I hear a lot of advice about how to blog, how to tweet, how to this, how to that. A lot of it makes me wonder what people are thinking.
One day I got a call from an attorney who told me that a consultant told him he should write controversial posts about the war in Libya. I was silent for a moment (which tells you how surprised I was by this piece of advice.) My response was, and it remains, how will writing controversial posts about Libya get you clients? He said he didn’t know. I said well, don’t you think it will upset at least 50% of the population? Yes, he said. Ok I said, so maybe you don’t want to do that. He happily agreed.
People write controversial posts for one of two reasons. They believe what they are saying, or they want to get people to pay attention to them. The question I have to ask is, as a professional, do you want the negative attention that comes from making people upset just to make them upset? On the Internet this sort of behavior is called trolling. I hate this behavior. If you truly believe something and want to post it, more power to you. If you are posting just to be a noisy jerk, don’t be surprised when people believe you are a noisy jerk and respond accordingly.
On the other side, some consultants tell attorneys to be very careful to not do anything controversial online at all. To basically hide their personalities so they don’t risk offending anyone. How boring is that? No one responds well to milquetoast.
So here’s a novel thought. Just be yourself online. Don’t seek out controversy, don’t hide who you are. Allow your true personality to come through. Engage, have conversations with people, learn from others and enjoy yourself.
Yes, as attorneys we do need to exercise some care, as you would do in your daily life. Be sure you know the ethical rules and apply them. Also, never post when angry or intoxicated. Remember, online people cannot see you or hear your voice. Jokes can fall flat and sarcasm can get you in trouble. Just like it can offline.
I don’t believe the point of social media is to drum up as many contacts as you can. To me the point of social media should be to develop contacts that will help you (1) get clients (2) learn and engage (in no certain order.) If you engage, write interesting and useful content, then people will find you and follow. It is a process, there are no short cuts to true social media success.
No one is an expert on social media yet, it is too new. And no one is an expert on being you, except for you. So follow your instincts, post what makes sense to you, and have fun with it. If you handle your social media interaction with a bit of wisdom, a lot of common sense and a considerable amount of patience, you will see the results you desire.