Tag Archives: facebook

Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Mastering the Art of Social Media Policy

Daniel A. Schwartz, author of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog posted about one of the presentations from Legal Tech back in February 2010.  His post, Social Media Policies and Practices Developing as Companies Begin to Embrace It, gave some details from the panel discussion by the following in-house lawyers: Lesley Rosenthal (Lincoln Center), Ted Banks (former in-house at Kraft), and Mark Bisard (American Express).  Check out Daniels post here.
The panelists basically discussed how social media policy is becoming a more recognized form of policy for a company to have.  Ted Banks spoke up as say that employees can become disheartened and resentful of too restrictive a policy.  I left this comment in response:
I am most in agreement with Ted about social media presenting an opportunity to companies to engage their creative employees and let them flourish.  This requires clear guidelines that are flexible enough to allow for employees to be artists in what they do.
Seth Godin describes this really well in his new book Linchpin (if you haven’t checked it out yet, it is a must read).  His general point is that corporate work trains obedience, being just good enough, and waiting for orders.  To thrive in today’s world we need employees who are artists.  They contribute value, connect to customers in ways that are human, and can make a real impact that propels the company.  These people are linchpins.
Rigid guidelines choke the life out of such employees.  Demanding metrics over artistry mechanizes the processes, makes it sub par, and outsourceable.  It’s why companies like Apple and Google, the leaders in business, thrive and are adored.  Other companies say they want to be like Apple or Google, but this just means they want to be loved while producing mediocre results.
Any social media policy should be a guideline.  Your employees are smart enough to know what they should and shouldn’t do (if not – get new employees).  A good legal department balances the need of the company to have a policy in place they can point to if something goes wrong, with the need for employees to be free enough to create without fear of censorship, backlash, or worse.  It is a risky game, but one with great rewards if done right.

A social media policy is not some revolutionary mysterious thing.  It is a policy.  Likely a policy no one will read anyway.  Where companies experience mastery is when they do things that are risky, things that ordinary policy making would cry “NO! Don’t do that!”

Notice I said risky.  Not stupid.  As a member of the  legal department it is your job to protect the company, but realize that your employees are likely smarter than you think they are.  Also, they are more creative than most of us realize.

If your management creates a linchpin culture where employees take risk, reach for greatness, and share their gifts then your policies at best should be guidelines to help amplify that.  If you have an assembly line amassing Twitter followers than perhaps you want something more rigid that will meet the CYA standard.  All I’m saying is that in a world where everybody is on Facebook, the winners are those who can connect with customers in ways that automation cannot.


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Filed under Legal, social media

Law Firm Success in Social Media: Streaming Law Content?

One of my favorite destinations on the web, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, by social media master Kevin O’Keefe, posted about law firms streaming law content onto social media sites.  Check out Kevin’s post, where he takes the position that doing so is awkward and goes against social media etiquette.  In my comment to his post, I take the opposite approach, saying that I think it is perfectly acceptable for law firms to stream law content to social media sites, provided what they are streaming adds value to that target audience.  Different content will have different usefulness in different communities.

Here is my comment:

You definitely get social media Kevin!  I’m not sure I agree with you about there being no value in a law firm distributing content on social media sites.  While the party analogy is a good one to describe etiquette on social sites, generally, it under-describes the use of social media as a communication tool.

For law firms looking to build relationships on social sites like Facebook and Linkedin, sharing generously from the content they offer that can solve a need for a potential client on those sites is the essence of social media.  It is when they pepper these sites with any crap they have lying around that it becomes social spam.  To be successful in this space a law firm needs to know who they are reaching in which area and provide content that can solve a problem for that target client.

For example, streaming a pleading or court filing to a consumer facing Facebook group might not resonate as well as an FAQ or basics of practice area article.  More in depth materials might strike a cord with a group frequented by corporate counsel clients, where you are sharing resources such as forms or memorandums.  It all depends on the context and usefulness to your audience.

The tone in which it is shared can say a lot too.  Are you sharing this content so someone can adapt it for their practice or so a client can ask intelligent questions when they come to you for advice (or not need to come to you at all for a simple matter)?  Are you asking for feedback, trying to start a sharing wave (I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours), or stir up a conversation with something spicy like firm newsletter on a controversial topic?

