Social Media Principles

Facebook is a great place for publishing. Clean mobile interface, easy to key in content (even with my thumbs) and a built in audience for engagement.

There’s also no intimidation factor. When you open Facebook, free flow thinking is easy to get down “on paper.” With WordPress, it’s somehow a big deal. A blank screen makes you think that something more seminal needs to be published.

I am not talking personal versus professional. I regularly post professionally, that is matters relating to tech, publishing and business development, on Facebook. So much so that I often copy and paste posts from Facebook to my blog. This one I am penning on WordPress.

But I can’t blog on Facebook – for any number of reasons.

  1. I need to own and control my publishing. Facebook doesn’t allow this. If Facebook goes away or decides to change what can be viewed, my body of work goes away.
  2. My body of work is something that people should be able to access and review as part of sizing up who I am. As with a practicing lawyer, people should have the opportunity to see my interests, how I adresss issues and how I give back to the legal profession as a whole. I need the books and my pubications I authored — my blog — on the shelf. My blog gives me this. Not possible with Facebook.
  3. Google has become the world’s reference library. Relevant information from influential sources is available at your finger tips. Not with Facebook.

Dave Winer (@davewiner), the inventor of blogging who’s gone back and forth publishing on his blog, Scripting News, and Facebook over the last couple years (always leaving a record of his full post at his blog), is now back solely on his blog – for a whole lot of reasons, including the importance of the open web.

Winer also points out four features blogs have, which Facebook refuses to add.

  1. Links. How do you reference and advance discussion without citations, let alone how you engage those you are referencing in your writing.
  2. Simple styling.
  3. Enclosures for podcasting.
  4. Titles. We need to be able to charactertise that to which we are “permalinking” and to have a title to be indexed by Google.

To which I’ll add a few more.

  1. Images
  2. Graphs, charts — may be included in styling
  3. Custom features — this could get hairy, just as plugins do on a hosted WordPress platform. In the law, a blog platform requires a built-in “primary law citator” so that links to cases, codes and regs are available and linked to “open law.” Items such as multilevel editorial controls are also required by many legal publishers.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook and will continue to post and engage there, it’s just not blogging.

What I need to get better at — again — is blogging on blogging software, which in my cases is LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform. Reflect and gather my thoughts on what I am reading, like this from Winer, and blog.

Author and Professor Deborah Tannen explained to Judy Woodruff on PBS that everyday talk and shares on social media isn’t about information we need to know. It’s about staying connected to the people we care about.

I think of social media as an extension of the how-was-your-day conversations that let you know someone cares about you, so you feel less alone in the world.

What someone is having for dinner, what beach they’re on with their family or a selfie with a friend, and the likes and comments that may follow aren’t necessarily important.

It’s the connectons that ensue that are important.

Per Tannen,

Social media haven’t transformed human relations. They have intensified them. While that means ramping up some of the stresses and frailties of friendships, it also gives us new, more immediate, more creative ways to stay connected to the people we care about, who care about us.

I’d take it a step further. Social media give us the opportunity to meet, know, and care about those whom we’d never have met otherwise.

This week I talked with a lawyer friend across the country who I met I and got to know through social media. We talked about his wife’s serious illness. I felt good to be there for him. He told me I felt like a brother for him.

Don’t be like the woman who complained to Tannen, “I don’t care what somebody had for dinner, all this stuff out there that nobody needs to know.”

It’ll be your loss, personally and professionally.

Too many lawyers do not realize they can’t land kudos and be easily cited without a Twitter account.

How so?

I regularly monitor sources and subjects for items of interest to me. I do it with my news aggregator, Feedly.

Many of the items I read I share on Twitter. Many of these tweets are shoutouts to the subject of the story. I am not alone in doing this.

In order to give a shutout I need the subject’s Twitter handle.

I go over to Google to look up the Twitter account by searching for the person or organization’s name and the word, ‘Twitter.’ I then include the Twitter handle in my tweet, ie, “Big kudos to @patriciasmith for…” and then include what they did.

Without a Twitter handle the person cannot see the recognition I gave them nor the recognition others gave them by retweeting or favoriting my tweet. With a Twitter account, the subject receives notice of the shoutout via an email and a Twitter notification.

This is a big deal with law firm and association leaders who do not have a Twitter account, but whose public relations people get them in headlines.

I do the same with reporters and bloggers I am citing. I am amazed when I cannot find a Twitter handle for a reporter, after all they are in the media.

Sadly far too many reporters and bloggers in the law lack Twitter handles, something that signals that they are out of touch with media today and aren’t looking to engage their readers.

