Articles Posted in Social Networking

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Full disclosure: I am the sort of person who gets off the plane in DC and heads directly to the National Archives before doing anything else. I wholeheartedly admit that I am a fan of seeing these documents up close and personal and have been asked by security to “move along” as I stand mesmerized by their enormity.

Apparently, not many young Americans would likely beg their parents to head to the Archives. But they probably all should go there before stopping elsewhere in our beautiful capital city.

This year, the ABA is focusing its educational effort on civics education for young Americans. The ABA has noted that many of us are not as well-versed as we should be in the documents that are at the core of our Democracy.

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I stopped by the National Constitution Center. I walked through the Balance of Powers section and much to my amazement there was a student sitting poised on a board, a real live person that is, to demonstrate the balance of powers and to tell visitors what it means. The student was reluctant to spend time explaining this to me once I revealed my profession. “You already know about this,” she said, “I am supposed to explain this to kids who don’t know about what this means.” I was thrilled to see the display and the student volunteer and happy to move on, just like in the Archives, sort of.

Several years ago, former ABA president Mike Greco asked members to wear gavels on our lapels and explain the Separation of Powers to anyone who asked. An intelligent 30-something friend of mine did ask and when I responded “the gavel stands for Separation of Powers — would you like to talk about this?” She responded graciously, “No, I am not interested in politics.” When young intelligent Americans of voting age believe that Separation of Powers is a political issue, you know we are in trouble.

It takes time to become an expert on the Constitution, but being an American doesn’t require that much expertise. Basic knowledge is better than none. And although I applaud the efforts of those who mention the Constitution for their own purposes, one wonders whether they have actually read it. (You all might recall recently when one Senate candidate who disclaimed being a witch, also claimed she was a constitutional expert because she went to a graduate school program for a week. Need I say more?)

Go to Twitter, tell your kids, tell your friends’ kids, share your knowledge. Blog about it on your marketing blogs just once — it won’t be a problem for your SEO I promise.

If you have a chance to educate just one person about American Democracy, please do. It’s the only way we have a prayer of keeping it viable for the long term.

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Avoid the overwhelming and daunting task of establishing a business or professional social media presence with this excellent post by a seasoned marketer. This is a reasoned list of considerations that will help anyone trying to work through a social media strategy.

This valuable advice applies to many other communications efforts and is particularly helpful for marketing and communications professionals trying to make social media work for our clients, firms and businesses.

Briefly summarized, these five important recommendations include that social media users should: set goals, have realistic expectations about results, take on one social media site at a time, be consistent about attending to profiles, and schedule social media activity as a regular part of the work day.

Great advice.

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When the DOJ recently subpoenaed Twitter for access to the accounts related to Mr. Assange, as well as other individuals involved with WikiLeaks, we were all reminded that there are evidentiary components to our social media posts.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were frantically disseminating usage policies to employees, law firm personnel and clients on the perils of the electronic age, including the new fangled electronic discovery. Once you have seen captured emails in major litigations and investigations, you ask yourself: Did these executives fail to realize that these emails exist in perpetuity?

We have migrated from what only recently was “web 2.0” to a sophisticated social media world that has quickly matured far beyond our expectations perhaps.

Twitter has a policy of notifying users that information has been requested by the government, but that is generally not possible since most government requests also preclude this step. As noted by Mashable, Twitter’s spokesperson explained that “to help users protect their rights, it’s our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so.”

In the WikiLeaks matter Twitter was permitted by the court to avoid the gag order usually in place and to notify users of the request. Mashable’s opinion is that “Twitter’s challenge to notify users when their information is being sought by a government entity is a step in the right direction in protecting users who may be exchanging sensitive information in the name of journalism.”

Although most of us are not posting tweets that are of interest to governmental agencies, it is a good reminder that social media is now a mature channel of communication and that tweeting too is serious business.

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The time has come to admit to ourselves the significance of social media and the fact that it is not going to get less important. There is a place for social media in the legal profession and lots of us know we just need to accept it and dig in.

Recently I asked a very bright young adult (24) with a social media job a at a tech giant, why she values sites like Twitter and Facebook. She said she “loves it” because it allows her to have, what I would call various “communities of interest” in all areas of her interests such as news, work and entertainment. But more than this, it allows her to see what matters to the people in her network — and to use that as a way to know more about things she might never otherwise see or learn.

I finally got it. Social media replicates and enhances interactions within communities that are multi-dimensional. Rather than getting a link to an interesting article and seeing that in one dimension, social media allows us to see who else cares about an issue and even better, enhances our community depth and breadth. For example, not only does one of my formidable FB “friends” have a journalistic background in tech and science, he presents his research “finds” to our FB community and we enhance that by our knowledge base. In other words: we learn about cool stuff we never knew about before.

So what’s wrong with that? Nothing.

As professionals we need to dispel the sense that social media is lite on substance. It doesn’t have to be. Big things can be communicated through this vehicle. It’s all about content and value and that will never change.

If we are not out there communicating in this spinning world of social media, we might be left out of opportunities to create communities of interest that are real and dynamic.

Many lawyers are now beginning to see the inevitable — get in or get shut out of potential to reach broader audiences and in turn, to learn and broaden our own world and knowledge base.

Caveat: My young tech friend and I agreed that those who post only self-serving content are not interesting in the long run. Content is key. So say something of value and others will value your involvement in their community of interest.

