Social Media Principles

I am beginning to use Twitter more and more as a source of news and information from people and organizations I trust.

As part of doing so, I am whittling down the number of people I follow on Twitter to a more manageable number. By manageable I mean being able to open up my Twitter homepage and scroll thru the feed in a fashion in which I can find value.

Value, for me, is getting news and learning things, being able to share items I think of value to my followers (retweet or share with my comments) or being able to engage those sharing items.

I have taken down those I am following to about 550. At one time I was following close to 10,000 and I took that down to less than a 1,000 a number of years ago. But 1,000 followers was still too much for a worthwhile feed on the Twitter home page.

Following 1,000 I never used the Twitter home page for news and information. It was too much of a fire hose. Sure, I shared items on Twitter, engaged people who engaged my tweets, occasionally looked at my Twitter lists and did searches, but I never used Twitter as a news and information feed.

Twitter’s homepage works as a news and information feed when following 550.

Whether on my iPhone or iPad, more preferable than my MacBook for reading Twitter, I see some good stuff from some good people. I engaged a couple New York Times’ reporters this afternoon, a law school, a law firm and other individuals — all by following the Twitter home page for a bit. I picked up some good stuff to share and comment upon for my Twitter followers.

I see people with tens of thousands of followers and an equal number of people and organizations they are following.  I know some folks that use or have used software that generates followers for the sake of followers and follows back in return. Some follow in the hope of getting followed back.

Assuming you’re not so vain, what’s the point? You cannot use Twitter for news and information when following a ton of people.

I get that you want to be nice to the people you know who are following you. It’s been tough unfollowing people I know who follow me. But if what they are sharing is not of enough value, what should I do? I can still stay connected and get to them in other ways – Facebook, LinkedIn, face to face and when they engage me on Twitter by liking or retweeting items I share.

Looking at Twitter as a news and information feed, the news and information from my friends and colleagues may be very valuable to others, but not too me. Though Comcast gives me 800 channels I don’t watch them all.

When Twitter was new, people asked “Should I follow back everyone who follows me? Isn’t it the polite things to do.” Not if you have a ton of followers and following them back means an unreadable “fire hose.”

Traditionally, I got my news and information primarily from my news aggregator, Feedly. By following sources and subjects that I selected and organized into folders I stayed abreast of items like you would via a newspaper (tailored in this case) and had plenty to share with my Twitter followers.

I am looking forward to now also getting news and information from Twitter, the people’s network – for knowing what’s happening and what everyone is talking about, right now.

Facebook Live is coming to the American courtroom.

More than 40 years after the Florida Supreme Court (@flcourts) welcomed cameras to its courtroom the court will become one of the first in the world to use social media media for official live video.

In a Tuesday press release, the Court announced that Thursday’s 3:30 p.m. event will showcase, on Facebook Live, the annual Florida Bar Pro Bono Awards honoring lawyers who donate services to people in need. Afterward, Facebook Live will be used permanently for all oral arguments, starting with February’s.

Chief Justice Jorge Labareleasrga nails it.

In the 1970s, Florida became the first state to allow broadcasts of its court cases at a time when every other court in the nation refused it. This Court’s experiment with transparency showed everyone a better way to balance First Amendment rights against the rights of people involved in a trial or appeal. Social media will be our next step in moving this highly successful model of openness into the Twenty-First Century.

The court staff believes that Facebook Live – with access to the world’s 2 billion Facebook users – will, in time, eclipse the reach of other broadcast methods now being used. More than two-thirds of American adults already use Facebook.

With a smartphone in their pocket or purse, a desktop computer or digital streaming to the family room TV, people can easily watch the Supreme Court live. Just follow or scroll over to the Court’s Facebook page. You can watch as you browse other items in your News Feed.

I expect Facebook will archive the videos just as it does with my own Facebook Live videos. This will enable the court to share the video on Twitter and on its site or blog.

The Florida Bar has a reputation nationwide for limiting lawyer’s engagement of the public via the web and social media. Not so with the Court.