Social media has no rules.  We are at the beginning of a revolution.  Think of what it would be like to have been around in 1463, just 5-years after Guttenberg invented the printing press as we know it.  At that time, people were just figuring out that printing existed let alone how to use it commercially and socially.  Law firms who jump into the social media game now, define the rules, and lead with useful participation will be in a great position to develop business in the new online world.

As Kevin asked, what do people think of this?  Unique questions to answer here: in what context do you think it best for a law firm to stream content from their site to a place like Facebook?  Should it be on the Law Firm’s group or fan page?  What about to a group about a certain subject matter, such as litigation?

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Florida Judges Must Unfriend Lawyers on Facebook

YOU want to be friends with ME???

This post comes after a week of discussion on this issue.  The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee gave an opinion to this ethics question submitted by a judge: can a judge add lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a social networking site, and permit such lawyers to add the judge as their “friend”?  The answer, a resounding NO.

It is an interesting ethics ruling b/c it intends to curb public perception that a lawyer who is friends with a judge on Facebook will be able to exert influence on that judge.  The committee determined that such activity conflicts with Ethics Cannons 2A and 2B of the Florida Judicial Code of Ethics, which read:

A. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

B. A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.

(I added emphasis) – you can read the Cannon’s original context on the Florida Supreme Court’s website.

The ethics committee’s advice to the judge’s question was as follows:

“the test for Canon 2B is not whether the judge intends to convey the impression that another person is in a position to influence the judge, but rather whether the message conveyed to others, as viewed by the recipient, conveys the impression that someone is in a special position to influence the judge.  Viewed in this way, the Committee concludes that identifying lawyers who may appear before a judge as “friends” on a social networking site, if that relationship is disclosed to anyone other than the judge by virtue of the information being available for viewing on the internet, violates Canon 2(B).”

Basically, they are saying that people will get the wrong idea if they see lawyers in a judge’s friend list, and so they suggest that judges do not be-friend lawyers on the site.  They did not go so far as to say judges can’t have any friends on the site, just lawyers (the minority opinion called for broader bans).  We will be discussing this and other ethics issues during our late-January 2010 theme on Martindale-Hubbell Connected, Navigating the Ethical Pitfalls of Social Media.

There is a great summary of the issues on the Legal Profession Blog.

So what do others think about this ruling?  Do you think that a lawyer on a judge’s “friends list” can influence that judge in their ruling?  Does a judge belong on Facebook at all?  What about sites like Martindale-Hubbell Connected that consist mostly of legal professionals who might not have the same impression as the general public?  Is there a difference?


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Aardvark – Social Media Q&A (this ain’t your sister’s Magic 8-Ball)

Remember the ’80’s?  Of course you do: big hair, the start of MTV, Coke v. Pepsi, Back to the Future, and glam rock (even if you didn’t live through these wonderful times you can “relive” them with I Love the ’80’s).  One of the things I fondly remember was my sister’s Magic 8-ball, a little toy invented by the son of a clairvoyant in 1946, which made a big retro-come back in the ’80’s.  This was a plastic 8-ball filled with water with a little window at the top.  You would ask the 8-Ball a question, shake it up, and then see which sagely phrase came through on a blue icosahedral die (20-sides) inside.  It had phrases like, “As I see it, yes,” “Better not tell you now,”and “Outlook not so good.”  We made lots of decisions as kids based on what the 8-Ball said.

In today’s world, 20-vague answers just won’t do.  The social media and information overload of 2010 requires millions of answers to satisfy our hive mind.  My newest mobile obsession is a little social Q&A network called Aardvark.  It works like this:

  1. Create an Aardvark Account
  2. Ask questions about anything
  3. Answer questions that the system sends you based on your profile data

It’s that simple.  You can get into the business of “friending” people, but even as a lone-wolf on the network you can receive answer requests and ask anything (I only have one friend on there so far – hi Wade – but would love more: go join!).  Also, registration links Aardvark to your Facebook profile, so details can be filled in from your existing profile of what you may want to answer.  You can add other tags as well so that the system will send you additional topics  as well.
This is a far cry from shaking the 8-ball.  It gets addicting answering questions – you become an expert in everything!  Just to give you some examples of interesting questions I have answered in the past week (click the links to see my answers):

  • Hobby – “I’ve been bored lately.  Does anyone have some good hobby ideas to start up?”
  • Witness – “How do you cope with things as you witness your parent getting older and time getting shorter over the years..?”
  • DJ Qilk and Gift of Gab – “I am trying to contact the artists DJ Quik and Gift Of Gab to request to use a song for background music for a couple of storyboards. This is nothing that I won’t be selling just storyboards. I can’t seem to find an email address any where. Can anyone advise?”

