Monday 20 February 2012

International Bar Association Survey on the Impact of Social Networking on the Legal Profession

The IBA has published the results of a major survey into attitudes towards various aspects of social media. It surveyed member bar organisations around the globe, and reports the findings here. My thanks to Randy Perkins for bringing this to my attention.

Most of the findings are in fact in line with what one might expect, and indeed are similar to opinions expressed in other professions, however the following findings from the summary are of note:

Photo by James Cridland
Over 85 per cent of respondents deemed it acceptable for lawyers to access and use the information found on the online social networking profiles of the parties in a case, which forms part of the public domain, as evidence in proceedings.

73% felt it is acceptable for legal employers to consider the information found on online social networking profiles in evaluating potential work candidates.

These opinons agree with those generally held, i.e. that if you make information about yourself freely available via the web and social media, you shouldn't be surprised if someone uses it to find out more about you - for any reason.

Nearly 95 per cent of respondents from jurisdictions containing a jury system thought that, in addition to routine instructions, jurors should receive specific instructions limiting their online communications and use of online social networking sites.

There have been some high profile cases recently where jurors have used social media and other online tools inappropriately.

85 per cent of respondents thought that law students should be informed by their law schools as to the potential risks and disadvantages associated with the use of online social networking within the legal profession.

80 per cent of respondents stated that there is a need for ethical/professional codes and standards to be adapted to online social interactions affecting the legal profession and practice, as they cannot be adequately applied in their current form.

I can't help but feel that this approach will be increasingly adopted by many professions with regards to their attitudes towards social media, i.e. being a standard aspect of professional training and also forming part of professional codes of conduct.

Over 75 per cent of respondents considered the advantages of online social networking to outweigh its disadvantages.

The IBA plans to launch a follow-up project in March 2012.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Why Checking your Profile is Important

Don't let poor spelling, grammar or unexpected text truncation damage your social media presence.

"Dave and I worked together on implementing a new system, Dave on the customer tea...". This turned out to be an unfortunate summary, as Dave actually worked on the "customer team and was hugely instrumental in the success of the project".

I saw this recently on LinkedIn. We use our web sites, blogs and profiles on social media sites to promote ourselves, our businesses and the things we do. Yet the number one problem I see in all these things - poor accuracy of textual information - can be both the most damaging and the easiest to fix.

Spelling seems to be a problem, which is hugely surprising as pretty much all the content entered on the web is via a browser, and spell checking should be pretty much the norm. I'm typing this using Firefox, and anything with dubious spelling is underlined in red, as it would be if I were typing a letter in Word. So there really is no excuse for poor spelling on your LinkedIn profile, or that latest marketing Tweet.

Grammar can be dealt with similarly, but there is of course a much harder issue of using the wrong words in the wrong places - my favourites being "there" and "their" and of course "your" and "you're". You can only get round these by taking the time after you've completed your typing to review what you've entered, and make sure it's correct. If you've any doubts, or the content is really important, perhaps a new product launch page on your web site, get it proofread, either by a professional or by a colleague with a keen eye.

Reviewing your work is important for another reason, it gives you a chance to put yourself in the position of the reader and make sure that the message appears in the way that you intended. This is especially important for those sites which take long pieces of text and truncate them to create a summary, with a hyperlink to "click for more". That truncation can appear in exactly the wrong place, not only reducing the impact of the text, but sometimes reversing it completely, as in the example above.

Here are some other examples I've seen recently:

A profile of a marketing professional where the summary stressed their focus on brand management, consistency and attention to detail, before ending with "you're cup is always full".

There was also the profile written by the "apllication developer".

I also recently saw a competition web site where the names of two brand products - which were the prizes - were spelt incorrectly.

Why is this important? Well, our presence on the web shows our potential clients what we can do for them, and the precision with which we can do it. They will expect us to produce work which represents their brand and business objectives accurately and consistently. If we can't do that for our own brand, then why will they trust us with theirs?

Friday 3 February 2012

Increasing Interest in Pinterest

Yesterday I linked to an article about using Pinterest to promote your business. This was the latest in a series of references I'd seen on social media web sites and blogs. Today there are more. When you see one person writing about a social media web site it's usually interesting in itself. When you see more than one writing about the same site, it becomes more significant. When you see more than one writing about the same site on the same day it's probably time to sit up and take notice.

Pinterest is, in its own words, "an online pinboard. Organize and share things you love." Go to the home page now. Find something interesting. Click on it. You'll see quickly how it works. The image appears, with comments, along with information about who pinned it, where they got it from (for example, I clicked on a recipe photograph and it took me to the recipe page on the author's blog), and what board it was pinned to. Other users can also "like" and "repin" to other boards.

Further Reading

For more information, read these blog posts from ViralBlog and Jeff Bullas. There are lots of statistics and research results in this post on SocialMouths.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Extract Data from your LinkedIn Network

Some data extraction experiments with LinkedIn reveal the vast majority of my network is not very active.

As part of this investigation, I wrote some code to retrieve and process network updates from the LinkedIn database, which can be retrieved in totality or by type. I concentrated on "shares" as these are a good indicator of someone's activity - the other options I'll investigate later.

I chose to write the results to CSV files - but an obvious improvement is to write them to a database - and then imported into to produce the following summary graphic:

Only 9% of my network shared an update in January 2012, something which we might regard as "active", as opposed to adding new connections, which we might regard as "passive". A breakdown of those 9% shows that as ever, there are a small number of "leaders" who are regularly active, and quite a large "tail" who update very infrequently.

Which of these approaches stands more chance of reaching out to your existing and potential customers within your network?

Technical Notes

The LinkedIn API restricts the volume of information returned and the number of calls which can be made for performance reasons. The next step is to read more data, but more frequently, and accumulate it for further analysis.

I used LinkedIn-J, a Java library for accessing the LinkedIn API, to extract data from my LinkedIn network. I won't cover the specifics of using the API, as these are covered much better elsewhere but the basic steps are as follows:

  • Register your application with LinkedIn, and get your API keys
  • Log in to LinkedIn and obtain authentication tokens for your application to allow it to access your data
  • Write some Java code to call the API, read and process the results

Privacy Options

Note you will be unable to retrieve full details for any of your connections who have elected not to share  their data with third party applications.