Justice Labarga and his fellow justices approved a sweeping court communication plan in 2015. The communication plan, called “Delivering Our Message,” was approved and forwarded to the Court by the Judicial Management Council, a court advisory body that includes judges, lawyers and non-lawyers

While emphasizing the importance of time-proven principles of effective communication, the plan called on Florida’s courts to embrace recent advances in technology and communications, including social media and podcasting.

The Court and the council saw the opportunity to maintain transparency as technology evolves – to go where the people are. Relationships of trust with the press and the public would be built and maintained as a result.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook knows that Facebook will serves as the epicenter for public discourse in the years ahead – in the United States and world-wide. In the States that means real connections of the three branches of government with the people. The Florida Supreme Court is showing other government bodies the way forward.

The Court is also showing lawyers, law firms and many bar associations who are afraid of their shadow when it comes to Facebook to get over it. Facebook is where you go if you care about communicating with people.

Facebook’s News Feed changes, as announced in a Facebook post, by its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, ten days ago, are good for lawyers and bad for law firms.

Legal bloggers should take note as your blog posts lead to engagement, relationships and a stronger reputation when they “move” socially across Facebook and you have built a stronger reputation by networking on Facebook.

Per Zuckerberg:

…[R]ecently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

The change, already being implemented:

I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

What can you expect in your News Feed? Again from Zuckerberg:

…[L]ess public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

The Facebook pages run by law firms, most of which are not getting seen anyway, will be seen even less. Articles and announcements from such law firm Facebook pages are unlikely to even get seen in the News Feed of people who have “liked” the law firm’s Facebook page.

The change is good for lawyers who are Facebook friends and engage with industry leaders, business colleagues, clients, referral sources, bloggers and reporters, in addition to family and personal friends.

Why? Because Zuckerberg expects the time you spend on Facebook to be more valuable and more meaningful when there is more engagement with your personal Facebook connections.

At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.

This evening, I skimmed through the first twenty items in my Facebook News Feed. All, but one, were from business colleagues – mostly lawyers, one personal friend and one New York Times reporter with whom I am a Facebook friend. Though some of these Facebook friends were sharing personal items, most were sharing business or legal commentary.

Facebook will no longer be an option for lawyers. Privacy and ethical hang-ups are not legitimate concerns. They merely reflect ignorance or an unwillingness to adapt to the change in which people network.

The Facebook posts in my News Feed tonight included posts from one of the leading media/First Amendment lawyers in the country, a former large state bar president and a leading privacy and data security lawyer. My Facebook friends who are lawyers offer value to me and others, they’re not promoting themselves nor chasing down clients.

Business development for lawyers, offline or on the Internet, is all about networking to build relationships and to build a name. Facebook, at its best, is all about such social interaction, making it perfect business development.

Perfect though for individual lawyers doing the networking, not so much for law firms trying to promote the firm and its lawyers.

Twitter is seeing big growth as a result of its move last September from a 140 character cap to a 280 character cap. Growth both as to more engaged users and its market value.

BuzzFeed News reports, via SocialFlow findings, that tweets longer than the old 140-character limit are generating much more engagement than tweets that are under 140 characters.

While the number of clicks on a link in Twitter were comparable before and after the change, retweets and likes were nearly double for tweets over 140 characters,

The findings mirrored Twitter’s own test results. From a Twitter blog post announcing the increase:

In addition to more Tweeting, people who had more room to Tweet received more engagement (Likes, Retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter. People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall.

In addition to increased engagement, Twitter’s stock price is up about 40% since the change to 280 characters.

Twitter stock price

Though Twitter’s ad business has not grown significantly, Motley Fool reports Twitter’s licensing of data, an alternative means monetization, is growing extremely well. And bottom line, increased engagement is the starting point for increased revenues — and the market may reflect this.

I am enjoying the 280 characters. Allows me to “micro-blog” if you will, greater showcase influencers and strategic partners and has significantly jumped engagement on my tweets. Looks like I am not alone.