As you can see from the list above, Aardvark keeps your history of questions asked and answered along with links.  It also gives you the option of posting the thread to Twitter, Facebook, or keeping it private.  Still not satisfied?  There is an Aardvark mobile app for iPhone that lets you ask and answer on the go.  You can also receive text messages or emails when activity happens in your Aardvark profile.

And now for my constructive feedback:

  • Sometimes Aardvark tells you it is sleeping (huh?) and doesn’t send out your questions or let you answer.  I am not sure if this means a human being has to push all those messages through?  Their FAQ says that sometimes the system is unavailable b/c the team is making upgrades, but in the 1-week of my being a Varker it has been down quite a bit.
  • The mobile app can be a bit … here it comes (the corporate speak) “kludgy” – sometimes repeatedly asking for my login credentials and then not working.
  • Profile – while I love the simplicity it is a bit oversimplified.  I’d like to be able to have some other data populate in the main profile field as well (like links to this blog!).

Overall, I think Aardvark brings something novel to the SM scene.  More than just another network it creates a personal knowledge base and facilitates meeting new people.  Yes – Linkedin has a Q&A function, but there is just something so streamlined about Aardvark’s approach that makes me want to engage.  Should this community hit a critical mass and do a good job at being a ready-made API for other community sites (something it seems to be doing well) then it can really be something else.  Will it tell you your future like a Magic 8-ball?  I don’t know: why don’t you try asking it?

What are your thoughts about Social Media Q&A?  Is it useful?  Are you an asker or an answerer?

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Facebook Faux Pas Post

Gilad at the gated entrance of our gorgeous short term rental

Last week I made a Facebook boo boo, or Faux Pas if you will, and I have been hearing about it from friends and family since then.  Don’t let it happen to you!  Here’s the story.

We were on “vacation,” having been forcefully sent out of our apartment so plumbers could fix septic issues (in the interim they ripped up our entire floor, changed all the piping, and got concrete dust on EVERYTHING).  In any case, we went to this fantastic restaurant in Beit Shemesh (I won’t name it here b/c I love that place and it is unfortunate what happened next).  Shana (my daughter)  is highly allergic to dairy.  The waitress, who only spoke Hebrew and thought Shana was adorable, asked if she could give her a piece of chocolate.  We explained in Hebrew, three times, that Shana can’t have ANY dairy b/c she is allergic.  The waitress assured us  that it was semi-sweet chocolate with no dairy.  Shana proceeded to eat the chocolate and seemed very happy (usually she reacts to dairy right away with hives and itching, but none of that happened here).

After a 20-minute drive back to our country cottage, Shana finished the chocolate.  When we got inside she was having trouble breathing.  She began to itch all over and started to swell up in the face with discoloration.  In a panic we all jumped back into the car and I drove like a true Israeli (crazy for those who have never driven here) back to Beit Shemesh to the medical clinic there.  Shana was experiencing toxic shock.  I held her down while she thrashed and screamed so they could stick an IV in her arm.  Then they rushed her to a big hospital in Jerusalem by ambulance.  My wife went with her and I took our 10-month old, Gilad back to the cottage to pack our things.  We were going back to Jerusalem to spend the night with Shana.

Side Bar: that same day my landlady called to inform us the plumbers would need an additional 10-days.  She set us up in a short term rental right down the street from our apartment (gorgeous place – see the photo) and gave us her best for Shana.  Thanks Rachel – you were awesome through this whole mess.  Back to the story …

Gilad and I packed in a frenzy (well, I packed; he fell asleep).  We then went home (to the gorgeous short term apartment), I gave him dinner, and put him to sleep.  Shana would need to stay the night in the hospital b/c on the way to the hospital, the ambulance driver miscalculated the conversion of her weight from pounds to kilos and gave her too much adrenaline and steroids.  At about 12am a friend came over to stay with Gilad, while I went to the hospital to relieve Esther (thanks Alf!).

