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Dear Lawyers: It's not okay to know nothing about social media anymore

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16 year ABC News veteran and now Mashable editor, Andrea Smith, may as well have been addressing lawyers as Today Show hosts on why you need to know social media today.

It’s not OK to know nothing about social media or the Internet anymore. It’s especially not OK if you are an anchor for a major network TV news program.

This happened after a segment about Randi Zuckerberg’s private family photo being shared publicly. Today’s Willie Geist, Savannah Guthrie and Natalie Morales — three TV journalists at the top of their profession — laughed about their lack of knowledge about Facebook, Twitter and privacy on social media.

It was meant to be cute, but it came off as plain dumb. Such banter is not only an embarrassment to journalists everywhere, but a slap in the face for the Today audience. (Really, is it that hard to explain that a subscriber to Randi Zuckerberg’s Facebook feed saw her photo then posted it to Twitter?) (emphasis added)

More lawyers than not tell me they don’t get the ‘social media thing.’ It’s for the younger lawyers, not them. They don’t have the time to learn how to use social media or social networking whether it be Facebook, blogging, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Most of the time I’m politically correct in my response. Not wanting to offend lawyers when I first meet them, I let them off the hook by letting them know they are not alone.

As an evangelist on the opportunities that await lawyers in using social media and with a mission to help good lawyers, no more Mr. Nice Guy from me.

I’ll respond with a message alone the lines of Smith’s to the Today Show hosts.

Here’s a wake-up call, morning crew; your audience is not that dumb. They watch TV news to keep up with what’s happening in the world. It is your job to inform them. Reading the news and then proclaiming you don’t understand any part of it is the epitome of failure.

Social media and digital technology is no longer news; it’s part of the way we live our lives, how we communicate, how business is conducted. Kids use technology to learn in school, to get their entertainment, to compete in the world. They don’t call it technology; they call it life. Saying “I don’t get it, so I will just skip this part of a global revolution” is like saying “I don’t know how to drive a car so I’ll keep riding my horse and buggy to work.” Technology is not something we can choose to ignore.

Social media is not a convenience or a cute activity played out by people with a lot of time on their hands. Social media is part of how we communicate, deliver news and information, conduct business, and build relationships.

Imagine brushing off email and cell phones and cutely telling people you ‘don’t get’ them. You better be one hell of a lawyer to keep and get clients when word gets around about that.

When you can’t turn on a television show, news broadcast, or a sporting event without seeing someone’s Twitter handle or a Twitter hashtag, it’s a signal social media is part of the fabric of our country.

As a lawyer, it’s now your responsibility to understand social media.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Keoni Cabral.