For legal professionals, Twitter is going to grow in importance. Especially so for legal bloggers – to build a name in a niche, build relationships and grow a following to amplify your blog posts.

A business colleague emailed Friday asking what equipment I used for the Facebook Live interviews I’ve been doing at legal and tech conferences over the last year plus.

Video, and Facebook Live in particular, is perfect for a blogger. Publishers are using video more and more. Video is no longer the sole province of television stations and video crews. Video is engaging and a perfect way to shine a light on influencers in your niche.

Facebook Live is also good because of Facebook’s giving greater weight to video, especially live video. Like Google showcases influencers in search, Facebook showcases influencers in users’ News Feeds. Doing Facebook Live increases your personal influence.

So what do you need? First, it’s what you don’t need.

Don’t buy expensive and fancy equipment. To me, it’s a waste of money. It’s a headache to haul around. You’ll need another person or two to operate the trappings. Perhaps most important, you’ll loose some of the informality that makes Facebook Live video engaging for those being covered as well as viewers.

I did a fair amount of research before buying equipment. So though I am far from an expert I’d suggest going with the below. It’s what I reccomended to my friend on Friday.

In addition to Amazon, B & H Photo Video (everything listed) and MeFOTO (tripods) are good suppliers.

Like blogging, developing your own style on Facebook Live takes a little trial and error. Fortunately, it’s not expensive and the medium is perfect for that.

Sounds crazy that lawyers beginning to use the Internet would be viewed as a legal tech trend for 2018.

But that’s what Keith Lee, a Birmingam attorney and editor of Associate’s Mind shared with Clio in their survey of “Top Law Firm Technology Trends to Watch for in 2018.”

As Lee sees it, the biggest risk for lawyers in 2018 is the demand for legal services is not growing, it’s shrinking.

Combine that with the trend I said was a threat last year (non-lawyer legal services) and that means there are more people competing for a pie that isn’t growing. Below average lawyers are going to be squeezed out.

Jordan Couch (@jordanlcouch) of Palace Law agrees.

As clients demand the same services for less money, lawyers will have to find new ways to increase volume if they are to maintain the same workload and profits.

Reiterating his prediction from last year, Lee sees the internet as the biggest opportunity for solos and small firms to prevent from being squeezed out.

Uber didn’t exist five years ago. Now it’s a multi-billion dollar company and has supplanted the word ‘taxi’ from the everyday lexicon. The internet is still the Wild West. Attorneys need to embrace it.

I don’t know that Lee is referring to individual lawyers reengineering the delivery of legal services the way Uber reengineered local travel, but Lee is pointing out the obvious — that being that the Internet is too valuable to waste.

And boy do most lawyers waste the opportunity to use the Internet. The Internet for lawyers, in their work, stops with email, legal research, cloud based business services and the limited use of social networks.

Lee and I met each other through blogging. I suspect the majority of people Lee knows, professionally and personally, he met through blogging and social media.

To Lee, myself and many legal professionals, entrepreneurs and business leaders the use of the Internet comes naturally. It’s how we learn, how we engage others, how we get known and how we grow business.

Ask most lawyers about blogging, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for building a name as a leading lawyer, nurturing relationships and growing business. They haven’t a clue.

Ask yourself. Are you really using the Internet to prevent being squeezed out? If you don’t have enough good work, are you using the Internet to increase the volume of your work so as maintain the same workload and profits.

I am not referring to a refresh of a website and forking out money to get people to your website. A website that does little, if anything, to distinguish you from other lawyers.

I am referring to really using the Internet to take a step up in who you are and what you do and, as a result, to do some things for your family.

If someone told you that there was a powerful tool to grow legal business, it was relatively inexpensive and less than one percent of your competitors were using it, you’d be all over finding out more.

Well, it’s the Internet. And Lee is right, “The Internet is still the Wild West. Attorneys need to embrace it.”

When I saw that Twitter was considering increasing its character limit from 140 characters, I saw it as a bad thing. A company struggling in the financial community’s eyes making changes for the sake of change – not vision.

I also saw an increase as making for a poor user experience.