The ABA Journal shared a list of 12 candidates for the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors as well as the candidate for President of the ABA.

I was struck that no where in the ABA Journal’s listing of the candidates did it include the personal social media accounts or blogs of the candidates. My cynical side wonders if the candidates even use Twitter and Facebook. Do they blog so as to express their passion and network with influencers with similar passions?

There was little I knew about these folks. I wondered how much other lawyers knew about the candidates. How were we going to find out about them – from them – if they didn’t use the Internet?

Today, we get to know people faster and in a more real way than ever before. It’s because of the Internet, and in particular social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook).

We hear people’s voices in a real and authentic fashion. We feel people’s passion as they speak to us directly. We build trust with each other via immediate and personal online exchange. We even get to know people as people, outside of their professional lives.

I could look up each candidate and find out how they use social media. I fear it may only make me mad that these folks may not be doing what they can to connect with lawyers and the average people in this country. I fear it may make me mad that they are not serving as role models to American lawyers to jump on the Internet to learn, to network, engage people, build a name and advance causes important to you.

These folks are charged with advancing the causes of veteran’s legal challenges, access to legal services, innovation/technology in law practice management and human rights. To learn, connect and engage lawyers and the American people so as to truly advance these causes these candidates, more so than other lawyers, need to be using the same communication medium the rest of us use – social media and the Internet.

Current President of the ABA, Linda Klein, uses Twitter to engage lawyers (even yahoo’s like me) and the public. General counsel, in-house counsel, managing partners and lawyers everywhere use Facebook, Twitter and blogging to network, learn and evangelize causes important to them and their organizations. Nothing prevents ABA officials from using the Internet to connect and engage except fear.

I hope that the ABA Journal and the candidates will come back at me showing me and lawyers everywhere how they are indeed personally using social media. It wouldn’t be the first time I was told to kiss off by the ABA.

It was reported by The Telegraphs’s James Titcomb on Monday that Facebook is on the verge of 2 billion members.

The social network is even defying expectations by continuing to grow despite its size, with growth actually accelerating in recent quarters.

Facebook is expected to report report revenues of $7.8 billion and profits of $3.3 billion when it unveils first quarter results this week. Yes, that’s only for a quarter.

In reading a piece in Adweek that social media is the new television by Kurt Abrahamsom, the CEO of ShareThis, I couldn’t help but think of lawyers holding onto the past when it comes to Facebook.

With the rise of television in the 1950s, marketers gained access to a new medium that was growing rapidly popular. With all eyes on the only screen in the house, brands benefited from its wide reach to engage consumers at an unprecedented scale.

However, the audience’s attention is increasingly turning away from television and moving toward mobile devices and social media.

This represents a huge opportunity for brands, per Abrahamson. Brands can connect with people on social media channels in a personalized way. “Brands looking to strengthen their customer relationships should start with the personalization of social…”

Yet the vast majority lawyers, who need to have a brand, ignore Facebook when it comes to building a name, establishing trust and growing a network for business.

Most law firms not only tacitly go along with the lawyers, but establish a marketing culture where Facebook is viewed as below their lawyers for business development purposes. “If Facebook is to be used, it’s only for personal purposes.”

Some firms won’t even allow their lawyers to log in to Facebook on company machines. Crazy, but true.

I ran across a panel discussion among legal marketing “experts” discussing web marketing best practices for the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today.

Admittedly the panel’s focus was websites, but the implication was clear. Drawing traffic and getting attention is the name of the game for business development success when it comes to the Internet.

One of the experts said “Blog frequently on your firm’s website (not somewhere else). Postings that address frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a great way to start.”

Lost on him, as he hasn’t networked online to build a name and relationships, is that blogging is all about leaving your website and going out and engaging others – listening to the conversation off your website being the most important concept.

Facebook, with virtually every American using it, represents a town hall discussion, with the people involved and the topics discussed framed by who you engage and what you share. Facebook’s algorithms will surface relevant discussion and people for you.

Lawyers and law firms need to let go of viewing the Internet as an opportunity to broadcast. Like televison, the opportunity to reach people at an unprecedented scale is addicting. But people have moved on to social networks, primarily Facebook, to communicate and engage with each other.

Lawyers have become accustomed to email and cell phones as a means of communicating for business development. Facebook is arguably just as essential for business developmet today.

Are individual lawyers relying too much on their law firm’s marketing professionals, as opposed to taking charge of their own marketing?

