Who Owns Marketeering Hashtags On Twitter? NO NOT U.

Law Practice

Yesterday was the 2012 Legal Marketing Technology Conference, where lawyers and people who market marketeering to lawyers gather to discuss how technology can get you more clients. What do you do to provide competent services after Twitter and Google+ and guest blog posts have brought in those clients? I'm sure you'll work it out somehow. The important thing is that you landed the client!

The happy marketeers used the hashtag #lmatech on Twitter to gush about the conference. Here the marketeeers ran into something they did not anticipate or like: when you use a hashtag on Twitter, you don't control how others use it. Others might use it to dissent from, and even ridicule, your message. Much of the 2012 silly season has involved one presidential campaign launching a hashtag and the opposing campaign overwhelming the hashtag with satire. That's the marketplace of ideas for you — not the marketplace that legal marketeers are enthused about.

So when the marketeers began tweeting with #lmatech, dissenters took note and expressed themselves. Chief among these were Scott Greenfield (tweeting here) and Brian Tannebaum (tweeting here.) Scott and Brian spend a lot of their time pointing out that the legal marketing emperor has no clothes — that the modern legal marketing model is run by people with extremely limited experience in actually providing competent services to clients, and focuses on an insipid leverage-the-internet model rather than a focus-on-the-client model. This does not endear them to marketeers.

So when Scott and Brian began tweeting on the #lmatech hashtag, marketeers got angry. Some got more angry than others. For instance:

That's Larry Bodine, who like many marketeers has a tragic irony deficit: he spammed that suggestion to nine people.

Larry Bodine is Editor-in-Chief at Lawyers.com. The slogan of Lawyers.com is "Your Legal Solution Starts Here" — which is completely true, so long as your problem is "how can I get more phone calls from crazy people who want to sue someone to get the CIA microchip out of their head?" Lawyers.com, and the directories like it, rely upon this premise: lawyers should market themselves by being in searchable directories, even though no responsible or ethical lawyer would ever recommend that a client pick a lawyer out of a directory if they could possibly avoid it. Regrettably, some old-school lawyers (including in-house counsel) still expect to see you in such directories, an expectation cultivated when they were published in weighty paper tomes, and so most lawyers pony up the money to be there.

(Lawyers.com is part of the Martindale-Hubbell-Lexis-Nexis family of companies, which also lend their name to junk merchants spamming me with offers to buy a $150 plaque commemorating the three-year-old 15th anniversary of my passing the bar. Because clients!)

Larry Bodine thinks that the marketeering hashtag #lmatech belongs to marketeers who will use it to promote a unified front. But you can't stop the signal, Larry. Though abuse of Twitter's spam reporting system is rampant amongst censorious tools who would like to suppress messages they don't like, ultimately the internet is too big and has too many redundant avenues of communication. Streisand Effect, meet Larry Bodine. Larry Bodine, meet the Streisand Effect. I think you guys are going to have a lot to talk about.

Lawyers like Scott and Brian will keep criticizing the modern legal marketeers and their focus on Big Mac vs. Whopper marketing instead of service-to-clients marketing. They have an enormous amount of credibility doing so, because they both produce a lot of substantive blog content that's actually meaningful and helpful to lawyers and consumers, and not pap crassly calculated to draw eyeballs. (Although their content does suffer from a regrettable lack of ponies or the phrase "snort my taint.") People like Larry Bodine will fail to suppress that message, and will fail to control hashtags. But Larry's effort demonstrates something important: free expression on the internet is targeted not just by governments, but by marketeers who want the internet to be a place for uncontradicted commercial messaging.

Edited to add: Larry Bodine is doubling down.

In terms of "nothing else to do," I invite you to compare the web content of Mr. Bodine with the web content of Brian, and make up your own mind.

Edited again: A somewhat different take.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

34 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Squillo  •  Oct 12, 2012 @7:31 am

    Could someone conceivably trademark a Twitter hashtag?

    (Note to censorious tools: this is not a suggestion. Oh, and snort my taintTM.)

  2. ageorgialawyer  •  Oct 12, 2012 @7:48 am

    I thought about this very premise when I sent along a tweet or two with #LMATech last night.

    The good and bad of twitter is the similarity to a real conversation – which in real life involves interruptions, shout downs, engagement. It's a conversation, not a monologue.

    About a year or two ago some tech conference was putting up tweets on a screen while speakers gave their speeches. I thought some of the tweets were BS, and I said so.

