20130417-234942.jpg Business networking strategist, Andy Lopata (@andylopata), asked yesterday in the Huffington Post, “Will LinkedIn sink in a sea of spam?”

As the owner of a group on LinkedIn I have to waste a frustrating amount of time moderating spam posts in the discussion forum. The spam will range from completely unrelated posts dumped in the forum in the hope of selling someone’s products or services, to blog links and event invitations shared with no comment or attempt at discussion.

Often you will find that the blogs and invitations are duplicated across a number of different LinkedIn groups. That sends a very simple message to me – the person (or robot) posting them does not care at all about what other people in the forum have to say or in entering discussions, they simply want to broadcast. They are using LinkedIn as an advertising forum.

My LinkedIn Legal Blogging Group has the same problem. I spend an inordinate amount of time moderating link dumping from lawyers, law firms, and companies serving the legal community who could care less about engagement and relationships. These people and their companies are looking to promote and advertise.

It’s not just LinkedIn. Lawyers and law firms are being told the more the better when it comes to spreading their content across social networks and social media.

Rather than looking at social media and social networks as a medium for real and authentic engagement, many law firms use old and tired tactics of pushing content in front of people, no matter how shameless.

Articles and conference presentations on law firm marketing unfortunately advise law firms to promote their blogs and articles by posting each piece to LinkedIn, LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

Few advise to post strategically to particular networks. Few advise to share other people’s content more than your own – probably by a 7 or 10 to one clip. Few advise to listen to what is being posted before posting yourself. And few advise to comment on other’s posts before posting your own.

LinkedIn, per Lopata, and for that matter social networks altogether are a valuable resource for lawyers and law firms.

[They allow] users to tap into the combined knowledge of the community, find mutual contacts to introduce them to the people they want to meet and to build their profile and develop relationships with key influencers in both their own and their clients industries or in the fields in which they want to work.

Law firms and lawyers ought to heed Lopata’s warning about abusing social networks.

  • You are not going to explore their true potential.
  • You’ll not benefit from membership in the network.
  • The more that people who receive your spam, the less inclined they’ll be to engage on the network, the more likely people ignore other posts on the network, and the less effective the network will become.

Social networks and social media represent an incredible opportunity for lawyers. An opportunity to network with peers and mentors. An opportunity to learn and grow professionally. An opportunity to nurture and build relationships with clients, prospective clients, and their influencers. An opportunity to build a reputation as a trusted and reliable authority. An opportunity to advance the law via dialogue and collaboration.

How could lawyers blow an opportunity like that? It could happen.

As Lopata explains, “Any network is only as strong as the community of which it is constituted.”

For social networks and social media to reach their potential in the law, the legal community needs to stop spamming and remember what Lapota describes as the Golden Rule of Social Networking – Engage don’t Broadcast.

Image courtesy of Flickr by epSos.de.