I’m very excited about the opportunity today to talk at the ACC Chicago Chapter event on “How Social Media is Changing the Way We Do Business” being held at Drinker Biddle’s conference center in Chicago. It features three sets of panelists from both Drinker Biddle and top companies discussing a variety of topics, from how social media is transforming intellectual property, the impact social networks have on the employee life cycle and how social networking trends can affect e-discovery and data privacy. We’re expecting close to 200 attendees, and it promises to be an interesting and lively afternoon!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been marveling over the experience I had during and after the Legal Marketing Association’s annual national conference. It was obviously an honor to be invited to speak about how law firms are using social media from an in-house marketing/communications perspective. The presentation itself went very well — it was even SRO (thanks in part to a too-small room!). Clearly there was a LOT of interest in the subject matter.
So, too, I discovered, there was a LOT of discussion during the the session itself on Twitter from people both in the room and even a couple who were miles away. For a very thorough (and terrific) summary of the session and the tweets during (and after) it, please check out Lindsay Griffiths’ blog post here. As you can see, there are a couple of spots where I was pretty outspoken and even a bit provacative in my comments. For those that know me, that’s probably not a surprise. However, for those that don’t know me, there was a bit of purposeful hyperbole to some of my comments since this was a live presentation, in a hot, crowded and increasingly stuffy room, after lunch — a combination that has proven deadly to many panels I’ve sat through at innumerable conferences.
I’ve participated in these types of panels in the past and have always tried to be thought-provoking. Sometimes there have been questions or comments during or after the presentation. In these face-to-face encounters, people are usually polite, even somewhat restrained in their candor given the immediacy and personal nature of this type of interaction with me and other panelists.
But this panel was completely different, thanks to Twitter and the tweets coming from the audience. The comments were coming fast and furious — nearly simultaneous with the panel’s own statements, and many contained some valuable candor and interesting commentary. But thanks to the magic of Twitter, the comments were all silent! Not a sound, other than the soft tapping of a laptop keyboard or mobile device. In retrospect, it was really amazing, and astonishing, that the majority of interaction in the room during the presentation was occuring digitally. Absent a couple of quick questions at the end (limited by our running out of time), the only people talking were the panelists. I joked to someone afterwards that it was like we were in an electronic echo chamber, with a couple of mute hecklers thrown in for spice and variety.
I’m still conflicted about the whole experience, mostly due to what a sea change it represents in the power of the audience. In the past, as an audience member, you had a couple of choices to make if provoked by a speaker. You could mumble to yourself or even walk out, or if you were really PO’d, you could yell out (something members of Congress seem to be particularly adept at recently). Now, though, if you’re motivated enough, you can just whip out your iPhone or Blackberry, type no more than 140 characters, and presto! Instant feedback or rebuttal. (Certainly a long ways from the olden days of “Jane, you ignorant …” For those too young for this SNL pop culture reference, check out this.)
My progressive side says, “Get over it. This is the way things are now. It’s great that we can now comment immediately — it will change the way many speakers present. We will adapt to the change.” And we will. Before the presentation, we attempted to get wi-fi access to the room so that we could have the tweets onscreen to respond to in real time. Right before I started speaking, I actually was able to check a few tweets about the beginning of the presentation on my Blackberry (actually joked about it to the audience). As the presentation continued, though, it was nearly impossible to check for new tweets and still pay attention to the presentation and make the points I was trying to make.
And that’s where the old fogey in me starts to pipe up and make me sound like a parent or teacher. “If you’re tweeting, you’re not listening. And if you’re not listening, you’re not participating.” Yes, listening is participating. If you’re more concerned about tweeting things, there is a great chance that you’ll miss something that’s said (maybe even something important). It could even be that you are disturbing others in the room. I heard a tweeter (tweep?) in my presentation say afterwards that a fellow attendee told her it was rude to tweet during a session. More and more colleges are agreeing with this sentiment by banning laptops in cell phones in class (see this interesting blog post).