Building a book of business as a lawyer has always been about building a name for yourself and building a network of relationships. So marketing departments in law firms can help, but they cannot turn a lawyer into one with a good book of business. This takes initiative on a lawyer’s part. Marketing professionals would probably agree.

But today with many law firms struggling, AI/software soon to be doing the work some lawyers are doing and corporations (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and others) picking up a good junks of the transactional legal services market, it sure seems that lawyers would be foolish not to be scrambling to build a name for themselves.

Large and medium size law firm leaders, and the lawyers employed in these firms, who think they’ll withstand the changes taking place sound a lot like the newspaper publishers and media players of 10 years ago. Or maybe like Macy’s, the nation’s largest traditional retailer, who is closing stores as people turn to the net for shopping.

A senior lawyer in a 400 lawyer firm told me a couple months ago that he doesn’t expect his firm to survive, at least in its present form. “In-house counsel may get fired for not using Cravath, but not for failing to use his firm,” he explained in making the point that rates are going down, in-house counsel are bringing efficiencies with technology and corporations are bringing more work in-house.

The Internet is a fabulous place for a lawyer to build a name and relationships. But it’s not going to happen with a group blog lacking passion (especially one inside of a website), profiles of lawyers and driving traffic to websites and content.

The Internet works best for lawyers when they learn how to engage influencers, prospective clients, clients and referral sources in a real and authentic way. Personal law blogging and the use of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not for attention, SEO and traffic, but to establish yourself as a trusted authority in a niche and build relationships is the key.

What had to be the pinnacle of employment in sports media, ESPN just laid off over 100. Many were household names. I am sure the sportswriters and announcers who worked their tail off to get to ESPN never envisioned ESPN running into trouble as a result of the Internet overnight changing the way sports is broadcast and delivered.

Turns out that companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Dish are losing subscribers. People are turning to the net, mobile apps more than anything, for sports.

Change can happen — and fast. Chasing partnership track at a medium or large law firm can sound great as a young lawyer. What happens though when things start to soften and then dramatically change all around you? It’s not as if you just slide over to the other ESPN (large law firm).

Sure, you can work in larger law, but while there, use the firm as a platform to build a name and relationships via the Internet, personally. It’s in your mutual interest and you’ll be in a position to more than support yourself in the future.

Yesterday, leading blogger, tech evangelist and speaker, Robert Scoble shared on Facebook eight ways to get him to “Delete Request” when you request his friendship on Facebook.

I thought Robert’s points were pretty good and mirrored some of my thinking when I get friend requests.

  1. Don’t have any public posts in past month. Automatically gets me to click “delete request.
  2. Don’t list your job title on your Intro/Profile/About.
  3. Don’t post anything interesting about the tech industry in your past 20 posts.
  4. Don’t have at least 20 mutual friends (I have more than 4,000, it shouldn’t be that hard). Even a few is better than zero. Particularly useful to figure out if someone is a real member of the mixed reality community.
  5. Don’t have a real photo of yourself anywhere.
  6. Don’t make it possible to follow you so I can dip my toe in the water.
  7. Post only selfies.
  8. Only post quotes or those stupid posts with the color background.

I’m not near as popular as Robert, I don’t get the requests he gets and I don’t have the number of Facebook friends he does.

But I am cognoscent of a number things when considering friend requests.

  • Facebook caps the number of friends at 5,000. I am only North of 1,500 friends now, but things have a way of growing on the net.
  • Whether people regularly post things of interest to me. I often receive Facebook requests from people who have posted little more than profile pictures over the last year.
  • Complete profile listings – job title, contact into etc. I am not likely to friend people who are looking to be private on Facebook.
  • Diverse interests and offerings. In addition to Facebook friends in the legal industry, my friends include journalists, corporate executives, authors, artists, college professors, financiers and others — in addition to personal friends. The more interesting and diverse my friends, the more value I’ll receive from my Newsfeed and the more interesting the people I get to know.
  • Mutual friends. When I reach out to request friendship I look for people with whom I have at least 20 to 30 mutual friends. Common friends is something I also consider with requests.
  • Sharing of both personal and professional items. It’s a combination of both that lets me get to know people.
  • Post only their own articles and blog posts. Too many lawyers use Facebook as a distribution channel, as opposed to an engagement channel.

So it’s not that I don’t like you, that I don’t wnat to get to know you or don’t want to do business with you. If I delete your friend request on Facebook, it’s because of the things Scoble or I may consider.

The ABA Techshow, one of the largest legal tech gatherings of the year, runs the rest of this week in Chicago.

Legal technology companies, new and old, will be there in spades.

All seeking attention. All wanting the love.

