Why You Should Be Using Social Media
Lawyers are trained to be risk averse and to see the potential liability of any act taken. This—among other things—causes us to be more conservative about adopting new technologies. In addition, laws and model ethics rules move at the pace of of glaciers, handily modeling the Damoclean sword of potential violations of rules that don't yet exist. But in a fast-changing world, some technologies seem to be nearly tailor made for the legal industry and not taking advantage of them is a bad idea.
Putting aside the fact that we need to at least know the legal implications of new technologies in order to advise our clients, social media technologies can be a great boost for any lawyer. This is the first part in a series of articles on "social media", the technologies that connect us to each other, and how they can be effectively used to benefit attorneys. This ranges from Facebook and Twitter the standard "connectivity" applications; to LinkedIn a "professional" way of connecting; to Pinterest and Delicious a way of marking digital research for future use.
Of course, it all comes down to comfort. You should play around with these technologies with trusted friends before going mainstream—get to know the technologies and how you prefer to interact with them. Some people are natural YouTubers while others would never want to get in front of a camera. Explore how other people in your field are using the technologies and whether you can incorporate those ideas into your own practice. Think of them as you would any other tool—just like a laptop or a smartphone—there may be a learning curve, but soon you'll wonder how you ever lived without them!
The main types of social media that the series will focus on will be blogs (including microblogs like Twitter and Tumblr), social networking sites (like Facebook and LinkedIn), content communities (like YouTube), and collaborative media (like wiki pages).
Blogs are a means of content delivery. You create content—or add value to already-created content—and publish it. Either as an article or blogpost or as a microblog. Your readers and followers pay attention to you because you're a thought leader in an area they're interested in—or just because you're funny and distribute good content.
Content communities are places to share created content of a particular media type. YouTube was created, for example, to share videos. Podbea distributes serialized audio or audio and video content. Collaborative media can be a good way for companies and clubs to create and manage institutional knowledge but can also be used by smaller groups for one-off projects (like a litigation team or a group working on an amicus brief).
Within each category, the different sites behave similarly but have different strengths, including their adoption rate by different communities. You might find, for example, that your Facebook is a place that you want to keep limited to friends and family whereas LinkedIn is more focused on keeping track of your professional network. Some kinds of content will work on both sites, but others are best kept to just one.
Reg Levy is the WLALA Website Committee Chair. She is Internet Frontierswoman and Colonist at Minds + Machine.