An attendee at law practice management seminars or who reads about legal technology or other productivity areas online would think that there is a correct way to do everything. Blog posts and articles are often titled “the BEST” this or “the WORST” that. You might get “5 Ways You’re Doing X Wrong ” or “10 Must Have Y”. It’s pretty tiresome after awhile. A body could get a bit of a complex about it.
This struck me at a recent educational conference I attended. The speakers were talking about social media and were extolling a particular way, and a set of platforms, that lawyers should use social media. “The right way”, in other words. Now, I’m not a practicing lawyer but I have a sense of what they do each day. While they all “practice law”, there’s a lot of nuance to how they do it. I’m not that sure there is a “right way”. There’s almost certainly a “wrong” way to do something, but we can usually avoid that merely by using common sense. Or rather, if we’re really thinking about how something fits into our workflow, it probably isn’t going to be “wrong”.
I’m Doing Social Media Wrong
Social media is a good example. Presentations often focus on creating an audience, types of messages to share, the platforms you should use, and so on. You’re probably following all of these admonitions, because you want to do this right. You may feel – if you aren’t on social media, if you don’t have a blog – that you’re doing it wrong. This is how I’m doing it wrong:
- I’m not on LinkedIn;
- I don’t interact with people on Facebook;
- I don’t follow people who follow me on Twitter;
- Worse, I read just about EVERYTHING that the people I follow on Twitter say.
Hi, my name is David and I’m an “anti-social” networker. Note, I’m not an anti-“social network”-er. I just don’t have the time to be on the platforms that people suggest I use and do the things on them that they suggest I do. I maintain my blog here, and I contribute to a variety of conversations through comments on other blogs or responses to questions posted on e-mail discussion lists. That’s it.
For one thing, I believe in Dunbar’s number: there are limits to how many people I can interact in social environments. In my own reality, my number of people or “social avatars” of people that I can interact with on a regular basis is probably pretty close to that 150 person sweet spot.
The biggest difference I find when I hear about what I “should do” is that I use social media as an information source. That’s probably not surprising considering my background and what I do each day. If I were to break my Dunbar number down, it would look like:
- 100+ RSS feeds that aggregate information from the sources I find most effective and informative, many of which are outside my own subject areas. They generate about 250 items a day, which I scan pretty quickly but almost always all of them;
- 30-40 Twitter users, who share personality and information liberally on topics that often intersect with my own but not always. This group of people often relays information from much further away in the social network that I would otherwise never come across in any other way. Like RSS feeds, I skim but I try to glance at everything and I will scroll back in time to see what people were talking about. I follow people out of my time zone as well, so it’s a 24 news cycle.
- 5-10 e-mail discussion lists – including Teknoids, Technolawyer‘s blasts, Web4Lib – that involve a wide variety of people working in similar environments or discussing similar topics. They are often doing things I’ve never even thought of, but occasionally I can offer my own experience and share in that way.
I weed this information garden on a regular basis, and I’m pretty ruthless even with people who I see every day. I use keyword filters to cut back on some of the topics that I’m not interested in from people I want to keep following. If you start tweeting about your favorite TV show, I’ll probably stop following. I do my best to share information as well, but not everyone is interested in the same thing or, over time, their interests change too and what I’m saying isn’t as useful.
This is probably not how you engage in social networks unless you work in a similar environment to me, with similar responsibilities, and have the same interests that I do. The 6 of us should get together sometime and compare notes!
Which is to say, you are probably using them differently from the experts as well, if you’re using them at all, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Lawyers who lean on social media as a business generator may be overstating the case, depending on the type of practice and the location in which you live. Reports out of the UK and from the ABA suggest people are the best referral sources. A rural practice can be dramatically different from a suburban one, even if both lawyers are solos. Your practice area may attract clients who use social media in a way that turn them into paying customers; but that’s not probably not universal. But what do I know? I’m just a guy who uses the stuff, not one who tries to make money from it.
The right way is what fits into your practice and not necessarily what you’re being told – or sold – is the “right way”.
And That’s Not All
The list of things that the Interwebs tells me I’m doing wrong is growing. The top 10 lists and the 5 worst lists are rarely useful for me. If I’m not using the best Android apps, I’m probably using the ones I have in the worst possible way. I have attended innumerable educational sessions and read as many articles telling me the right way to do something – from reading blogs to cooking eggs – and I’m still getting it wrong. I’m so wrong, the ways I’m wrong probably can’t even make it on a “worst of” list!!
And that’s okay. I’ll continue to eat my peas with honey if the need suits me. I’ll also continue to use social media “the wrong way” because it works so well for me and I enjoy the people I interact with and the things I learn about. If someone tells you you’re doing something wrong that is working for you (including not doing something at all), then tell them to get stuffed.