For me, the jury is still out on whether tweeting during a speech or presentation is a great new thing or just rude. Maybe it’s both. I see tremendous benefit for non-attendees. I even see benefits to presenters in some circumstances. I also see how it can be rude — or at least impolite – and it certainly is a bit disconcerting for a speaker. But I’m grateful to have had the experience with it as both an attendee and a presenter. It won’t end anytime soon, but I wonder if there will be an evolving etiquette to it. Or that some will tire of it simply because it takes a lot of energy to do it well. Or that speakers or conferences will take steps to stop it.
So, what do you think? Definitely more to come on this. No matter my conflicted feelings on this topic, I do love the fact that I live in a time where we can even be thinking and debating about this stuff. Fascinating, incredible, frightening, overwhelming… And that certainly goes without saying.
Now that I’ve returned from the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference, where I spoke on the topic of social media, I can report that many, many law firms (and their lawyers) find that social media is still something to be regarded as not worth the time or effort. As evidence, take a look at my survey of AmLaw100 firms using Facebook and Twitter.
It might be a valid position to take at this point in time, but I can’t help but remember that they felt the same way about websites more than a decade ago (and some even less than a decade ago!). And now here we are.
Upon invitation to share objections that lawyers have to social media, a friend tweeted this weekend that they thought the language surrounding its use sounded funny or silly. And she’s right, of course. “Tweet,” “blog,” ”friends,” “connections” … All of it can sound like the stuff of some pimply, gum-snapping teenager’s lexicon, and not the language of business – especially for super-serious lawyers whose clients pay them hundreds of dollars an hour to win multimillion-dollar cases or handle company-transforming deals.
And yet here we are. Not sure that “Google” is all that serious-sounding, and “Yahoo” or “Bing” definitely aren’t. Google has become so universally accepted now that it has become a verb that means searching on the Internet (even if not using Google, in my communicator’s opinion).
Today, as I was doing a quick check of Facebook on my Blackberry (another silly name, if you ask me), I noticed that the mobile version of FB I was using referred to my friends’ status updates as “stories.” As Spock would say: Fascinating.
It actually seems fine to refer to the 140-character posts on Twitter as “tweets” since they certainly can have a feel and tone that is unique, especially given their brevity. But I’m not sure that calling status updates on FB “stories” is a good idea (and not really accurate in most cases). A story is something that we relate to each other. It has a beginning, middle and end, even if very short. Is it a good idea to think of our FB updates as “stories”? Heck, many of my FB friends’ updates are barely English, let alone a story (not trying to insult; merely making a point, so no flames, please).
To get to my point (and I do have one here), I think that lawyers’ reticence about using social media — or even discussing it — because of the silly words associated with it is a very weak excuse. Lawyers, sadly like so few others in our society, revel in the exactitude with which they use the English language in their daily lives. Why not use specific terms for unique actions or items in the social media world? We certainly do in many other contexts, and various professions have their own jargon (just ask any doctor or nurse). And it just may turn out that social media purveyors risk their own rejection by trying to make the user experience more vanilla and less unique in the name of accessibility.
There’s still a ways to go before professionals have the comfort level with social media that will allow them to use it most effectively to enhance their practices (and maybe even enrich their bottom lines). It would be a shame if a few silly-sounding words are keeping them from exploring this ultimately very fruitful environment.
So, go ahead and tweet without fear of looking silly. Update your FB status with impunity, and don’t call it a story (or worry that it has to be one). Digg something, or note how Del.icio.us it is (with or without its periods). Embrace the change. It’s all good.
As promised, here’s the results of my survey of AmLaw100 firms who have a presence on Twitter. As I did my research, I was reminded how lousy the search function is on Twitter. I also came up against a search limitation after about 25 (or so) searches… I would have to wait until the top of the hour to try searching for firms. Seems a bit ridiculous.
