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.