I have to admit I was taken aback by the premise of ClearView Social, the new app being developed by social marketing consultant Adrian Dayton. Targeted at medium and large firms, the app “helps attorneys more easily share content with their professional networks through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms,” according to the press release last February.

That sounds harmless enough. But further reading reveals more about what the app does:

ClearView Social allows one person in the firm – for example, a designated marketer – to create a queue of content to be shared in an email template. When attorneys receive the email, they can click a link, which launches the application for sharing the content via various social media platforms, including LinkedIn and Twitter, which are integrated in the tool. This allows attorneys to share on those networks without leaving ClearView Social. It’s as easy as responding to an email.

So the app doesn’t actually help attorneys share content they find worthwhile. Rather, it makes the attorneys the conduits or redistributors of content someone else chooses to share.

As I understand it, some person in the firm’s marketing department lines up a bunch of articles — no doubt articles lauding the firm — and sends them out to the firm’s attorneys. The attorneys scan the list of articles and then click a button next to each one they want to share. Voila, their Twitter or LinkedIn feeds get a bunch of stuff that the marketing department thought would be good to share. The attorney doesn’t even have to read the article before sharing it. With a good-sized firm, it is conceivable that the same articles would get sent out over hundreds of social-media feeds.

Upon learning of this, it struck me as a mindless approach to social media. Then I realized that one of ClearView’s early users had already described it precisely that way. Right there on the ClearView site is a big quote from a big partner at a big firm:

ClearView Social is a no-brainer, it makes it so easy for me to share. All I have to do is open the email and click a button.

No thought required. No need for engagement. No time wasted reading the article. Just press a button and let the app and your marketing department do all the work. This isn’t sharing — it is pseudo sharing. The lawyer is not a contributor or participant, but merely a conduit.

Somewhere along the line, I got the apparently crazy idea that if there is value to be gained through social media, it will come only through engagement and conversations. But in the rush to exploit social media as marketing tools, way too many users have gone from engaging with social media to spamming it — to sending out as much stuff as they can as often as they can.

In defense of Adrian and his app, they didn’t invent social media spam or introduce it to the legal market. It’s already flooding my social-media feeds. Ghost-written posts. Scheduled posts. Automatic feeds. Believe me, law firms are already doing this through any number of applications. Adrian strikes me as an enterprising guy and he is just trying to give marketers an easier way to do what they already do.

One of the most conspicuous examples these days is the scheduled tweet. You know those people who somehow manage to tweet at all hours of the day and night, never needing to sleep or work. I am embarrassed for them sometimes, when their incongruous pre-scheduled tweets arrive, oblivious to what people are actually discussing.

I have seen days when every sentient being on Twitter is caught up with a major news event or international tragedy, when every tweet is discussing or reacting to the matter at hand. In the midst of this will come one of those pre-scheduled tweets, touting some silly article or webinar on 10 ways to do something trivial, making the tweeter seem either ignorant or uncaring.

My friend Kevin O’Keefe, explaining, “Maybe I am old school,” recently posted this:

I just believe a lawyer ought to look at social networking and social media as relationship and reputation accelerators, not as something to get your prospective clients to leave to come to your website.

Well, I guess I’m old school too. If hundreds upon hundreds of lawyers start using their social media feeds as nothing more than spam dumps, flooding them with links not because they have value, but because their marketing department told them to, then that will most certainly smother all the life out of social media. There will be no value left for them or for the rest of us.

ClearView was originally due to be out last month, but Adrian recently posted that it has been delayed and is now slated to come out later this summer. Until then, some of you would be well advised to learn to how to share on your own. Who knows, you might just find that you engage with others and, as O’Keefe suggests, accelerate a relationship or two.

  • I’d have to agree with you there – Jay Bear, who is one of the smarter / no hype marketing folks talks a lot about how social media isn’t really for lead generation, it’s for advocacy and to reinforce existing relationships. I think that’s pretty accurate, but it takes time and there are a lot of people who want the quick return.

  • Anna

    Agree with Your analysis Bob, “spam dumps” in social media is not for Me! Prefer Authentic posts on
    social media! Sharing with Authenticity equals Caring!!

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  • I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of my software, my response: http://adriandayton.com/2014/05/im-under-attack-for-making-sharing-too-easy/

  • Hey Bob – This is an interesting perspective and made me think, but I come back to this conclusion: we’re talking about LinkedIn, not Mayberry RFD. You make this sound like the end of a beautiful era where social media was an idyllic community where smart lawyers just hung out and exchanged ideas and built powerful relationships with each. By and large, lawyers are on social media but they aren’t sharing. (I know this because I work with 100s of lawyers around the country every year on this issue.) And every study of in-house counsel documents that In-house lawyers lurk, they don’t engage. They are lurking to get good information and this tool increases the chances they’ll get what they’re looking for. Law firms don’t create spam, they create good content and the venues where we are encouraging sharing are not the backyard fence — they are places where in-house lawyers come to get the information they need.
    Full disclosure, I have worked on Adrian’s software, but that isn’t what influences my opinion in this instance. I am influenced by how difficult it is to get lawyers to share even their own content that they have spent hours creating. The tool isn’t going to transform sharing-averse lawyers into spammers, but it might get some of them to share valuable content that clients are looking for.

    • I can see the value of this if lawyers use it thoughtfully. I fear, however, that the lawyers who would be most likely to use an app such as this are those who are not already actively engaging in social media. They would use the app because someone in their marketing department is telling them that they should be using social media. Out of this sense of obligation, and seeing it all as a bit of nuisance, they would be tempted to use the app somewhat automatically, believing that simply by sending stuff out into their stream they have done their duty.

      I do not mean to suggest that law firm content is spam. But it becomes spam if hundreds of lawyers at the firm start sending out the same content. And it is even worse if they are sending out nothing but that content, adding nothing from other sources or even just commenting on others’ posts. The app, as I understand it, will only push content, and only content selected by some marketer or administrator. A good article shared thoughtfully is not spam. The same article shared automatically hundreds of times over becomes spam.

      • It’s either spam, or its viral! (I say that facetiously.) I understand what you are saying — are we really just blasting our message at each other over and over? My belief is that lawyers will remain the overly cautious creatures that they are, but some of them will become more aware of firm authored content and may see fit to share it now and again.
        Given the response this software has had (positive), I guess we’ll see.

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