The companies and their people will be all over social media. Look at who we are. Look at what we do. Look at a new feature we just launched. Look at who we partnered with.

The problem is you get the love on social media only when you give the love on social media. At a ratio of about ten to one, too – you’ll receive ten times as much love as you give.

Rather than looking at social media as a neon sign with your name in lights, look at social media as a means to have a conversation with someone and to build a name over time. You do this by giving a little love to the people you’d like to talk with – online or offline.

It’s not hard. Make a list of the people and companies at Techshow with whom you’d like to engage.

If you’re seeking publicity for your company or a new product, the influencers ought to be at the top of your list.

The influencers? Leading tech bloggers, reporters (if you can find any), trusted industry leaders who have a nice presence on social media – could be company leaders, lawyers, bar executives or anyone who’s developed a nice following over time.

Also on the list are the names of companies and individuals who’d you like to meet, if not at this show, then down the road.

Maybe it’s a company or two with whom you’d like to work with. Or a company founder or executive from whom you’d let to get a little guidance.

Now you need to stick out your hand and shake theirs – online.

Monitor the #abatechshow hashtag on Twitter. When the people or organizations on your list tweet something they are proud of, a new product launch, that their team is in Chicago or whatever, retweet it, giving them a little kudos. Maybe it’s them reporting something you could share.

Just like walking into a room full of folks at a conference, you can only engage those people there. So be flexible as to those you’re engaging on Twitter via the ABA TechShow hashtag. By engaging those not on your list, you’ll meet others.

As you walk around the exhibit floor, make note of the companies and organizations you’d like to meet. Stop at their booths, talk to the people and get to know them a bit.

Also, put together a Twitter list of the people and organizations whom you’d like to engage. The list will pick up everything from these folks, including that which didn’t reference conference hashtags.

Take picture or two of the people and their booth. Share the photo on Twitter, giving a shout out to the company as to what you thought particularly cool. Maybe it was the people, the history of the company or a new launch. Doesn’t matter.

Make sure in all your Tweets, you’ve included the Twitter handle of the individuals and organizations. That way they’ll see you.

Social media, for building a reputation and relationships, is all about shining a light on others. Doing so you’ll end up in conversations, online and offline.

Niki Black, an attorney and legal technology evangelist at MyCase, does a wonderful job of giving love to others on social media as means of building MyCase’s brand.

She’s blogged about her observations at conferences, giving shoutouts to people and companies as part of her reporting.

This last year she’s been doing video interviews of legal tech entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers right at MyCase’s booth. The videos are nicely edited and then run over a few months time – all strategically shared across social media. Who wouldn’t like that type of love?

Beer for Bloggers events, hosted by LexBlog at tech conferences over the last thirteen years, were started as a way to give a little love to Bloggers and other industry professionals who always spoke kindly of LexBlog online and offline.

For the last ten years, LexBlog has conducted video Interviews at legal conferences all over the country. We wanted to portray the people interviewed as heroes for companies they founded or initiatives they launched, be it even their blog. Conference coordinators loved it was well.

Be different. Engage others. You think you’ll get the ear of Bob Ambrogi, the “Dean of Legal Tech Reporting,” by shouting at him and the world on Twitter.

  • “Easy timekeeping wherever you go – stop by Booth #318 while at ABA Techshow…”
  • “We will be at booth 821 #ABATECHSHOW tomorrow in the Startup Alley section #legaltech”
  • “Boost #SEO, #PPC and turn visitors into customers. Contact us for a FREE consultation at 619.567.9322. #ABATECHSHOW”
  • “…is going to #ABATECHSHOW this week and we’re revealing new product! Stop by Booth 808 and see what the buzz is about!

ABA Techshow, a conference filled with down-to-earth tech companies, industry leaders and lawyers, is a great place to learn to use social media the right way.

By giving a little love.

I cringe when I hear legal marketers discuss social media as a means for distributing content.

It’s as if they didn’t get to the first word in social media – “social,” meaning getting to know and enjoying other people.

Here’s five reasons why social media is a heck of a lot more important to you, as a lawyer, than using it to distribute content.

First, social media is a how we, as a society, interact today. We communicate and get to know each other online. If you’re not using social media, how can you credibly engage and connect with people?

Look at the numbers. 79% of online Americans use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, 29% use LinkedIn and 24% use Twitter.

Americans are living on social media. 76% of Facebook users visit the site at least once a day and over half of Facebook’s users visit several times a day.

Second, social media represents an opportunity to learn.