People would start to use Twitter for more than it is, short quips with a link for getting more. People who don’t know how to use social media, often marketers and communication professionals, would broadcast more, believing more characters was more, not less. And with longer tweets, the ability to scroll would be harder as columns on Twitter’s home page and lists would be twice as long.

I was wrong. Twitter with the 280 character is a better experience — and more valuable for those looking to learn, share, engage, nurture relationships and build a name. All the stuff smart lawyers and other professionals are after.

Leading technologist and the inventor of the blog, Dave Winer (@davewiner) was right when he wrote two years ago that Twitter needed to increase its character limit. Not to change for the sake of change, but as a defensive move for self preservation.

Winer’s point was that people don’t click on links and keeping the 140 character limit would thus cripple Twitter.

1. Twitter has had real-time news more or less to itself since inception. Facebook was busy doing something else. Apple had the totally wrong idea of how news worked. Google had good products, Google News and Google Now, but they weren’t doing exactly what Twitter does.
2. But things have changed. Facebook and Apple are actively pursuing news, and at least in Facebook’s case, their product works better than Twitter’s. Flipboard has an excellent product, and while they don’t appear to be an immediate threat to Twitter, they could be acquired.
3. News products that are limited to 140 characters have to use pointers to guide the reader to the rest of the story.
4. Key point — the new entrants don’t have a 140-char limit.
5. If you think that clicking on a link to read a story is not a serious disadvantage, then go ahead and keep the 140-char limit. But Facebook claims to have done the research, and my anecdotal experience confirms this: people don’t click links.

Winer was also right that users who loved Twitter, like me, would not be put off by the change, they’d even like it.

It’s easy and non-disruptive for Twitter to ease the limit. The people who really love Twitter as-is will barely notice a difference. Except when they want to read more, they can just click a link, and the full story loads immediately, because the full article is already there, it’s in the Twitter feed, just hidden at first. This is very simple, imho totally non-controversial stuff. Don’t breeze by it, and think the limit is insignificant. It just cripples Twitter in relation to its new competition.

Twitter at 280 is all positive for me.

  • Twitter has become a quasi blogging medium. I love blogging as blogging is meant to be, a conversation. By referencing something someone else has written and offering my take, I am in effect entering into a conversation with them. At 140 characters that was tough to do. 280 makes it possible, while still making me get to the point.
  • I can now get the “money quote” out of a story or post, give the attribute to the source by including their Twitter handle and then sharing my point or take. A miniature blog post.
  • Longer tweets foster more engagement in the form of retweets, likes and replies. The reason is that people get your whole point in one tweet. I agree with Winer that no one clicks on a link to read a story elsewhere. That’s why I share an entire blog post on Facebook.
  • Retweets, likes and replies foster engagement. I end up exchanging notes and in conversation with these folks on Twitter and elsewhere. Content is not the end goal of a lawyer, content is just the currency for building relationships and a name, largely through engagement.
  • Longer tweets become part of the news cycle on Twitter. The stories you share move as more people share the items you’ve tweeted. People share what they know. They don’t know what’s behind a link. Now they can read the whole “story” on Twitter.
  • Whether you share your own blog posts or someone elses, doesn’t matter. Sharing other’s stories and posts is probably better. You are seen as well read, staying up to speed in your industry and an intelligence agent by funneling some of the best from the noise.
  • You build fans among those whose stories and posts you share. More people are seeing their name than ever because your tweets are getting viewed more as more people retweet them. Better yet, these fans get a notice via Twitter each time your tweet (with their Twitter handle included as a result of your attribute) is liked, retweeted or replied to.

Winer was right that early leaders, like Twitter, mistakenly think there’s something magical about their product, like 140 characters.

…[A] newcomer enters and takes the market because they were wrong about the magic. Users almost always go for new power, esp when it comes to them as performance not complexity. That’s all we’re talking about here. News stories that load instantly as opposed to news stories that require for a new page to load.

Twitter at 280 characters is only a month old. But I am liking everything about it.

