Social media sites have evolved from an interesting way to meet potential dates on campus and keep up with your friends to worldwide communication tools that have played a pivotal role in social upheaval and regime change in the Middle East. Meanwhile, there are some lawyers who have become self-styled social media experts and others who steadfastly maintain they have no time for or interest in using social media. In this edition of “Sites for Sore Eyes,” we are joined by guest co-columnist Catherine Sanders Reach, director of the American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center, to examine the tools that are available to manage online social media.
It probably merits noting that using social media is not that difficult. If Facebook was difficult to use, there wouldn’t be more than 500 million active users, with half of them logging in on any given day. But some of the tools noted below can help you save time and become a power user.
Social media tools can be a great way to communicate, collaborate, share, and connect with friends, family, clients, and colleagues. Many lawyers are starting to see real implications for networking and client development and have added social media to their marketing arsenal. However, many lawyers are overwhelmed by the time commitment—and the occasional writer’s block. So here are some tools and tips to use to effectively manage your time commitment on social media.
Post Once, Update Many
Without using any external applications or websites, you can still take advantage of the “post once, update many” concept. Do try to keep this selective, however. Remember that a tweet that is part of a Twitter conversation will look rather one-sided on LinkedIn or Facebook, and that tweets full of hashtags look a little out of place when they appear in other social media. The same holds true from truncated Facebook posts or blog post updates in Twitter.
You can selectively send tweets to Facebook by using the Selective Tweets Facebook app and then add #fb to send selective tweets to your Facebook personal or business page. Likewise, you can post LinkedIn status updates to Twitter and selective Twitter updates to LinkedIn by adding #li or #in to your tweets. You can follow these easy instructions from LinkedIn’s blog.
Are you a blogger? You can use TwitterFeed to send new blog posts to Twitter or Facebook using your blog’s RSS feed. This tool also lets you track click-throughs of your readers to get a sense of what people like, re-tweet, and click on.
TweetDeck allows you to connect your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (who uses that anymore?), LinkedIn, Foursquare, and others from one place. And it is free! You need not have your browser window open to post—just open the program and leave it running in the background. The dashboard shows a news feed of the content your contacts have posted, and you can update all your social media at once. You can even record and share videos with TwitVid. There is currently no TweetDeck app for iPhones or iPads (the site says “coming soon”), but it is available for Android, your desktop computer, and Chrome.
FriendFeed connects the most interesting stuff, from photos to videos to links, that you and your contacts find online and allows you to have real-time discussions. You can also customize who can see your posts by setting up private groups. You can share from your phone, e-mail, and Facebook, and getting started is as easy as joining and inviting your friends. It is free to join, and there is no program to install. And unlike Facebook, if your profile is set to public, others need not join to see your content. Also unlike Facebook, you don’t have to spend any time “hiding” all the games and other nonsense—you just have a steady stream of interesting content.
SocialOomph, formerly TweetLater, is primarily a Twitter management tool. The free version lets you create and schedule tweets, which is especially good if you reserve an hour or two a week to devote to tweeting but would prefer to send the tweets out in a measured stream. You can also track tweets by keyword and view your @mentions and retweets to measure the effectiveness of your tweets. For an additional $4 per month you can also automate a few processes, such as sending a direct message to new followers or following those who follow you. There is, fortunately, some human intervention by allowing you to vet your new followers so that you don’t follow spammers. A professional account, at $29.97 per month, adds a huge range of functionality, including Facebook and blog management, ROI features, and much more.
Ping.fm uses the tagline, “post from anywhere to anywhere.” This free web-based tool provides an option to create a message that can be distributed to many channels—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Google Reader, and the list goes on. The service will automatically shorten hyperlinks and has a character counter. You can create posting groups, thus sending a message only to LinkedIn and Twitter, or Facebook and your blog. You can also send posts from e-mail, text/SMS, RSS feeds, or Google Reader. Of course, there is the requisite suite of mobile apps for you to take the tool on the road.
What to Say?
“It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” — Clay Shirky
One of the reasons people will follow you, friend you, like you, link in with you, etc., is that we are all looking for help with filtering. Those who are most successful using social media are those who give more than they take. Keeping this fundamental in mind, there are many ways to easily gather and share content through your social media channels. Many, many sites you visit have a “share this” icon or a button to add a link to Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc. One click and you can share an article during your daily, casual reading. If you haven’t started using an RSS feed reader such as iGoogle, Bloglines, or Alltop, check out our Law Practice Today article and a video tutorial on using iGoogle to get up and running; that should be an early goal. RSS feed readers let you create a place where all the news of interest to you is filtered into one location, rather than you being required to go and check multiple websites regularly. Other tools add more social media to the mix, such as Paper.li (in alpha), which lets you view the hyperlinks referenced by your tweeps (or lists or hashtags) or Facebook friends and pages in one spot, organized in a friendly “newspaper” format.
Both of the authors agree that we get huge benefits from the consumption side of social media, and this would still be true if we never posted or tweeted. Scarcely a day goes by that we do not learn of an online article or resource from one of our colleagues that we might have missed otherwise. Of course, just being a consumer and never sharing would not be very social, would it?
Social media can be fun and rewarding but requires some time to be successful. Think of the audience you intend to reach when using each of these tools, what looks most professional and most useful. Although there are plenty of tools to make managing all these accounts easier, some care and feeding is still required to put you in the best light possible. Also remember, if you are linking up, friending, or tweeting with colleagues and clients, then great time management skills are essential, as they likely will not be favorably impressed when you tweet about how beautiful the weather is on the golf course when you still haven’t responded to their last voice mail.