Shana in hospital at 2am (yes that is a sticker on her forehead)

When I finally got Shana to bed (at 2:30am) for some unknown reason I decided to check Facebook on my iPhone.  We hadn’t had a phone in our cottage and been somewhat incommunicado with family and friends that week.  After reading and replying to a few wall posts by friends, I typed this status update: “Sitting beside Shana’s hospital bed at 2:45am thanking G-d she’ll be alright.  Finally got her to sleep an hour ago.”  This would have been a completely fine update had anyone, including our parents, known what was going on.  Not to mention the time difference in Jerusalem and NY put them at about 7:45pm, prime time for Facebook checking.

My cousin called my aunt asking what had happened to Shana.  My aunt called my mom.  My mom didn’t know, but my in laws had some idea b/c they had called Esther on her Jerusalem phone with a calling card earlier in the day, but hadn’t told my parents, and so on.  The faux pas post generated 16 comments and many phone calls from concerned friends asking what happened.  By the next day we started damage control by posting on Facebook what had happened.  Also we got on the phone to family to tell them too.  By Monday we were still getting calls, and my wife had to apologize many times for my lapse in judgment.  I eventually posted: “Sorry to cause such a stir with this post – guess that’s what 2:45 am in the hospital with only an Israeli iPhone will do to you. Thanks for all your warm wishes. She’s fine now and bein her beautiful self.”

This calls to attention some Facebook etiquette.  Don’t post alarming things without giving family and friends context first (duh!).  It also raises an interesting point about communication: with real-time network updates at our fingertips the reach and effect our posts can have is magnified, especially if your profiles have many connections on them.  While network posts can save time informing many people at once about news, in my case it wasted time as I had to speak to many different people personally to assure them everything was okay.  Even posting the network update that she was okay, people wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.  I guess the same thing can be true of good news, a wedding, birthday, promotion, etc. that if you post on your network you’ll have a lot of people vying for your attention to congratulate you, but there was something that just stuck with this latest incident.  We all know that you should be careful what you post, but the hospital episode made this rule of network engagement so much clearer for me.

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Death and Facebook

An old friend died last week.  The circumstances of his death are still not clear: he was in good health, lived alone, and was getting ready to celebrate his 35th birthday that same week.  We hadn’t really hung out in a few years, having gone our separate ways in life, but we’d see each other on Facebook, trade a chat every now and then, and keep generally informed of each others’ life milestones.  When my father told me the terrible news I was shocked; wanting to get a sense of what was happening in his life prior to his death I went to his Facebook page.

His November updates all seemed positive.  My friend had been a survivor of childhood cancer and possessed a courage that I always admired him for.  On November 10th he posted the status update: “22 years ago this Nov. was my last chemo-therapy treatment.  I have been Cancer free since then; Life is good ♥.”  Prior to that, in response to someone asking him how things were going he said, “Life is good – Had a great day so far and it’s not over yet- ♥ this life.”  The final update he posted, just 6-days before his birthday on November 14th, went as follows: “Going to be having a Tattoo party soon at my home.  My two friends are going to come here and Ink people if you want to get something let me know asap and we will work something out.  These are the people that have worked on me so to see their work look at my photos :-)”.  That was the last Facebook update he ever made.  Police found him in his apartment on November 21st.  The unofficial report, through the grapevine of concerned friends, said that he had been dead for at least four to five days before being found, they did not know the cause of death, and an investigation would be conducted.

Looking at his Facebook page now is a surreal experience.  On his birthday he was already dead.  No one knew that fact until the next day.  Earlier in the week, on his Wall, there was a string of posts wishing him happy birthday, (I remember getting similar birthday posts from “friends” on Facebook, some of whom I hadn’t seen or spoke to in years, wishing me well – part of Facebook etiquette, I guess).  After about 20 or so birthday wishes, the RIP messages began, many more than the birthday wishes.

People posted quick messages like, “RIP brother, you will be missed,” multimedia messages with links to YouTube videos of Pearl Jam’s “Black” or other appropriate songs he would have liked, and some more personal notes, (I have yet to post my note).  What strikes me about this aspect of the tragedy is how we as people are finding new ways to grieve, digitally.  The Facebook Wall has become the virtual wake, if you will, where those of us not local enough or not close enough to be there in person can express our sadness and love to the departed.