As a lawyer, Twitter has now become more valuable for learning, engagement, relationships and building a name. With Twitter likely to grow from the increase, if you are not using Twitter, you’ll only find yourself more absent from the discussion and lacking an online presence.

Wasn’t the first time I was dead wrong and won’t be the last. Twitter at 280 characters is all good,

Legal professionals are quick to dismiss social media for networking and building a name.

Junk, political views, loss of privacy, fighting, ads and more are what I hear for excuses. Author, strategist and long time blogger, Euan Semple, in a post this morning labels it “pontificating about toxic social media.”

Semple references a Facebook post from a mother who lost a daughter to cancer. A post so moving it moved his daughter to tears.

The mother and daughter of a business colleague of mine each movingly posted to Facebook about their husband and father’s suicide. Posts that generated lengthy discussion about depression and what we can do to help peers.

Hardly toxic. So much value.

This potential to put our most difficult and challenging thoughts down in writing, to clarify our thinking, to open up our hearts, to create shared meaning, this is as much social media as the poisonous damaging views that also get shared.

Lawyers who hardly use social media are the first to dismiss it as toxic. But social media is what we make it.

As professionals, we need to contribute, personally and professionally,  Doing so we build a network of people we trust and whom trust us. The algorithms of the social networks will in turn deliver valuable information and dialogue.

As Semple says, the value we receive from social media is for us to determine.

I have said it before, and will keep saying it, that social media is what we make it, it is up to us. Sure it is dominated at the moment by addictive and manipulative platforms but they are nothing without us, without our highly valued “content”. We control that content. It is our responsibility.

Dismissing social media is nothing short of a blown opportunity.

We have this wonderful opportunity to do what I call “joined up writing”. To think harder and share better. As David Weinberger described it all those years ago “writing ourselves into existence”.

Want an existence on the Internet? It’s not coming with a website and SEO.

You’ll need to “write yourself into existince by contributing value to social media.

I am a big believer that content is nothing more than the currency of relationships.

I’m not dismissing the value of content, any more than I would dismiss the value of words at an offline networking event. Without words how could you engage others and get to know them?

But I’m not going to measure the success of my words or my content, like others do, by whether I used the right words (the ones that ranked) and how much traffic my words got. There has to be something more.

When I read a good post or article, whether from a blogger, reporter, columnist or business person (lawyers included), I look to meet the person. Online and maybe later, offline.

If someone can add value to my life with what they’ve had to say online, maybe there’s something more to be gained through getting to know them.

What do I do?

  • Share their piece on Twitter, giving the person the appropriate attribute by including their Twitter handle at the end of my tweet. This lets them know I appreciate their thoughts and that I wanted the world to know it was their piece, not mine. The person then gets both an email and a notice on letting them know that I shared their piece. (Another good reason you need to use your Twitter in your name if you write.)
  • I look them up on other social networks and look for ways to connect. This morning I came across a piece by Gretchen Reynolds, “Phys Ed” columnist at the New York Times, about a study which found that running has a positive impact on brain neurons and can delay the onset of dementia. I run every day and my father died Alzheimer’s, I liked that Reynolds regularly writes on running. I looked her up on Facebook and was disappointed that she did not use Facebook as a way to engage her readers. Facebook enables me to get to know people, professionally and personally, in a real and authentic way. Facebook, through its algorithms and my Fabian friends is also a wonderful way to get news and information that’s valuable to my life.
  • With some people I’ll ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn in my travels to look up people I may want to meet.

Everyone wants to post content. Some, so much so that they’ll have others write it for them. But that content is only valuable if it leads to building a name and relationships.

Take advantage of this and get out and engage and network with those content producers — especially those you’d live to meet.

I’m headed back to the Midwest this week to speak to another law school class. I have to tell you, nothing gets me more jazzed than speaking to law students about the opportunities they have to use the net to learn, network and build a name.

Little question that some law school students are using social media and blogging to build a name for themselves. I shared the stories of a few law grads a couple weeks ago.

But how many law students are blogging and using social media for learning? How many law professors and law schools are promoting its use for learning?

