it on LinkedIn. Remember the advantage that emailed newsletters first had over the paper kind? That’s exactly the advantage that linkable articles have over every other kind.
This isn’t an either/or situation: you don’t have to choose between emailing an article to your contact database or posting it on your website. You can do both. Ideally, you post the article online first, as soon as it’s ready (that’s an entry-level definition of blogging, by the way). Then you email the article afterward, either on its own or as part of a collection of articles (aka, a newsletter). “Real-time publishing” means exactly that: the moment it’s ready, you publish it on your website. There’s no production schedule. There’s no waiting for that last article to come in to fill the hole on page 4. That’s how we used to publish; we don’t need to do it that way anymore.
So my modest suggestion to law firms is this: don’t email any content unless it comes with a clear, obvious link to a web page where the content can be found. Social media users (and there are several hundred million of us) would love to share your excellent content. But we can’t share an email. We can only share links.