And here’s some advice for law firms: make your firm easy to find! I can’t tell you the number of times I had to figure out what particular variant of a firm’s name was the actual account. Firms are all over the board in their Twitter identities. I understand that some firms’ names are more common than others, and there may be squatter issues. But, sheesh, it shouldn’t be that hard to find you on Twitter, right? I would guess that I might have missed a couple of firms because I simply couldn’t find them using the search function (I stopped scrolling through results after two pages). If I couldn’t find the firm’s Twitter presence, how are clients and prospects supposed to find it?
Without further ado, the results:
Amazingly, 76 of the AmLaw100 firms have a presence on Twitter. But (and it’s a big one), 31 firms have only a single or no tweets. And six firms have their accounts protected so that you can’t see any tweets and have to request to follow! (An incomprehensibly dumb move on their part, in my opinion.) So, to bury my lede, only 39 AmLaw 100 firms use Twitter in any meaningful way.
And some firms are some serious tweeters, with a serious base of followers. The two biggest rock stars are Patton Boggs (1,432 followers, 357 tweets) and Seyfarth Shaw (1,127 followers, 628 tweets). Fulbright Jaworski is the most active, with almost 2,000 tweets (and 864 followers)! Other firms with hundreds of followers and hundreds of tweets include Foley & Lardner, Akin Gump and Reed Smith.
If you want to see most of the firms that I was able to find, you can follow @AmLaw100tweets on Twitter. Or, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me.
At a presentation yesterday at the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference, I discussed a survey I did of how many AmLaw100 firms have a Facebook presence in the form of a fan page. For reference and posterity, I am sharing the results here on the blog, too. I also surveyed the same firms’ presence on Twitter, results of which I will share on a subsequent posts. Surveys of other social media may also be in the offing sometime soon.
So, on with the Facebook survey — and a note here that I did NOT review groups. This research only applies to pages. There is a difference. To learn more about the difference, there are any number of resources out there; here’s a post on Mashable.
Of the AmLaw 100 firms:
Only 31 have some kind of fan page that is related to the firm. But only 13 firms are “working” those pages with content such as status updates.
The remaining firms have pages for recruiting or pro bono or a specific practice area. And 13 firms basically just have a placeholder page posted, with little content.
In some ways this result is surprising; in other ways, it is not. Overall, it seems pretty pathetic.
As referenced above, some other firms may be using groups instead of pages for their Facebook presence. But even then, a rough sampling of a variety of firms on the list showed that most groups were either for alumni (a very good use of Facebook groups, btw) or summer associates and recruiting efforts (again, a good use). However, firms that just use groups for those purposes are missing out on other opportunities.
Many people are still skeptical of how Facebook and businesses (like law firms) are going to be interacting in the future. Does a law firm even need a page on Facebook? I have my opinions, but I think the fact that it now has more than 400 million users worldwide, that more than half of its users in the United States are over age 35, and that the average user spent more than seven hours on the site this past January are all testiment to the fact that Facebook is more than a passing fad that can be easily ignored. For an interesting take on how Facebook is here to stay, check out this New York Times article.
So, here’s the 13 AmLaw 100 firms who are Facebook fan page rock stars:
Foley & Lardner
Alston & Bird
Fish & Richardson
Haynes & Boone
Did I miss any firms? Time for some peer review of my research. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.
With apologies for those readers, friends and family with absolutely no interest in legal marketing, per se, I will be using the blog in the next few days to support some of my communicating at the annual national conference of the Legal Marketing Association in Denver. My participation on a panel, unsurprisingly enough, will include discussion of the nexus between traditional marketing/PR and the brave new world of Web 2.0. [If you're really interested, you can also follow me on Twitter: @johnmbyrne.]As a result, there will be some information posted, and subjects discussed, on the Byrne Blog that may not be of interest to a good portion of you (assuming that anyone is interested in my blog as a whole!). So, again, my regrets to those folks; come back next week for a return to normalcy and further communications on communications.