Coach Lou Holtz used to say the only thing that will change you from person you are today and the person you’ll be five years from now are the books you read and the people you meet. Social media delivers this in spades, though in short firm media, versus books.

By using Feedly as your news aggregator you may monitor sources (blogs, newspapers, trade periodicals) and subjects (terms of art, cases, companies). Not only will you, as a lawyer, stay abreast of developments in your field, you’ll build a network to kill for by connecting with the knowledgeable people whose items from Feedly you share on social media.

Third, social media provides you with the opportunity to build a name for yourself. While some lawyers are chasing attention through SEO, Adwords and distribution services, you’ll be building a name. A name that lasts a lifetime.

By focusing on a niche area of the law or locale, effective social media use enables you to establish yourself as a “go to” lawyer.

Fourth, social media enables you to build and grow relationships far faster than you can offline. Along with a name, relationships are how good lawyers grow their book of business.

By sharing other’s content on Twitter you not only build a name in a niche, you build relationships with the people who favor what you’re sharing.

When blogging, reference what influencers are discussing. You’ll build influence with them, and soon see them referencing what you’re blogging. In time you’ll be connecting and meeting with these influencers.

Share your blog posts on LinkedIn not just as a means of distribution, but as a way of getting to know the people you’d like to meet – you’ll find them liking and commenting on your posts.

By friending on Facebook people who can add value to your life (business associates, referral sources, association leaders, reporters, executives) you’ll be surprised how you get to know others you’d have never known otherwise. People who are more apt to respond to a message from you on Facebook messenger than an email.

Look at content as the currency of networking — of building relationshiops. Who you meet and the relationships you build are much more important than the “content” itself.

Fifth, social media is the great equalizer. Never before, could you, as an individual lawyer on your own, build a name and relationships as fast as you can with social media.

Large law firms offer their lawyers the power of sophisticated marketing and public relations. Today, a lawyer effectively using social media can achieve more than lawyers in multi-billion dollar law firms.

Sure, people consume news and information on social media. For many Americans, social media has supplanted the newspaper and television as their leading source of news.

But don’t miss the more important things social media provides you as a lawyer – much more important things than distributing content.

I’m enjoying the addition of ALM’s (American Legal Media) publications in the feeds in my news aggregator, Feedly.

Through a subscription I just bought to ALM’s Law.com I receive feeds from the entire ALM network of 15 national and regional news publications, as well as commentary from leading voices in the legal field. I bought a subscription to Law.com for about $350/year, the rate given to small law firms. LexBlog, though not a law firm, qualified.

While most of the stories are about legal issues, law firms and the business of law, there are quite a few stories of interest to me and my followers on Twitter.

Stories on digital publishing, technology, business development, social media and the like. When I say quite a few, it’s probably about 5%, but that’s a higher percentage than my other feeds from sources and subjects I monitor in my aggregator. In addition, there are stories regarding law firms, companies and people of which I am interested.

The ALM is not one central feed through the law.com url, but comes via subscribing to each of the ALM legal publications. I went through the list of ALM’s featured legal publications and added them one at a time to Feedly (see above picture).

As many of you know, I share on Twitter a fair number of stories written by others – reporters, bloggers and columnists. I read stories in my aggregator for learning and staying abreast of news and developments, just as you’d read newspapers, periodicals and blogs.

From a business development standpoint for LexBlog and I, I meet and build relationships with the people (virtually to start with) whose stories, columns and blog posts I share. Who wouldn’t be curious who it is that’s sharing their story on Twitter?

They found out their story is being shared by me because I include their Twitter handle in my tweet. I also meet the people and companies who are the subject of the stories I share as I’ll include their Twitter handles.

In addition to potentially building relationships with reporters, bloggers, business people and companies, I serve as an “intelligence agent” for my followers on Twitter. I am combing the news in my aggregator on certain subjects and sharing the stories and blog posts with my followers. Not only does this build a name for me as being on top of my game on these subjects, but people come to rely on me as a source of helpful news and information.

ALM’s news feed is a good fit for me because of it’s legal bent, the reporters and subjects of the stories who I can meet, the quality of the journalism and my sharing of news and columns which folks would not otherwise see behind a paywall. I pay for my subscription to get the feeds, but non-subscribers can read the stories when shared by a subscriber on Twitter and other social media.

Sharing others’ content on Twitter seems to have built a lot of good will for me over the years. The more I share like this, the more people who follow me on Twitter, the more people like their stories shared by me and the more people share my blog posts. ALM’s feeds can only help.

Thanks much to ALM’s Shawn Harlan in business development and their chief sales officer, Allen Milloy, who helped me get the subscription.