Archive for November, 2008
Can Lawyers Afford to Ignore Social Media?
Social media is radically altering our world.
People of all ages are increasingly relying on the Internet and mobile-based tools to share, discuss, and disseminate information.
Lawyers cannot afford to be left out of the loop. Attorneys who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.
It is not necessary for each and every lawyer in a firm to learn the ins and outs of social media. But at least one person, or group of persons, depending on the size the firm, should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm their bottom line. Other lawyers in the firm likewise should be receptive and listen to their recommendations regarding social media.
You need look no further than the recent historic presidential election to see evidence of the far-reaching effects of social media. President-elect Obama’s campaign used many forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, to interact with and motivate supporters.
President-elect Obama has continued to connect with the public by harnessing the power of social media. A Web site designed to ease his transition into office was established within days of the election. The Web site incorporates a blog, which provides information regarding the transition process and invites input from its readers.
A corresponding YouTube channel, has been created, and includes videos of the weekly presidential address, as well as other events, such as the recent meeting of the Energy and Environment Policy Transition Team.
By using the latest technologies —readily available and affordable social media platform—President-elect Obama, an attorney who will soon hold the highest office in the country, will connect and interact with millions of his constituents in a way never before seen.
The superiority of Internet technologies over many traditional methods was exemplified just last week Google announced that it was working with the Center for Disease Control to track flu trends.
Google’s Web site explained methodology behind the unique and unprecedented collaboration:
Certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems.
Such emerging social media trends are extremely important to lawyers, and lawyers who ignore them do so to the detriment of their practice.
Just ask Dallas attorney Dale Markland, a seasoned practitioner who received a crash course in the power of social media when a letter that was critical of him was widely circulated and discussed online.
Shortly after that abrupt and awkward introduction to the viral effect of social media, Markland established an online presence of his own in a last ditch effort to control the potential damage to his reputation.
As he explained on the Web site, its primary purpose was to refute the allegations contained in the original letter:
On Sept. 26, 2008, a Houston attorney, Jeff Murphrey, sent a letter to me [Markland] related to his cancellation of a deposition in an on-going lawsuit that he and I were involved in. Someone sent that letter to internet blog sites and distributed it through mass emailings such that basically the entire world has had a chance to read Mr. Murphrey’s letter, and apparently many have. … This is my statement regarding the events and the contents of the letter.
Markland learned the hard way. Lawyers hoping to avoid his predicament would be well advised to stay abreast of the changing landscape of social media.
Knowledge is power. Smart practitioners will choose to learn about and appreciate the effect of emerging and affordable technologies upon the practice of law. Lawyers who fail to do so most certainly will pay the price.
Legal blogosphere posts discussing Twitter and lawyers:
- they’re all atwitter (we’re not) (f/k/a)
- More Twitter naivety from a lawyer (Real Lawyers Have Blogs)
- The Great Twitter Wars Begin (Simple Justice)
- Blawg Review #186 (Res Ipsa Blog)
- Deliberations on Twitter (Deliberations)
- twitter is all hype and buzz. shields up! (The Shark)
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This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Twitter 101 for Lawyers.”
Twitter 101 for Lawyers
While I’ve often repeated my recommendation that lawyers ought to take advantage of the networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter, I’ve yet to explain how to do so.
Not surprisingly, it is the “how” that matters because, at first glance, Twitter seems like anything but the wonderful tool that it is.
First things first —what is Twitter? Twitter is a free, Web-based communications platform that allows users to share information with others who have similar personal and professional interests. Users communicate using text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length.
Twitter currently has more than 3.2 million accounts registered, and its user base is expanding quickly. Companies and individuals use Twitter in a variety of unique ways, which are constantly evolving.
For example, large businesses, including Jet Blue and Wegmans, use Twitter to provide information and, occasionally, personalized customer service. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign uses Twitter to connect with and update supporters. News outlets such as the BBC use Twitter to rapidly disseminate breaking news.
In some cases, news breaks on Twitter before the major news outlets report on it, which happened during the recent earthquake in California. California-based Twitter users were the first to “tweet” about the earthquake as they experienced it.
Of course, you’re probably wondering whether Twitter has any value to you as a lawyer. It does. With Twitter you can network with other lawyers across the country and the world; promote your practice and its Web site or other online presence; receive news updates relevant to your area of practice and connect with potential clients or referral sources.
Twitter is an invaluable resource, as long as you know how to use it. The first step is to create an account at Twitter.com. Make sure to choose a user name that is easily recognizable and promotes your practice.
The next step is to locate people and organizations you’d like to follow, including people you already know, those who practice in the same area of law, potential clients and users with similar personal interests. There are a number of ways to do this.
Locate people you already know by running your Web-hosted e-mail address through Twitter’s system. (You’ll be prompted to do so when you first sign up.) Once you’ve connected with people you know, check their follower lists and “follow” anyone who interests you.
Online directories, such as Twellow, conveniently categorize Twitter users for you. Review the directory to locate people with whom you’d like to connect.
Recently, two really useful lists were published by JD Supra (an online platform that allows lawyers, law firms and legal professionals to publish and distribute work online to a wide audience) at their blog, JD Scoop.
Both lists were created by Adrian Lurssen. The first is a list of “145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter.”
The second is a list of “Legal News Feeds on Twitter.”
You also can search Twitter using Summize to locate people who are discussing topics that interest you. For example, if you’re interested in wine, you can run a search for “wine” and other wine-related terms to locate other oenophiles.
After you’ve located people and companies, consider using a Web application such as Tweetdeck or Twhirl, which make the interface far more user-friendly by allowing you to organize and keep track of your conversations on Twitter.
Once you’ve set up an account and connected with a few people, start Tweeting about your day-to-day law practice, your firm’s blog or other online presence, news of interest to you and your followers and any other topics that interests you.
Engage in conversations with other users by responding to their Tweets. Simply type “@username,” then add your comment.
It only takes a short amount of time to set up an account and familiarize yourself with Twitter. Once you do, you may wonder how you ever practiced law without this amazing resource.