Sadly, not many — and that’s a loss for the students and possible malfeasance on a law school’s part for failing to do so.

ZDNet’s Dion Hinchcliffe recently reported that though technology has long been used to improve how we learn, today’s digital advances, particularly with social media, have taken learning in a powerful new direction.

[The digitization of learning] allows learning — for better or worse, depending on the critic — to be far more situational, on-demand, self-directed, infinitely customized, even outright enjoyable, depending on the user experience, all of which leads to more profound engagement of learners.

In addition, the rise of social networking technology has allowed people with similar learning interests to come together as a group to share knowledge on a subject — and perhaps even more significantly — to express their passion for an area of learning. This can create deeper, more intense, and more immersive educational experiences within a community of like-minded learners.

“Social learning” is more than theory, the use of digital platforms and social networks to bring together communities has proven to work.

The early numbers from social learning make interesting reading. Initial studies have shown that there’s as much as a 75:1 return-on-investment (ROI) ratio for the approach compared to traditional Web-based education. As a result of such insights, this year fully 73% of organizations are planning on increasing their investments in social learning.

How would social learning work in law schools? What media would be used?

  • First recognizing that social will not be for everyone. People learn and teach in different ways.
  • Get students and professors using, for learning, the social media that are readily available and already being used, en masse, by the public.
  • Create a first year class on the use of social media and blogging, just as legal writing and research are taught. Social media, in addition to building a name, enables students to learn from a nationwide network of students, law professors and practicing lawyers. Make sure the professor or teacher — maybe they come from tech or the law library — are credible users of social media and have had personal success in social learning.
  • Teach Feedly as a news aggregator for following sources and subjects, blogging on WordPress (already used by 70% of content management systems), Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Most law students, law professors, law school administrators and lawyers using these media have not a clue what they are doing and have a poor experience as a result.
  • Cover the big picture of what blogging and social media are all about — listening, engaging, relationships, sharing insight, building a network — not search rankings, self promotion, noise, and followers.
  • Review the concept of algorithms and influence. The more you use social media the more valuable it becomes as a network’s algorithms surface information and people who will add value to your life — advertisements and junk are eliminated.
  • Have a social media “resource desk” where students and professors can get ongoing information and questions answered. Maybe it’s part of the library reference desk.
  • Get the faculty and law school leadership using blogs and social media for dissemination of information and engagement with students.

These are my thoughts. Law schools will know more about the ins and outs of what can work for teaching and on-boarding a social learning program. Schools will differ in what will work best for them.

After speaking with authorities, Hinchcliffe suggests organizations lay a foundation for social learning. In the case of law schools, a foundation means creating a positive environment for social media and blogging.

Do professors and the dean use social media? Are they demonstrating, by example, that social is important for learning and networking.

In many cases not only are these folks not using social, they’re scaring students from using social. “Writing unedited content is danergous. Blogging is not professional. Everything you put on the net will remain there forever. Divide your personal lives from your professional lives as a lawyer doesn’t let people know them personally.”

If the law school’s dean and influential professors aren’t on board, forget it. And if they’re not, you have to ask yourself whether they’re fit for the job.

No one is expecting every dean and professor to start rampant blogging and social networking. But an acknowledgement that the stuff is legit and represents a learning opportunity for students is key. Better yet, they should learn social themselves through a little trial and error.

In 2012, the CEO of Mayo Clinic, calling social media not an option but a requirement, launched the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media to coordinate and focus the Clinic’s various social media initiatives for among, other things, the education of patients, students and employees (doctors and in-house counsel included).

The healthcare industry, which was facing a world of problems, and the clinics employees were skeptical — to say the least. The doctors and lawyers at Mayo Clinic weren’t social media users, let alone users for professional purposes.

Mayo now dominates social in medicine. Their patients, students and employees are learning more and are more engaged — through their personal and professional use of social media.

Change takes time, but law schools and law school deans need to say, “Yes. Social learning is important. Social is something we need to learn and something we need to teach.”

Students — and professors are owed it.