When a user dies on Facebook, that persons profile can become “memorialized” by notifying Facebook about the user’s death.  Here is what Facebook says about a memorialized profile:

When a user passes away, we memorialize their account to protect their privacy. Memorializing an account removes certain sensitive information (e.g., status updates and contact information) and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance. Memorializing an account also prevents all login access to it.

The process for reporting a death to Facebook is as follows:

Please report this information here so that we can memorialize this person’s account. Memorializing the account removes certain more sensitive information like status updates and restricts profile access to confirmed friends only. Please note that in order to protect the privacy of the deceased user, we cannot provide login information for the account to anyone. We do honor requests from close family members to close the account completely.

These mechanisms are in place to preserve the integrity of the person’s profile and provide the emotional outlet for friends and family.  Someone must have worked with Facebook to clean up my friend’s account b/c many of the birthday messages are now gone.  I’m kind of glad.  It was unsettling to see that string of messages knowing they were posted after the fact.  I’m also glad that I can now go leave my parting words for my friend in the hope that perhaps they’ll bring a little comfort, comfort to those looking at his profile, family, friends, whoever.  Also, I hope this blog post serves as a source of information about handling a death on Facebook and a tribute to my friend.  His legacy of courage and love of life will always live on through those who knew him.

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“Should I Defriend Dad on Facebook?”

My cellphone rang at 10:10am on Friday morning.  I had just set up to work from home, and was surprised to see it was my sister calling.  She usually doesn’t phone me during work so  I wondered, with a little trepidation, whether something was wrong. . .

“What’s up with Dad on Facebook?” she asked.  I breathed a bit of relief that it was nothing serious; I knew about Dad on Facebook b/c I had put Mom up on it a few weeks prior.  The theory was that she could view current photos of our kids without us having to go through the hassle of printing, burning, or remembering to email them.  Dad joined last week.  Not only that, Dad and I had our first ever Skype video call, a first for me, which meant Dad was following his 21st Century digital boy into the communication evolution (“communivolution”) that technology affords us.  He had unleashed the power of anytime connection & online social networking – access to hundreds of our childhood playmates and prime opportunities to be the “embarrassing dad,” (something I am looking forward to doing to my own kids in 8 to 10 year as they reach the age of parental mortification).

“Why,” I asked, “what is he doing?” playing the innocent little brother.  I knew what she meant.  Dad can have an offbeat sense of humor, and here I was giving him a digital stage.

“I don’t know,” she said, “he’s posting all kinds of stuff; clogging my wall, friending my friends, and when you don’t answer his posts he follows up asking like ‘why don’t u like me’.  It’s just weird.”

I have debated with many GenXers, GenYers, and Millenials over whether parents on Facebook is a good thing, and conclude that it depends: the older the generation the less the hesitation to have parents on their social networks.  Take Wonder Woman for example – she is in her mid-twenties and clearly a senior member of the Millenials, yet cringes at the thought of her mother joining FB despite the great relationship they have in meatworld.  I, on the other hand, am 7-years her senior, a card carrying member of the GenY, and don’t really have such an aversion to my parents posting profiles up on FB.  Perhaps the closer we come to being embarrassing parents, the less we mind having our own embarrassing parents in our online social networks?

I tried to comfort my sister: “He’s just a little bored,” I said, “and Facebook is really just a novelty for him right now.  He’s not used to this type of communication.”

She thought about it and said, “no, your right.  I remember my first week on Facebook, I didn’t get ANYTHING done.  I was on it all the time.  Now, I barely even look at it.”

“If it bothers you so much it may be worth saying something to him,” I said.  “Or you could always block him.”

She laughed: “should I defriend Dad on Facebook?”

“No,” I said, laughing with her, “but it may be worth a talk.”  With that we moved onto other subjects, but I had recognized a blog post once I saw it.  The idea of defriending, blocking, or even preventing our parents from joining online social networks seems cold, but is this really just the setting of healthy virtual boundaries?  Perhaps we need a code of social online conduct for parents – a guide for how to not embarrass your adult children on Facebook.  But then again, aren’t all rules made just to be broken?  Such a code may just give parents more ideas for better tactics.  And what would be the fun in parenting if your kids could grow out of parental chagrin or hide from it online?


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