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Ghostblogging will be the death of social media in the law

We’re just scratching the surface of what social media can do for lawyers and law firms. But rather than learn how to harness this powerful relationship building tool, one with its roots in traditional client development, I’m finding some lawyers and law firms would rather pay to have someone else participate in social media for them.

It’s called ghostblogging. Having someone you pay, whether they work at your firm or elsewhere, blog on your behalf. You also pay the ghosts to post on your behalf on Twitter, Facebook, and where have you.

Mitch Joel cites an article in February’s Entrepreneur Magazine as an example of this burgeoning industry of ghostblogging.

As a young industry, ghostblogging has no best practices or trade organization. Some practitioners write blogs of a paragraph or two, others 250 to 300 words, but rarely longer. This is the Internet, don’t forget. Attn spans r short. Writers charge by the blog or tweet and juggle half-a-dozen clients or more. Some ghostbloggers prefer the loftier title ‘social media consultant.’ The best are careful to plant key search-engine words into their posts, which will raise a company’s web-search ranking.

Yesterday I saw a press release from a law firm SEO (search engine optimization) company labeled something like ‘Blogging 1-2-3.’ The implication being that blogging is all about high search engine rankings and with the advertisers help in identifying and blogging the right words, your law firm will soon rise to the the top of the search engines.

Fortunately there are those like communications specialist Shel Holtz, quoted in the Entrepreneur Magazine article, who see the utter failure of ghostblogging.

Ghostblogging is a horrible thing. I’m a huge fan of transparency. My advice to executives is: If you don’t take the time to write yourself, find another channel of communication.

Joel addresses the response I’ve heard from some law firms. ‘We’ve always had other lawyers and staff people write for leading lawyers in the firm. Ghostwriting, ghostblogging, it’s all one in the same.’

I’m being naive (I know), people will say, ‘someone writes the speech for the President’ or ‘if people like it and connect to the content, who cares who writes it?’ I dunno, I do. People have lost faith in marketing (just like they have lost faith in those who serve the public office and celebrities). We allow things that shouldn’t be… to be. Saying that ghostwriters have been around for years doesn’t make it right or authentic. Times have changed, and these platforms are (or should be) celebrated for the human and real side. Can you imagine that some Blogs, Twitter and Facebook feeds that you follow are not the real person, but the musings of someone else who simply interviewed the person you thought that you were following? Sure, there’s a place for ghostwriters, but maybe Social Media isn’t one of them?

Maybe there’s a place for ghostwriters at law firms. Associates and staff people can write articles, email newsletters, and alerts. Ghostwriters may even write chapters in books for a rainmaking partner.

But the very essence of social media precludes ghostwriting. Social media is not about producing content. Social media is about engaging others so as to build and nurture meaningful relationships. Engagement that requires listening to your audience and offering value to the conversation.

Sure, it’s going to take a little time and practice for you as a lawyer to learn the art of social media. That’s okay. You’ve taken the time to learn the skills critical to your success before. Do it again here. It’s required.

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