Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Value of Social Media To Lawyers

Yes, I am on Facebook, and Twitter, and I have a document on JDSupra and scribd.com. I also joined the ABA clone of Facebook, but it’s currently a pain in the ass, and until it becomes more user friendly, I’ll just watch from afar.

There’s a bunch of “social media” sites right now, but for the purpose of lawyers, I’ll just offer my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

Background

If you see no value in these sites and think they are “stupid,” that’s fine. Stick with your “brick and mortar” practice, your expensive “it pays for itself” yellow pages ad, and your occasional cocktail party where you stand around and complain about how you “hate these things.” Go, practice like its 2002.

And let me say this: These are my thoughts. If you are on either of these sites, especially twitter, you will find that about every 6 minutes someone posts an article about what you should or should not be doing. Go ahead and read them, but one thing I've learned pretty quick is that everyone has a different opinion of how and how not to use these sites.

In that light, my first thought is do what you think is appropriate for your practice and lifestyle. You can go crazy listening to everyone's opinions and trying to mold your social media experience into what others think you should do.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

If we were at a carnival, Facebook would be the merry-go-round, and Twitter would be the roller coaster.



FACEBOOK

Facebook is a great place to catch up with old friends, like real old friends you haven’t heard from in 25 years. It’s a place to post vacation and kid pictures and watch bored housewives and the party crowd pass “virtual” drinks, cupcakes, and play games with their “friends.”

Some people believe that every single picture they take needs to be uploaded to Facebook. I may upload a picture or two of something, never believing that even my "friends" want to see 65 pictures of anything going on in my life. I'm also careful about my kids. I think I've posted one grainy shot of one of my kids and that's it. I'm a criminal defense lawyer, no need to show the world my kids. You can get swarms of invitations to play games and participate in real silly crap. I block or delete all of it.

Of my friends on Facebook, I have old school friends, lawyers from all over the country, law students, and others who have something in common with me. I do not "friend up" every single person who wants to connect with me, especially if they have nothing in common with me, are "just getting started" on Facebook and just "want to meet people," or look like they have little redeeming qualities. I always check the "Info" tab to see if they have a job or some purpose in life other than being on Facebook.

I update my status once or twice a day, and am usually careful not to let everyone know every single detail of my location, especially if I am out of town. My blogs are fed into my Facebook page, and I occasionally post a link to a story on the internet of interest. It may be about law, wine, or social media.



TWITTER

Twitter is text messaging on steroids. You are limited to 140 character messages and they come at you 24/7. You can post a picture, but it’s not a constant occurrence like on Facebook. You gather “followers” and “follow” others, watching their conversations, joining in, and sending out “tweets” about everything from your latest blog post, to what you are drinking, to questions about absolutely everything. Most “tweets” contain links to something. The use of twitter is a constant subject of debate. The best advice is to mostly be offering information and help, and not just focusing on gossipy conversation or "tweeting out" mostly personal details of your every step.

Which leads me to my list of “thoughts” about Facebook and Twitter:

[1] Use both, know they are different, treat them as different worlds. Do NOT sync your Twitter status with Facebook. Just look at status updates on Facebook that are from twitter and you'll understand what I mean. It's like speaking French in a Key West bar.

[2] Keep it professional. You are now on the internet even when you are sleeping, out of the country, in court, meeting with a client, wherever and whenever. Don’t act like an idiot.

[3] While you're keeping it professional, get personal. Lawyers can be boring. If you are one of those lawyers with no life outside of law, stay off these sites. If you have a hobby or can talk about something else but law, join in the conversation. Let people know who you are, not just what you do.

[4] Google tracks your Twitter posts. Nothing more to say here.

[5] On Twitter, use your real name or a name that explains what you do. I use MIAMICRIMLAW on Twitter. I don’t follow people who’s name is sexygirl69 or fjkdhjs.

[6] If you are going to be on these sites, THEN BE ON THESE SITES. Don’t ignore them. The more you converse, the more you are known in each world. Answer messages, respond to questions. Remember, you’re a lawyer, you “never know” where your next client is coming from.

[7] Facebook and Twitter are the new business cards. Instead of asking for a card, ask “are you on Facebook/Twitter?" Even those that are embarrassed, will admit they participate on one site or the other.

[8] Don’t follow or friend someone you don’t know and cannot tell why they are trying to connect with you. Remember, you are letting people into your “world” on the internet. Be careful.

[9] On the other hand, if someone doesn’t want to accept you as a “friend” on Facebook or “follow” you on Twitter, don’t worry about it. People have different philosophies about all of this, respect it.

[10] Prospective clients, employers, opposing counsel, and judges are using these sites. Don’t ever forget that, ever.

[11] Recognize others’ achievements, good news, and milestones. Both of these sites go beyond the initial connection.

In the end, remember one thing: whether it's Facebook or twitter, you are putting yourself into the "stream of conversation" on the internet. Think about how you want people to perceive you, and behave in that fashion.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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4 comments:

David V. Lorenzo said...

Brian,

Great job with this article. I agree with your thoughts –with one minor exception:

In MOST cases, the more information you share with your prospective clients, the more likely you are to get hired. Attorneys are trusted advisors. Trust is built upon a foundation of familiarity and belief in consistency of behavior. People who see your family and friends and see that you have a personal life outside of the office will be able to relate to you. If you pull in your personal blog posts or give your status updates a personal flare, you will show your prospective client that you are human. This is NOT a bad thing for an attorney.

As a safety net, you can control who sees your specific information on Facebook. If you only want your “friends” to see your photos, you can restrict them. This means that you can post whatever you want if you exercise discretion in who you let into that aspect of your “life”.

Two caveats:

1)Criminal defense attorneys and attorneys in ANY role in public life should take a conservative approach to revealing any aspect of their personal life. The clients you gain as a result are not worth one sleepless night.

2) Don’t post anything on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments section of any website that you would not want to see on the front page of the local newspaper. These things can live forever.

My personal Facebook page blurs the line between personal and business life. I do this purposely. I work smart and charge a lot of money so that I can spend more time with my family. It is part of my personal brand - make more money with less effort. It works for me. That doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

As you point out, people need to make these Social Networking sites their own.

Dave Lorenzo

http://www.RainmakerLawyer.com

Brian Tannebaum said...

Dave, some great additional thoughts to my article. I neglected to mention the security features of Facebook, so thanks for mentioning them. I don't let anyone see my Profile unless they are my "friend." Good advice.

I think we agree on the "personal" stuff. I make the point that if you have nothing to talk about outside of law, stay out. So I encourage lawyers to let others know they are interested in other things (travel, food, movies, books, sports, etc....). Youre right about criminal lawyers and people in public life being conservative.

I am still shocked that judges on facebook post pictures of their family.

Nicole Black said...

Great insight-and I agree with nearly all of it-especially the strangeness that occurs when tweeting on Facebook. It makes absolutely no sense.

I disagree with one small thing-the bored housewives comment. (Are you surprised? ;) ) I find that more than 75% of those invitations/drinks/whatever are from men--many of whom are lawyers.

Go figure. ;)

Vik said...

100% spot on.
Except that this may be forcing your peers to run when they are barely crawling...

Getting them onto LinkedIn and launching a blawg, which integrates with their e-newsletter, is often the place to start.

While this is "so 2006" - they can catch up in a matter of months! Consistent baby steps is more effective than 100 push-ups once a month (to mix metaphors).

~ Vikram Rajan
PracticeMarketingAdvisors.com