You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And you can teach a lawyer all about social media, but you can’t make the lawyer do anything with it.
For many law firm marketing executives, that is a frustrating fact of life. All the social media training in the world doesn’t guarantee a lawyer will ever post an update.
That, at least in part, is why social marketing consultant Adrian Dayton developed ClearView Social, an app that partially automates the process of posting to social media. His goal, Dayton told me in a recent conversation, is to bring down the technical barriers a little bit so lawyers will find it easier to post and therefore do it more regularly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a critical post about ClearView Social. I expressed concern at the premise of having marketing departments feed lawyers with pre-programmed content to post to their social media feeds. I was concerned that this would turn lawyers’ feeds into streams of spam.
Dayton contacted me after I wrote that to offer a demonstration. The app is still somewhat of a work in progress and will not be released commercially until October. Having seen what Dayton has so far, I’ll admit I’ve softened my position. I can see that it could be a useful adjunct to a lawyer’s social media engagement. I can still see, however, how easily it could be overused or wrongly used and prove my fears about spam.
Clearview is targeted at mid- and large-sized firms. Its purpose is to help attorneys “more easily share content with their professional networks through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms.” It does this by allowing a single person in the firm – in most cases, someone in the marketing department – to create a queue of content for the firm’s lawyers to share through their social networks. The marketer can add items to the queue manually – maybe when the firm is mentioned in a news article – or use the firm’s RSS feeds to populate it automatically.
These queued items get sent in an email to all the attorneys in the firm. The email shows a headline and brief summary of each item, and next to each item are two buttons, one for sharing the item on LinkedIn and one for emailing the item to someone.
The lawyer then reads through the list and picks the item or items to share. If the lawyer clicks the LinkedIn button next to the item, the item will be posted to the lawyer’s LinkedIn page. If the lawyer clicks the email button, an email will open in Outlook preformatted with a subject line and the link to the item. In either case, the lawyer can personalize the message as he or she sees fit.
That’s it. The lawyer can share as few or as many items as he or she chooses. The app allows sharing only to LinkedIn at this point. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook may be added later.
Each lawyer’s shares are uniquely coded for tracking. The firm can track which items are being read, which items are most popular, and which lawyers are sharing the most items. This can all be displayed on a “leaderboard” showing the top sharers and top items.
“This let’s law firms become smarter about social media,” Dayton says. “They can see what everyone else is sharing, what’s doing well and what’s not doing well.”
As noted above, the app remains in beta. So far, five law firms are using the app as beta testers and Dayton hopes eventually to have 30 firms in the beta. Five AmLaw 100 firms have committed to join the beta, he said.
Dayton expects to release the commercial version of the app in October at the Legal Marketing Association technology conference. By then, he expects to have added other features, as well, while still aiming to keep the app simple in its purpose and functionality.
In my prior post, I expressed concern that the app does not actually help attorneys share content they find worthwhile. Rather, I said, “it makes the attorneys the conduits or redistributors of content someone else chooses to share.”
This remains a concern. The app does allow for more choice and personalization than I’d originally understood. That’s a good thing. In fact, as I understand it, an attorney can use it to share any item, not just the items suggested by the marketing department.
Still, I tremble at the thought of what could happen with this app. I imagine someone in the marketing department sending out a queue of, say, 10 articles. Suddenly, 500 or 800 or 1,000 lawyers all start sharing those same 10 articles. The lawyers think they’re doing their marketing duty, when in fact their collective action only undermines the cause.
I am sympathetic to the plight of the law firm marketer. It is not easy to motivate lawyers to participate in social media. If a tool can make it easier, I can see why it would be tempting. If law firms buy Dayton’s app – and I have no doubt they will – the challenge will be to use it moderately, selectively and with due deference to all the readers out there who don’t need anymore automated junk flowing through their social media streams.