Navigating Social Media

Anyone taking their first steps into the world of Web 2.0 and social media can quickly become overwhelmed by the sudden rush of information, opinions and just plain noise.  Try and absorb it all in raw form and you’re guaranteed to drive yourself nuts.  Instead, consider using some of the widely available tools out there to help you manage the information.

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Some to consider include:

An RSS aggregator. These programs allow you to subscribe to RSS feeds from your favorite blogs and other sites and see them all using one application. No more stuffing your browser’s bookmarks menu full of sites you have to work your way through each day. Just open your aggregator and read today’s news. For a good explanation of what an aggregator is, plus a list of some popular ones, see this post on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregator

A Twitter app. Twitter is likely one of the most chaotic of the social networking sites out there. It’s unfiltered, free-flowing, raw information. And, the more people you follow, the worse it can get. If you’re reading Twitter through the Web site, that’s OK, but consider using one of the many apps out there. Most are free, some have a small fee to unlock the “pro” features. And, you can get Twitter apps for your iPhone, BlackBerry, etc... We’ve tried Twitterific, Twittelator and a few others. It’s just a matter of choice, though, as to what you prefer. You can also find apps that do specific things with Twitter, such as post photos as Tweets (Twitpic), let you search Twitter, etc... Hint: If you read through postings from the people you follow, the Twitter site indicates how they posted, whether it was from the Web, their mobile phone, or from an app. Use this to find out what app is the most popular and to find out what to try. Or, just post a tweet asking for advice!

Mobile apps. As with Twitter, most social networking sites allow you to make posts, check your messages, see friends and contacts, etc...from your mobile phone, smart phone or PDA. Take advantage of these! You won’t have to be tied to your desktop or laptop, and these mobile apps tend to be quite streamlined and give you just the basic info. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this can be a nice change of pace from the full-featured Web-based interfaces.

These are just some suggestions for cutting through the noise that we’ve found helpful. What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for navigating the social media universe?

Over the past month, there have been several law-firm focused presentations on social media and social networking. Law firm marketers are being cautious to embrace this brand new world. They want to make sure that any tools they endorse or start using to promote their firms and attorneys are strategically incorporated and will add value to their marketing and development goals. LMA has recently hosted several programs on various aspects of social media. It's important that all of us take the time to become well-versed in this arena so we can use these tools effectively and efficiently, as well as explain to attorneys why these tools are valuable and aren't just a passing fancy. Any social media plans need to be well thought-out and carefully executed to be successful.

Here’s the thing: Social media takes a significant investment of time in order to see benefits. There are just so many tools and sites out there, it can be overwhelming.

So, here’s a tip: Baby steps.

One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott. In “Bird by Bird,” her book about the writing process, she tells the story of her frustrated younger brother who had left a grade school report on birds to the night before it was due. He was overwhelmed, stressed, and had no idea where to begin. Lamott remembers her father telling her brother to just take it “bird by bird.” Meaning: do a little bit at a time, break things up into chunks, and don’t get overwhelmed by the apparent hugeness of the task in front of you.

Elsewhere in that book, Lamott tells writers facing the dreaded blank page to not focus on the seemingly impossible task of writing an entire short story, novel, or play. Rather, she says, imagine a one-inch picture frame as being all you have to fill with words. When you’ve written enough to fill that one-inch picture frame, move on to the next one-inch picture frame. Bit by bit, frame by frame, you’ll get the job done.

Folks getting their feet wet in social media can take a lesson here. Don’t think you have to master it all at once. Go slowly. Take each challenge one step at a time. Maybe that means writing a section of your LInkedIn profile — and just one section — until you think it’s perfect. Perhaps it means following some influencers on Twitter to learn how to post, what to post, and how to participate in the conversation. Or, maybe it just means swapping out that pulp novel you’re reading before bed with printouts of some blog posters written by key folks in social media.

Whatever you choose, make it a small, easily-accomplished task. Once you’ve ticked it off your to do list, pick another small task. The another. A week will go by and you may have accomplished 3-5 of those tasks. A month? You’ll have knocked off 20 and will be well on your way to becoming a social media influencer yourself. Just remember, one-inch picture frames and bird-by-bird.

Watching the Obama inauguration yesterday, I was struck by something in the new President's speech. He didn't mince words, he didn't dumb things down or soften the blow. He spoke squarely about the problems facing the country, and the world, as well as about what will be required.

Yet, his speech was not one that provoked fear. Rather, it inspired.

Watching this, it occurred to me that, as legal marketers, in our rush to convince people of the need to get on the social media bandwagon, we often use the line: because everyone else is doing it and you'll be left behind. That's using fear, and it doesn't exactly inspire. In fact, it might just prompt people to dig their heels in further.

What we need is a new approach. Instead of predicting doom, let's showcase what social media actually does. Let's show people how using Twitter can help build relationships. Let's demonstrate that blogging properly can enhance the firm's brand. Let's use our own LinkedIn profiles, and the connections they give us, to demonstrate the power of this new kind of networking.

Rather than arguing "if we don't, we'll be left behind," let's focus on "this is what social media will do for us." Maybe we'll get more buy-in that way, or at least 5 minutes of attention.

Don’t Forget the Power of PR 1.0

There’s no doubt that having a solid PR 2.0 strategy is a must for any law firm in this new era of social-networking. Not to do so is just plain short-sighted.

But that doesn’t mean firms should neglect the tried and true PR methods, either.

This was brought home for me recently on a personal level. For years, I have sent out new hire and promotion releases to all the “people” columns and to alumni trades on behalf of my clients. Yet in all those years I never gave much thought to the marketing potential of showing up in those people columns – until I got promoted.

On my behalf, a Jaffe colleague sent a press release about my promotion to my local newspapers. It was picked up and I immediately started receiving emails, tweets and Facebook messages with congratulations. Quite a few were from friends and family. However, there were a significant number of business contacts that had seen it, too, and got in touch.

Not only did this make me feel good on a personal level, which, quite frankly, is something I very much appreciated, but it also showed the power of these small mentions. A people column is not on the front page. You have to search it out to read it. And, because so many people found my mention, it goes to show that many people turn to these columns and read them regularly.

The words of congratulations I received may not turn into new business right away. But, it does put me on the radar of folks who might, at some point, be looking for someone to help them with their law firm PR programs, or who might be talking with someone who needs a good legal industry flack – and they’ll remember this announcement.

So, my advice: Make sure you’re on the PR 2.0 playing field, but don’t put those classic PR tools out to pasture. They still have their uses.

I think there's more social noise now than actual content. So many people trying to game and spin the same content everything just doubles up these days. I rather read the news paper to be honest.

This is a great articles than I have linked to on our site for our readers to review. Great post on social media marketing for lawyers! Nice!

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