    Little did I know – since I was sitting in a courthouse waiting my turn – that the tweets were live – until I started getting messages about my 'nastiness.'

    Well, if you don't want the conversation to be heard, go private with it. But hey, that defeats the purpose of posting on twitter, doesn't it?

    So for those who don't wanted the unsolicited engagement, don't use a hashtag, OR get a tougher skin, or just don't use twitter.

  3. PhilG  •  Oct 12, 2012 @8:22 am

    Am I part of the problem if "TANNEBAUM AWESOME LAW" totally makes me want to hire him?

  4. mojo  •  Oct 12, 2012 @8:44 am

    "You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything's gotta go somewhere, and I'm everywhere."

  5. Antonin I. Pribetic  •  Oct 12, 2012 @8:50 am

    Even the Dos Equis guy is on top of this: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3rb8am/

  6. Reuven  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:14 am

    Thanks! I'm going to start adding #lmatech to every NFSW tweet I make from now on. Because clients!

  7. Laura Wallace  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:17 am

    you're being biased and it hurts the creditability of this article. as far as comparing content between Larry and Brian, you should link to Larry's author page on Lawyers.com and not an old YouTube video: http://blogs.lawyers.com/author/larry-bodine/

  8. TJIC  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:19 am

    "If someone sending a tweet disrupts your conference, you get better conference planners" LOL!

  9. TJIC  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:19 am

    @ageorgialawyer:

    > So for those who don't wanted the unsolicited engagement, don't use a hashtag,

    NOW he tells me.

  10. Jordan Rushie  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:32 am

    BAWWWW PEOPLE AREN'T SAYING STUFF I AGREE WITH BAWWWWWW

  11. Josh Brody  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:51 am

    i was embarrassed to attend this conference. who would have thought that a bunch of legal marketers and lawyers would turn into a bunch of heckling babies.

  12. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 12, 2012 @10:02 am

    Ken: I feel betrayed. Where is the "From Taint To Twatwaffle: Catching the General Counsel's Eye With Vivid Blog Language" podcast!??!?!

    You do realize that promising podcasts but not delivering is a big social media no-no…

  13. Beth  •  Oct 12, 2012 @10:14 am

    I find it especially amusing that Mr. Bodine misspelled the name of the account he was telling people to report as spam. By adding an extra "n" he seems to have turned his #lmatech mob on a museum curator in Akron.

  14. Joe Pullen  •  Oct 12, 2012 @10:29 am

    @LauraWallace. Do you work for Larry or for Lawyers.com?

  15. ageorgialawyer  •  Oct 12, 2012 @10:55 am

    @laurawallace. Creditability?

    So being a lawyer I took the time to read what "spam" really is, and here is what twitter has to say about it:

    https://support.twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules#

    There are 20 factors that would be deemed spam
    (hey twitter, # them as opposed to using that pesky dot thing)

    Larry and others, point me to what might be spam from Brian TannENbaum … I don't see "being mean" or "hitting you between the hashtags" as spam.

    Better yet, let's see what results from you running to the Twitter principal. Has BT's account been suspended? Others?

    I did find a hashtag that might be a better fit for those complaining about #LMATech being hijacked:

    #CryBaby

  16. Grandy  •  Oct 12, 2012 @11:48 am

    The guy at the legal marketing conference called out someone for not having anything better to do?

    Ya'll who is without sin. . .

  17. MikeK  •  Oct 12, 2012 @12:12 pm

    OK, but whoever turned the hashtag into "LMAOTech" (see WAlbenzi's tweet) is a genius

  18. Joe Pullen  •  Oct 12, 2012 @1:06 pm

    Every once in a while someone says something exactly the way you wish you had. Today that was ageorgialawyer • Oct 12, 2012 @10:55 am

  19. ElSuerte  •  Oct 12, 2012 @2:09 pm

    Welcome to the Twitter Gulag! I was hoping that twitter had made improvements to their reporting system to prevent this kind of abuse.

    It's refreshing to see somebody stand up for free speech as a civil value, not just a law.

  20. Bill  •  Oct 12, 2012 @4:37 pm

    I created a few TwitterBots for a client of mine (before anyone goes gangsta on me, they are either read-only or only tweet to specific subscribers that explicitly as for the communication – I know it may sound spammy but these are all legit) and this sort of stuff tempts me to go to the dark side. Extract a few of this real tweets, grab some common terms or phrases he uses, search on a few terms like SEO, Law, Lawyer, Marketing and just bang away as Mr Bodine. I'm a big boy so I'll resist the temptation, not to mention that he'll do more damage to himself shooting himself in the foot than any internet justice would, but damn it's tempting.

