Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Nov 01, 2012 07:10 am CDT
Now that Facebook has hit 1 billion users and the term facebook has become a verb, the world’s biggest social networking platform has become difficult for lawyers to ignore. Many lawyers feel pressure from friends, family and marketing consultants to use it. Yet they struggle with quantifying the value of Facebook, and some can’t picture what they would be doing on the site.
Although this hesitation is reasonable, Facebook has become the best way for people to keep in touch and communicate with those they care about most. Let’s assume that you won’t be able to resist joining Facebook much longer (or have already reluctantly joined), but don’t really understand what you’ve gotten into. What do you need to know?
Many lawyers are already part of LinkedIn, considered a professional social-networking tool. Where LinkedIn is professional in its focus (profiles and connections), Facebook has a personal focus (“friending,” pictures, “likes”) and is very informal.
The traditional approach for early-adopting lawyers was to use LinkedIn as a professional presence and Facebook as a personal presence. While that separation is no longer necessary, it’s not a bad mindset to adopt: Start with a limited number of close friends and family on Facebook, and do not “friend” colleagues and clients.
However, you’ll probably find that the lines start to blur.
Carefully consider what you want to accomplish with your Facebook presence. If you want to use Facebook for marketing or other practice-related purposes, you’ll probably want to focus on the pages it allows you to create for businesses. If you can’t see the business value of a Facebook account, use it just for personal purposes.
Here are four tips to get you off to a good start, improve your current experience or give you greater comfort in using Facebook:
1. Visit your settings. Next to your name in the blue navigation bar atop your Facebook homepage, you’ll see a small inverted triangle. Click on it and the dropdown menu will include items for account and privacy settings. There you’ll find a lot of granular controls to improve your privacy and security.
2. Create friend lists. A feature called Friends allows you to organize your contacts into groups, so you can fine-tune who can see what and send information to specific lists.
3. Consider specialized pages. Investigate Facebook Pages for businesses to create law firm or practice pages with a professional presence.
4. Remember ethics. Lawyers have already done some embarrassing things on Facebook. Don’t be one of them. The ethical rules of the real world still apply.
If you aren’t already on Facebook, you’ll probably end up there soon. Be a smart user. You have many options; there’s not one way that all lawyers must use. Find ways to make Facebook work for you.
Last updated Oct. 29 to note that Facebook has surpassed 1 billion users.