Establish an Online Presence for Your Mediation Business
When most people are in the market for something, including a mediator, they search for it online. When people search for mediation services, you want your name to pop up at or near the top of the search results, and when people click your link, you want your site to send a clear message that you’re the mediator they want to hire.
Launch a website, blog, or both
The first order of business in establishing an online presence is to build a center of operations — a website, blog, or combination of the two. Having a site in place simplifies your other online efforts; for example, if you create a Facebook page later, you can feed content from your blog to your Facebook page to automate the process of keeping your page up to date.
In addition, your website or blog gives you a destination to drive traffic to, so if you have a free business listing on Google Places, for example, you can drive traffic from that listing to your site.
Choose a turnkey, do-it-yourself, or custom solution
When you’re ready to set up shop on the web, you have some decisions to make, the first of which is related to how much of your own time, effort, and expertise you want to invest in building and maintaining your site. You have three choices here:
Turnkey: With a turnkey solution, a service sets up your website and provides instructions and tools to populate it with the desired content. Mediate.com offers the most popular turnkey website solution for mediators — its Dynamic Web Site Package.
The most popular turnkey blog provider for lawyers is LexBlog. The LexBlog package is pricey, but it comes with free webinars on how to best utilize social media to market your services.
More important for the mediator in the litigated dispute market is LexBlog’s placement of your blog entries on its many marketing portals, meaning that your blog is one of the few alternative dispute resolution (ADR) blogs in an online universe populated by your market — lawyers.
For no additional fee, LexBlog tweets your interesting posts, includes them on subject matter pages on its own website, and displays your tweets on LexTweet, its legal community of members who use Twitter to discuss the law. That’s a lot of marketing to a highly concentrated niche market.
Do-it-yourself: You can create your own website or blog through a web hosting service, such as Bluehost, InMotion, HostGator, or iPage. These services enable you to register your own domain (such as yourname.com) and provide content management systems (CMSs), such as WordPress, that you can install and use to build and maintain your website or blog. This is the most affordable option, but it requires time and a certain amount of technical knowledge and talent.
Custom solution: You can hire a web developer to set up a site for you according to your specifications. This may seem like the most costly option, but you can find plenty of highly skilled people willing to work inexpensively just to get their web design businesses off the ground.
Decide on a website, blog, or combination website/blog
If you want a web presence without having to constantly post fresh content, a website is the ideal solution. A blog requires regular attention, typically at least two posts a week to keep visitors engaged. Perhaps even more important, a blog tells search directories that your site is constantly posting fresh content, which can significantly improve its search engine ranking.
If you want fresh content but don’t have the time or inclination to develop it, hosting through Mediate.com is a very good option. Along with your website, Mediate.com provides fresh content in your area of practice once a week.
A third option is a combination website/blog. These sites typically consist of several pages of static content — including an about page, a contact page, and a page for each service you provide (mediation, training, consulting, speaking, and so on) — as well as a separate blog page, which can function as your home page.
You can create and maintain a combination website/blog using a blogging platform such as WordPress. Check out a negotiation training and consulting site at she negotiates for an example of a combination website/blog.
Include a biography and a professional-looking photo of yourself on your site. People want to know the person they’re thinking about working with, and putting your bio and photograph out there in public helps build trust.
Blog your way to opportunities
To be a thought leader in the field of mediation, you should blog. You can set up a separate blog or have an integrated website/blog, but you really should be posting fresh content at least twice a week, along with contributing to online discussions in mediation groups, publishing press releases, and tweeting or retweeting.
Start by reading blogs, especially those in your area of specialty. You can add RSS feeds for the blogs that interest you to a news reader like Google Reader and skim through the headlines for intriguing stories. Reading what other people are learning and thinking about mediation, peace-building, and topics relevant to your industry provides inspiration for your own posts.
In addition, you become more in tune with your community and what’s considered acceptable both in content and tone.
Blogging runs on the power of reciprocity — one of the most important tools of influence available to you as a mediator. When you read something that piques your interest and spurs you to extend the conversation or challenge a claim, post about it.
Include a brief excerpt from the source, cite it, and link to it. Soon, people with a natural affinity for what you’re talking about will be citing you and excerpting your material.