  21. darius404  •  Oct 12, 2012 @5:22 pm

    By the Geek Law Blog's logic, isn't it's own article guilty of some of the same thing it accuses others of? For instance, aren't they trying to "discredit the message" of Greenfeld and Tannenbaum by saying things like "However, it is heckling, and not just dissent that is being voiced by those calling BS on the LMA" ? Not to mention that "discrediting the message" is pretty much how good argumentation works, period.

  22. Caleb  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:17 pm

    @ Laura Wallace

    I went through the three most recent pages of his material from the link you posted. Care to point out which post, if any, shows that the video Ken linked to is not a fair (if not overly generous) representation of his product in general?

  23. Joe Pullen  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:20 pm

    @caleb – methinks Laura Wallace may be one of those creatures commonly known as a sock puppet. But who knows I can always be surprised.

  24. Matthew Cline  •  Oct 12, 2012 @9:34 pm

    Streisand Effect, meet Larry Bodine. Larry Bodine, meet the Streisand Effect. I think you guys are going to have a lot to talk about.

    It boggles my mind that people still haven't learned about the Streisand Effect.

  25. G Thompson  •  Oct 12, 2012 @10:24 pm

    Dunno about anyone else, but when I first read the tag #lmatech in the article I immediately thought #LAMEtech..

    But seriously stating that there is some sort of ownership over hashtags FOR ANY REASON on twitter and you only want non-critical uses, or uses that you somehow think you can control, or can only be used by a nominated group, is not only stupidity in the extreme it's guaranteed to have people making fun of you and doing the absolute opposite of what you want.

    Happily in Australia law firms have very strict marketing and advertising requirements placed on them so we have basically none of this law marketing crap (and crap it is.. also LAME)

  26. darius404  •  Oct 13, 2012 @9:31 am

    It boggles my mind that people still haven't learned about the Streisand Effect.

    I only learned about it from Popehat, and my mom learned it from me. People who don't go to certain places on the internet just won't hear about it. It's usually not relevant in the places they're at.

  27. Roscoe  •  Oct 13, 2012 @3:10 pm

    G Thompson:

    We used to have them here as well. These restrictions were struck down by the Courts as violating the First Amendment. One of those cases where I agree with the principle while having some regret over the consequences of the principle.

  28. Jenny  •  Oct 13, 2012 @3:59 pm

    THIS JUST IN: TWITTER TROLLS TERRORIZE SMALL TEXAS TOWN! TEXAS RANGERS (the cops, not the baseball team that routinely breaks your heart) INVESTIGATE.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/texas-rangers-hunt-twitter-trolls-taxpayers-are-not-amused-1C6448578

    [facepalm] I don't even know where to begin.

  29. McBob  •  Oct 13, 2012 @10:08 pm

    If this guy doesn't want people "invading" his conference, then don't expose it to Twitter! What an idiot! If he wants to keep comments private then forget Twitter and use instant messengers.

    Seriously, this Larry Bodine guy doesn't have a freaking clue how the internet works. He should stop pretending that he does, because he's just making himself look foolish, and inviting ridicule.

  30. AlphaCentauri  •  Oct 14, 2012 @6:54 pm

    Jenny wrote

    THIS JUST IN: TWITTER TROLLS TERRORIZE SMALL TEXAS TOWN! TEXAS RANGERS (the cops, not the baseball team that routinely breaks your heart) INVESTIGATE.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/texas-rangers-hunt-twitter-trolls-taxpayers-are-not-amused-1C6448578
    I'm betting this person wishes she'd chosen her words more carefully:
    "When I think of the Texas Rangers, I think of people who are committing felonies"

  31. AlphaCentauri  •  Oct 14, 2012 @6:55 pm

    pretend there's a blockquote in my last comment

  32. Mike  •  Oct 15, 2012 @10:15 am

    I've followed Brian Tannenbaum at Above the Law for a while and he has (IMO) some very smart things to say about legal marketing. His approach to marketing is delightfully old-school. A lot of young lawyers and marketing "professionals" don't want to hear that practices are built with relationships and hard work, not with tweets and SEO.

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