Today, mashable business has posted a whopping list of its own resources for businesses and marketing. So, spend some time checking out the past year’s guides for business and marketing as stated by one of the biggies in the social media world. In their words. ‘this roundup can get you well on your way to establishing a successful business or marketing campaign.”

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It’s getting complicated. The reports that MBA programs are adding courses on digital media to ensure that their grads have the requisite knowledge base to add immediate value when they join management. Naturally, those of us who are not digital natives might well need some support in the details of social media know-how.

This of course prompts the discussion on legal issues raised in the use of digital media by businesses both internally and externally. In the piece, David Kaufman, a partner at Duane Morris cautions that ” ‘ [c]ompliance with the rules is complicated, and mistakes are easy, and plentiful.”

Kaufman has published the “Top Ten Rules to Avoid Legal Trouble in Social Media Programs and Campaigns” and they are absolutely worth a close look. He addresses everything from content to internal management of social media policy. I highly recommend a full read of his version of the ten commandments.

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Interesting view from AdAge on using internal resources for branding and focus groups. This got me thinking, should professional firms consider going to internal audiences for brand enhancements and understanding?

The AdAge piece looks at consumer packaged goods, finance and retail brands, noting the use of employees for branding, product development and social-media evangelism. Some brands are using employees for the pitch, like Pizza Hut and Overstock.

In professional settings, we often go to very sophisticated business development experts, as well as branding and identity firms to develop and pitch business and establish brands.

We need to consider engaging internal employee audiences in ways we routinely ignore. Perhaps there is a benefit in engaging employees in our professional services settings to not only understand more of the work, but engage them to support the brand.

In the piece, Fidelity’s Jim Speros notes that, ” ‘[m]any companies forget that their employees are their ultimate brand ambassadors.’ ” Could this also be true for professional services? Maybe, to a degree.

Your employees are often on the front lines, answering phones and greeting your clients. They will certainly do this differently with a basic knowledge depth about the firm’s differentiators and client base. Every interface with the public says something about your brand. It’s worthwhile for employees to understand something about the firm’s goals and areas of expertise.

You never know when an employee will be in a setting to mention the firm or to influence bringing a referral into the firm. It is probably a good bet that employees should not be ignored in branding deployment.

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Back to School
As the month closes and students of all ages and all over the country are going back to school, I would like to share my own back to school experience.

Earlier this month, I attended the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco, getting most of my participatory Continuing Legal Education credits and generally catching up with my profession. I saw long time friends and made some new ones as well.

Many classes had content concerning the use of social media and the need for reputation management. In the tech arena, it was amazing to see the shift in class content focus from electronic discovery and data retention which dominated our discussion over the past five years, to social media and networking.

What struck me as well is the fact that in many classes, at least one panelist referred to the difficulty lawyers have in communicating regularly with clients.

They Say Lawyers Don’t Do It
That got me wondering. If it is true that lawyers do not communicate enough with clients, what is it that keeps us from being more in touch with our clients? Why are we guilty of the dreaded silo syndrome, keeping ahead of filing deadlines, but not placing a priority on our client relationships?

Are we concerned that if we are not communicating a development in a case or matter that communication is administrative, rather than billable time? Is that why we don’t do it more regularly? When we choose the law as our profession, do we self-select to place less value on client communications and more value on what we perceive as the real work of the law?

We have certain duties that relate to communication. But apart from communicating the big developments in a case, how many of us either check in on a regular basis with clients to find out what they are needing or how they are, dare I say, viewing us and our services?

Communication with clients is not only good practice, it is good business. You already know that is true.

In business communications we perform audits with internal and external customers to make sure we are on track. Some lawyers already have a regular general check-in with clients and some perform more formal audits.

What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us
In addition to specific conversations about cases or matters, it is very beneficial to take client audits. A sit-down with clients to ask about their business strategies and focus. To service business clients, we really do need to be “inside” the minds of management.

We need to know as much as we can about their objectives and how we can help them meet those objectives. We need to know about their current challenges to protect their legal interests proactively.

Along the way, this discussion may well lead to greater depth and breadth of representation. I believe it is good communications practice to calendar quarterly informal conversations with clients, even when their cases or matters are not active.

Yes, social media is important and should be used as a way to keep your name and practice in front of your market. But are we losing sight of the basics and allowing tech to give way to old-fashioned direct communication?

Regular communication is a great reputation management tool to ensure clients know you are engaged in and committed to knowing and servicing their needs and proactively representing their interests and concerns.

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Just imagine the back room operations of a major law firm. You know the place where only the few and the brave venture? The place where paper once reigned and the Iron Mountain truck pulled up regularly? That place?

Things are changing, even for our profession. Even for us, the late adopters. The ones who come last to the tech table — especially in Gen Law Boomer.

Well, welcome to the digital conference room.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on the significant investment many law firms are making in digital marketing. Law firms and lawyers are catching on to the use of digital marketing for everything from making it easier for clients to find them and create communities of interest.

The WSJ reports that social media has been used effectively to bring in clients needing representation in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. It is also being used to reach potential clients who may have been harmed by allegedly defective pharmaceuticals.

Inventing on line communities will likely become more important to law firm marketing efforts. But the good news is, even small and solo firms can play in the somewhat level playing field, aka the web.