Lawyers specialize in information and arguments. If you are a lawyer, people seek your services because they lack the legal information and rhetorical expertise they need in order to advocate for themselves. In short, you know something they need to know, and you know how to use it. It is this arrangement that makes online Q&A platforms, such as Quora, a powerful tool for lawyers. People flock to these sites for answers to their questions. By searching for legal questions, you can connect with people who need the information you have and identify the pieces of information they want. In this sense, Q&A platforms can serve both as an advertising tool and as an informal market research tool.
However, you must resist the temptation to turn your answers into flashing billboards for your firm. Internet users are constantly bombarded with ads, so many of them have trained themselves to detect attempts to sell them something and promptly ignore the person who is making the offer. Because of this skepticism, using Q&A platforms for marketing requires a subtle touch.
This article gives you the outline of a strategic plan to leverage Q&A platforms for your firm. With over 100 million monthly users, Quora is by far the most popular of these platforms, and for this reason, we will focus our tips on Quora. However, the basic principles of Q&A are the same, so many of these tips are applicable to any platform.
Before you even start answering questions, it is important to build a professional-looking profile. The more credible you appear, the more other users will look to you for answers. The key is to air your expertise and let users know where to find you. To begin with, you will need:
● Your name: Include your name as it appears on your firm’s website. If you want users to search for you later, they will have to be able to find you.
● A clear, professional picture: You want to look like someone users would trust to give legal advice.
● A description: This field is optional, but it can be a good place to expand on the themes of your profile credential (more below) without having to worry about character restraints so much.
The next step is to add your credentials. On Quora, these bits of information tell users about your expertise. Make sure to keep all of these short; these are the lines you can choose from to display after your name in answers (more on that later). No single credential, or at least important part of a single credential, should exceed 50 characters when combined with your name. Necessary elements to include in this section are detailed below.
● Profile credential: This short line will be the first piece of information users will see under your name when they view your profile, and it will give them the gist of your expertise. You should start with either ‘Lawyer’ or ‘Attorney,’ and then add something about your experience or position. This can also be a good place to mention your city or state because if you tag your location onto your answers, users who live nearby might get the idea to search for you. In addition, if you have spent any time working in academia, mentioning that can help build your credibility. Remember: keep it short! A good example might look something like, “Lawyer, partner at litigation boutique (TX), fmr. law prof.” or “Attorney, 10+ years experience in contracts (CA).” Resist the temptation to mention your firm here, or else you will expose your profile as a marketing ploy.
● Employment credential: List your firm and position. This is the most obvious piece of marketing you will be able to include in your profile. It’s not exactly a flashing sign, but all users can easily view your profile to find it.
● Education credential: Wherever you earned your degree, it is a good idea to list it. Seeing a J.D. here will reinforce to Quora users that you are a credible source and that you have training that makes you privy to information they do not have.
● Location credential: This addition is almost as essential as listing your firm. If you want potential clients to find you, they will have to know if you are in their area.
With all of these fields filled in, your profile is ready to go. Believe it or not, you’ve probably already said the most about your firm that you ever will on Quora. That being said, it is time to move on to the questions and answers.
With the search bar at the top of the site, you can search by topic. These topics can be as broad as ‘law’ or as specific as ‘being arrested and detained by the police.’ Try searching for topics relevant to your practice. Sometimes, there will even be topics related to your location. Answering questions under these topics can be an effective way to get your name out to potential future clients.
Identify the types of questions that attract lots of followers and answers. These are your key to Quora’s function as an informal market research tool. Think of this search as taking the pulse of the internet as to what legal information people are looking for. You can take this information not only to guide which questions you answer on Quora, but also to discuss these topics in off-site marketing materials and on your own website.
In order to make a name for yourself on Quora, you will want your answers to get as much exposure as possible. This can be a bit of a balancing act. If other answers have already overshadowed your own before you have written it, or if few users will bother to look at the question you’ve answered, you’ve wasted your time. In addition, answering silly or unrelated questions will not be likely to connect you with the users you want.
Under the topic that you want to address, switch to the ‘Answer’ tab; most questions under the ‘Read’ tab have already received popular answers. Under ‘Answer,’ you will see relatively new questions with answers that have not yet become runaway successes. Look for questions with similar themes to those you identified in the previous step. You can peruse these to make sure you won’t be competing with too many thoughtful answers from knowledgeable sources. Once you have found a place to stake your claim, it’s time to answer.
Remember those credentials you wrote when you were building your profile? This step is where they shine. You can choose which credential you want to be displayed next to your name for any given answer. If you are answering a question related to criminal law and your profile credential mentions your experience in criminal law, you might want to choose that one. Be careful about selecting your employment credential, because in many cases it can come off as an obvious advertisement. Before choosing a credential, make sure you have built something of a reputation on the platform. If none of your credentials is exactly appropriate for the question at hand, you always have the option to edit them just for that question. In any case, the idea is to convince users that you are an expert who possesses the information they need.
The answer is where you will earn the attention of users. The trick is to provide the person who asked the question and the other users following it with a useful bit of information that is easy to understand, all in a friendly manner. Obviously, you don’t want to provide any explicit legal advice that could get you in trouble, but you can always explain in simple terms what the law says about the topic in question and what someone’s legal options might be.
For example, consider one of Quora’s favorite topics, arrests. If a user were to ask a question about their rights when being arrested, you might explain procedural rules police are required to follow, such as reading Miranda rights, without bogging yourself down in “legalese.” After all, you are writing for a lay audience. Just remember that on Quora or any Q&A platform, your role is to educate, not to give specific advice.
In short, make sure that your answer is helpful and comprehensible, and that you come off as both knowledgeable and approachable.
Writing one good answer will convince a few users to view your profile, but if you want significant exposure, you will have to make a name for yourself among the Quora community. If you frequently provide high-scoring answers to similar questions, other users will eventually take notice and remember your name. You can also win distinctions from Quora itself, such as ‘Top Writer,’ which will be displayed on your profile. The idea is to build a reputation as an expert. Users who see you as an expert will look for your answers to other questions and, most importantly, will be more likely to view your profile. If they see your employment and location credentials and live nearby, they may remember and search for you the next time they need legal services.
Quora can be a difficult platform to master, but with the right strategy and a heaping helping of subtlety, it can do a great deal for you as a sort of stealth marketing tool. The most important thing to remember is not to openly court clients, but to earn users’ trust and make information about your firm readily accessible so that they can decide to seek your services of their own accord. With that attitude and with the steps above, you will be well on your way to making the most of Quora for your practice.