Do you know where you’re going to?

Via James Mullan, here are “35 tips for getting started with social media.” The list is positioned thus:

If you are going to start using social media, you should at least have an understanding of what it’s about. Social media is not about the tools, the tools are only a facilitator.

Up to a point, Lord Copper. Actually, this is an interesting list, but it is not particularly coherent. Anyone facing the world of social media needs to answer a simple question for themselves: “why am I doing this?” There are many possible answers:

  • To find out more about the world of Web 2.0
  • To connect with people I already know
  • To connect with people I don’t yet know who have a common interest
  • To position myself or my business in this new market
  • To make money
  • To contribute information and knowledge

…and so on.

Some of these aims are honourable, some less so. That’s fine — the whole gamut of relationships can be facilitated by these tools. But you need to know what you want from them. Before working through this list of 35 tips, you need to be able to judge whether any one of them will help you serve your vision of what you want from social media. You also need to be aware that the authors of lists like these may have a different vision from yours.

The same is true for shorter lists. Kevin O’Keefe has named his top three social media tools for law firms. They are blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn. That may be true for those firms (and their clients and potential clients) that are comfortable with those tools. If they are just a me-too choice, that will be glaringly obvious to others. That is because the main goal of these tools is connection. If you or your firm feels more comfortable connecting in a different way (whether that is Web 2.0 or not), do that instead. Those you connect with will respect you for it.

And if you do follow Kevin’s advice, connect properly. Clients find it irritating enough when law firms stop producing traditional briefings. Imagine their discontent when you are no longer connecting with them via a blog that they have come to know and respect.

So what do you want from your social media? What will success look like? Can you sustain your interest in it for the long term? Once you have answered those questions, you are ready to think about the tools you need and a strategy for deploying them.

Yes — you do need a strategy. Think about e-mail. That is just a tool. It facilitates connections. But it has become a monster for many people because we didn’t think properly about how we intended to use it and the limits we should put on it. All the social media tools that look today like fluffy kittens also have the potential to become monsters as scary as e-mail. If we bear that in mind when giving them house-room, we might be able to cope better when they start to grow.

(Hat tips to Mary Abraham and Doug Cornelius for the link to Kevin’s post.)

2 thoughts on “Do you know where you’re going to?”

  1. Mark –

    A firm’s web presence is just one more thing to be managed. That’s why your recommendation for a strategy coupled with follow-through is so critical. The other issue is that this is not just an electronic version of old-fashioned marketing. There are different norms and expectations at play in social media. Therefore, a firm had better understand the new environment before it jumps it.

    – Mary

  2. Mark,

    Thanks for the mention…the list is slightly random and as you say lacks coherence…the first entry is register your domain so its almost as if the author is assuming you’re already using Social Media in some form (presumably a blog if you’re going to be registering domain names). Perhaps the list should be renamed “35 tips for people already using Social Media?”

    I also agree with Mary’s point about understanding how “new environments” work before jumping in, there are too many bad examples of Law Firms in the UK thinking they are using social media, but not actually understanding what they should be doing with the end result being disaster.

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