Part 1: The Considerations
As an avid user of social media platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, YouTube, Plaxo, Flickr and others, one of the questions I face regularly is “to friend or not to friend?” In some instances you will see a name of someone you “know” in the friend finder and you ask yourself, “Is this someone I want to connect to?” At other times you will receive a friend request and have to decide if you want to connect with that person in a public forum.
Interestingly enough, I used social media to gather data for this article. I posted the following using the tool www.HelloTxt.com to all of my social networks: “How do you decide whom to friend and follow in social media and micro-blogging?”
One client responded, “It can get awkward.”
A legal marketing colleague, Beth Huffman, said, “It's difficult, and I almost feel like I need two sites: one for friends and one for business acquaintances.”
So how do you decide what is right for you and your business -- with the word “business” being the key? The answer is not an easy one.
The factors you should consider are your company’s culture and polices, as well as your business goals, while keeping in mind that every social media outlet has its own benefits.
Your Company’s Culture and Policies
It is very important to understand your firm’s corporate culture and whether it maintains a social media policy. According to the pending survey results from Stem Legal and attorney Doug Cornelius as quoted by Doug Jasinski in a presentation to the Legal Marketing Association of Vancouver, about 30 to 40 percent of law firms block access to social networking sites. This may also mean that these law firms are not tracking what is being said about them and their clients in these online venues – a big mistake.
If you are a thought leader in your law firm, consider speaking to management about the benefits of adopting a social media policy and then providing in-house training for the associates, partners and administrative staff. Barry Hurd of 123 Social Media has compiled links to 15 social media policies at http://twitpwr.com/2Ff/. I recommend you check them out as a way to get started.
There are many benefits to social media engagement if used and managed properly. It is time for lawyers to get on board and not be left behind. Just think – it took us until 1978 to ethically be permitted to advertise. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes.
Your Business Goals
The most important question you need to ask yourself is why have you decided to maintain online profiles in the first place?
Bill Tilley, a fellow member of the Legal Marketing group on Linkedin and partner with Amicus Capital Services LLC of Los Angeles, said, “For attorneys I think it depends on what they hope to accomplish with social media. Are they looking to expand their brand and ultimately generate leads for cases directly from individuals or the target client or are they looking to create a network of attorneys to promote and generate partnerships with. The former option will generally result in a larger, less screened network and the later will require more research and a smaller more qualified network.”
I agree. And it is OK to use different social media outlets for different purposes. For example, you might decide to maintain a profile on Facebook that is not open to the public and with which you only connect to actual friends and family. Even if you do that, remember to always keep your posts clean and professional because anyone can capture the content of a page and send it to someone else. You will always be faced with the prospect of knowing that business contacts are on Facebook, too, but you can politely tell them – if asked – that you only use Facebook for family and non-business-related communications but you would be happy to connect on a platform that you use for business networking.
You then may consider using Linkedin as a means for professional networking with colleagues, other attorneys, vendors, clients (depending on your practice areas), alumni of your firm, business associates and so on. Linkedin is one of most professional networking sites on the Web. If you were to choose only one network on which to have a public profile, this is the one I would suggest. Even on Linkedin, you will be confronted with the questions of whether to connect to varying individuals. Once nice thing about Linkedin is that when you answer a request, you can choose the “I don’t know this person” option. As with all of your public communications, be strategic.
The Social Media Outlet
In the next several posts of “To friend or Not to Friend – Social Media for Lawyers,” I will address the ins and outs of different social media tools. I will choose a few of the more popular social media outlets – as well as those that I believe can be used in a professional manner to communicate who you are and what you do. It will not be an inclusive list of all social media outlets – as that topic can be covered in a book.
Please feel free to post your questions and comments to this blog. I will do my best to address them in future topics. So, to learn more about Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others, stay tuned to The Legal Intelligencer’s blog posts on lawyers and the media.
Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.