By Gina F Rubel
So by now, if you have read my previous blog posts on this website, you know that I am a fan of strategic and systematic social media engagement for lawyers as long as it has integrity and boundaries. I have preached repeatedly about the need for social media policies. I have spoken again and again about the benefits of these tools. But that does not mean that all social networking tools should be used by law firms and lawyers, not to mention parties to litigation.
I am currently a naysayer of social location-based networks for lawyers (and their clients) like Foursquare , Yelp, Facebook Places and Gowalla which are some of the latest tools in public relations and marketing. Yes, this is a generalized statement and as with the usual legal disclaimer, this does not apply to everyone in all situations.
Location-based networks are driven by GPS-enabled smartphones and applications that allow "geotagging.” Conrad Hall from Social Media Examiner, explains that "geotagging takes advantage of the GPS technology that is built into smartphones to build community at the street level instead of just at a global level."
I find it difficult to come up with measurable ways to utilize these tools ethically and effectively to build relationships online for lawyers. Rather, these tools appear to be better for bricks-and-mortar consumer businesses rather than for professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants and doctors. I would love to hear differing points of view. I can already hear my social networking colleagues within the Legal Marketing Association coming up with ammunition opposing my position.
Still, I have a hard time understanding why people would want to let others know where they are. Really, unless you are attending a networking event, bar association or industry conference or CLE, do you really want to “check-in” with the world and let them know where you are? And even then, do you want the rest of the world to know? It is one thing to Tweet about the great speakers at a business conference. It is another thing altogether to have the world know exactly where you are on the map every five minutes of the day.
I can see how geotagging will someday be useful to me as a parent, though. Our kids are “Millennials” and have been raised with technologies that we never envisioned. And as a parent, I already want to know where our children are at all times (because I am a Generation-Xer and that is what we do, according to the generational experts). But as a business woman, I really enjoy meeting with colleagues and clients at “undisclosed locations” off the beaten track so we can have meaningful conversations without distractions.
There is a lot to learn about geo-tagging technologies. I anticipate that we will be hearing more and more about them. So I leave you with more questions to ponder than actual answers:
-What are the privacy risks of geotagging?
-Will geotagging start to show up in discovery?
-Will jury instructions be edited to include rules against geotagging?
-Will lawyers research the geo-tagging activities of parties to litigation?
-Will the rules of ethics ever address geotagging (or social media for that matter)?
Gina F. Rubel is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., a public relations and marketing agency with a niche in legal communications. A former Philadelphia trial attorney and public relations expert, Gina is the author of Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers. Gina and her PR and marketing firm have won numerous awards for legal communications, public relations, media relations, strategic planning, corporate philanthropy and leadership. She maintains a blog at www.ThePRLawyer.com, is a regular contributor to The Legal Intelligencer Blog and blogs for The Huffington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ginafuriarubel or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ginarubel. For more information, go to www.FuriaRubel.com.